From content creation and management to hardware compatibility, customization, installation and maintenance, every aspect of a successful digital signage deployment requires expertise that AV integrators may (or may not) have in-house. Sometimes it’s not feasible to be an expert at each stage of the project. When that’s the case, utilizing a trusted partner to assist your team with areas like content creation and management, can help alleviate stress and ensure your client’s satisfaction with a project delivered on time, on spec and on budget.
With firsthand experience as AV integrators, at Red Dot, we understand these challenges and how to address them for business growth.
Digital signage challenges AV integrators face and how to address them
With nearly two decades of experience in the industry, we’ve seen many successful (and failed) digital signage projects. Successful projects often come down to following a few key best practices that are often overlooked or not given enough attention.
1. Choosing the right digital signage CMS (content management system).
The number one challenge we see is AV integrators choosing the wrong CMS software. Choosing the right CMS is essential to ensure the digital signage network meets the customer’s need and delivers content as intended.
A few years ago we were working on a project where the integrator, prior to our involvement, sold the client on a CMS that would not allow us to perform the required programming needed to accomplish what the client wanted to achieve. This required Red Dot to either modify or limit the feature set, or change the CMS after the fact. Swapping out the CMS, while a fairly easy task within the BrightSign ecosystem, requires a lot of unwinding of services and can be an unnecessary drain on resources.
The right CMS should be
- Flexible – It should support evolving content as needed without a complete overhaul of the system, and support multiple users without additional costs.
- User-friendly – The interface should be easy to use and allow clients to create, add and manage content without technical staff.
- Easy to integrate – The CMS should be able to integrate seamlessly with other software and systems that clients might use for their operations. Not all CMS software can perform the same functions.
- Safe to use – Because a CMS stores a large amount of confidential information, it should have robust security features to provide data protection.
Every CMS is designed differently with features that facilitate a variety of client needs. Any CMS that does not align with the digital signage hardware, media players or type of content will result in higher programming costs and higher content development costs.
The best way to find the right CMS is to
- Clarify with clients about their specific needs and then decide on the CMS as per their requirements. It’s best to work with a partner that can support multiple CMS options so you’re not locked into a single platform.
- Bring an external digital signage partner, like Red Dot, to consult with the client early on to choose the right CMS based on client needs.
A successful project is always determined by how well the programmers and the content creators know the CMS and its capabilities. Having an experienced team by your side eliminates the worry of a CMS that underperforms.
2. Choosing the right digital signage hardware (media player).
The second challenge in digital signage projects is when the wrong hardware or media player is chosen. Hardware or the media player is the most important element of a digital signage solution. The media player is the device that helps display dynamic and static digital content on the digital signage screen.
We worked on a project last year where an entry-level BrightSign player was originally spec’d in and sold by the integrator for a project that required a more sophisticated player. This required the client to decide whether they wanted to compromise on their content or upgrade the players they already purchased. The client decided to switch the content, ultimately sacrificing their initial content vision to avoid incurring further hardware expenses.
There are 4 types of media players that AV integrators usually choose from
- Standalone digital signage players – Standalone players are used without any cloud-based CMS to create and manage content. Because of the absence of a cloud CMS, all the content is stored locally on the player itself, making it extremely difficult to manage.
- System On a Chip (SoC) – A media player that comes with a single electronic circuit board with different components like GPU, CPU and RAM on a single chip defines ‘system on a chip.’ The initial cost of designing and developing an SoC-type player is very high and in case of an irregularity, the entire SoC needs to be replaced instead of just a single component. In addition, SoC players are limited in their capabilities to perform high-level HTML.
- Cloud-based players – Cloud-based players make use of a cloud-based CMS to create, upload and manage content. They are easy to install, set up, use and manage internally.
- PC – Desktop PCs were used in earlier times as digital signage players. They use a lot of processing power and memory besides having durability and security concerns. They are too heavy to deploy at overhead locations and because of their bulky size, they are difficult to hide from customers’ sight, which ultimately led to companies designing lighter, more compact players.
Every media player is created for different needs and uses. The type of player any AV integrator should use depends on the software they use and the type of content to be displayed. For example, signage that needs interactive features like a touch screen, gesture control or QR code scanning will require inputs that support these features. Signage that requires real-time updates should have a robust system with a super-fast processor.
Using a player that does not support the required software or desired content severely limits options for content types and compromises the speed of signage transitions and other functions.
We suggest speaking to experts to confirm the type of media player to include based on specific client requirements. At Red Dot, we use reliable and easy-to-use industrial-grade media players from BrightSign that use a cloud-based CMS to instantly and easily create, upload and manage content throughout.
3. Discussing digital signage design and features early in the process.
The third issue that we see on digital signage projects is when the AV integrators aren’t included early on in client discussions about the design and features of the project. Complete understanding of the required features early in the process offers multiple benefits, from effective budget planning and efficient resource allocation to customization of the system as per client needs, effective content integration and ensuring that the resulting solution aligns with the project goals.
