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Corporate Users Still Prime Arena for Digital Signage

Jan 12, 2006 8:00 AM

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When it comes to digital signage these days, the conventional wisdom holds that a robust digital network and a steady supply of current content are the two indispensable elements. Those two factors continue to foster the growth of digital signage in corporate settings, even though large volumes of publicity are devoted to the explosive growth of retail dynamic signage.

One can hardly complete a single power-walk circuit of a shopping mall without seeing dozens of LCDs, plasmas, and other video displays showing everything from product commercials to customized in-store TV shows. The tools and techniques of digital signage networks, though, may well have gotten their first big push in the corporate environment. Corporate human resources departments, in particular, were early adopters of network-connected digital displays, which they distributed in cafeterias, break rooms, and other locales to spread messages about employment benefits, training, and other key topics.

With the breakout into the broader marketplace, signage seems set on a course of rapid growth. iSuppli estimates the worldwide market for signage and professional displays was worth $11.5 billion in 2005 and should grow to $14.8 billion in 2009.

Considering how hardware prices have continued their downward spiral, this big revenue growth reflects a much larger growth in units being shipped. The mix of technologies being used is also changing, with iSuppli projecting that LCDs will dominate sales of displays smaller than 42in. and gaining ground in the 42in.-to-50in. area as prices continue to fall.

Last year brought a lot of news on the digital signage front, including the acquisition of Mercury Online Solutions, a DS pioneer by 3M. That transaction made the list of “Top 10 Digital Signage Surprises of 2005,” compiled by Lisa Jachimowitz, founder of the Seattle-based Digital Signage Forum.

“Mercury has at least 3,000 kiosks and signage displays in 900 AT&T Wireless retail stores [now Cingular], and Mercury helped AT&T bring its online store into these brick-and-mortar stores,” Jachimowitz notes.

Corporate users have been able to implement enterprise-wide signage systems largely to the degree that they have had similarly wide IP-based networks in place. Digital signage applications in corporate settings go beyond routine HR messages to embrace such tools as interactive building directories and sophisticated staff training programs.

Another result of the spread of IP networks is that video and audio content are no longer being treated separately in many applications. For videoconferencing as well as for employee communications, sight and sound now spread through the enterprise in the form of digital data.

By enabling distributed displays to get their content from a server over a network, these IP systems also reduce the burden on local users to maintain playback systems, load media, and start programs on schedule.

Regardless of the setting, though, some factors are constant, and one of these factors is the need for metrics.

Bill Gerba, president of Wirespring Technologies, has a long-running blog at the company’s website in which he continues to stress the importance of clear objectives and tangible measurements, regardless of the type of signage system being employed. ROI can be measured in many ways, he argues, not just increased sales in dollars-and-cents.

To succeed, corporate digital signage users must think clearly about their intended audiences, the intended benefit for those audiences, and exactly how success will be measured.

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