Installing and configuring the media player with the CMS, the screen and other hardware is a multi-step process that requires expertise and an understanding of the whole digital signage ecosystem. This is often overlooked until AV integrators are on-site performing the installation. By then it’s too late to bring in an external partner that can assist due to budget constraints. This leads to the project getting delayed, improper installation, higher project costs and lower profit margins.
We encountered a similar case when an AV company landed a project for 80 digital signage screens and bought a fleet of BrightSign media players but needed to learn how to set up and configure them. They ended up calling BrightSign, asking for directions to install and configure the system from the installation location, which wasn’t something that could be done at that time, leading to reputational damage for that AV company and a loss of labor revenue.
One of the best ways to avoid this situation is to lay out the features well in advance and figure out if your internal team has the necessary expertise to execute it efficiently. If not, bring in a digital signage partner who possesses the necessary expertise to configure the players and set the network appropriately. The digital signage software is not intuitive during this step of the process. We do this in our offices and ship to the integrators for a plug-and-play install. We also provide phone support during that time for any issues that might arise.
4. Setting up and configuring the network.
The fourth common problem is the client’s network not being properly set up or configured, which is critical to running flawless digital signage. This can cause a delay or interruption in connecting to the internet, leading to errors in content download and delays in deployment. Additionally, there are many hidden network settings that need setup but are, at times, ignored, leading to deployment issues later.
For example, we recently worked with an integrator that installed the players without pre-configuring them and testing the network connections. When they were on site asking why they weren’t connecting to the cloud-based CMS, we discovered not only did the players not have the proper network settings, but the network itself was not set up for certain ports to be opened and URLs whitelisted. This delayed the installation and caused the integrator additional labor to return when the network and players were finally configured correctly.
To avoid this issue, AV integrators should provide the network setup details to the client in the initial stage of the project so they are ready with a properly configured network by the time of deployment.
If the internal team cannot properly configure the network, they should hire an external team. At Red Dot, we provide network documentation well in advance, allowing the client’s IT team ample time to configure their network before installation. Working in conjunction with the client’s IT department and the AV integrators, we can help troubleshoot the system in real-time.
5. Managing timely renewals.
The last issue we see is that digital signs will go offline and stop working because the system renewal isn’t paid on time. In digital signage, system renewals typically recur on an annual basis. AV integrators find it challenging to keep note and plan for timely renewals for each client and they are frequently not adequately prepared or even aware of upcoming renewals. We have seen this too many times where the renewal wasn’t paid on time and the content cannot be updated.
The best way to work through this challenge is to have a centralized communication set-up so that the concerned teams are notified when the systems are up for renewal. Another solution is to work with an external team for content creation and management that monitors the renewals every year. At Red Dot, we closely monitor renewals and send a renewal notice 60 days in advance.
Consequences of overlooking these digital signage challenges
Overlooking any of the above digital signage challenges impacts the success of the project. It can have long-term effects on an AV integrator’s business growth, hampering their reputation that could lead to fewer opportunities and higher costs. Here are some ways overlooking these challenges might affect your business.
- Financial setbacks.
Inefficiency within the team can lead to project delays, increased labor costs and higher operational expenses. Dissatisfied clients may demand compensation or project reassessment, further driving up costs. In cases like these, it is advisable to plan ahead by involving external support from the project’s outset so that all the expenses are accounted for and the business maintains healthy profit margins.
- Delayed execution and deployment.
Overlooking the challenge of successfully setting up, configuring and deploying the system efficiently will lead to delayed timelines, unsatisfied customers and loss of reputation for the business. Having all teams ready prior to laying out the project scope is critical to a successful implementation and deployment.
- Not staying on top of trends.
The digital signage industry is booming. Because of evolving customer behavior, companies are looking to enhance the customer experience and feel the need for real-time, data-driven insights to improve the efficiency and relevancy of the business and deliver a seamless shopping experience.
AV integrators need to adapt to the changing trends or bring an experienced digital signage partner early in the process to assist them beyond their traditional scope of work.
With years of expertise in the industry and a thorough understanding of the latest trends, Red Dot assists AV integrators in the best hardware, choice of software (CMS), graphic design, content creation and complete technical support to eliminate any chances of failure, project delays or budget overruns.
Overlooking these five challenges might cost the project and the business in the long run. Address each of the challenges with efficiency and understand the skills and proficiency of your team to execute successful projects. Only then can you deliver successfully working solutions within budgets and to the satisfaction of the client.
The good news is, as an AV integrator, you have a choice in the projects and partners you choose to work with. So find a partner that complements your team and delivers results!
Red Dot: Your Digital Signage Solutions Partner
Renowned for graphic design, content creation, mass installation and deployment of custom digital signage solutions, Red Dot Digital Media can be your next partner in executing a successful digital signage project. We understand the full digital signage ecosystem – soup to nuts. We find what’s right for your customers and make it easy on your team by taking content creation and content management off your plate. We can help you win bigger projects by being an extension of your team, and consult on the best setup and management of content.
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