Announcing the new Samsung Smart Signage Platform, the company expressed its commitment to integrated display solutions for the digital signage market, which is expected to grow by over 20% annually up to 2017. Intel says that there will be 22 million digital signs in operation by the end of next year, and The Economist puts the value of the market at $5.2 billion. While much of the installed base is the result of the roll out of large projects across retail chains, there is a rapidly growing market for standalone or small network integrated solutions.
Here, we take a look at some of the ISE product introductions, and what it takes to sell a complete solution to end-users, many of whom are digital signage novices. Next month, we will follow up with a review of bundled solutions that see more reseller involvement in installation, network design, support and maintenance – but please don’t ignore the entry-level. There’s an awful lot of it.
When Samsung’s original Smart Signage Platform debuted at ISE 2013, criticisms were directed at the limited functionality permitted by what was, in essence, dependent on a mobile phone chipset. The ISE 2014 version integrated into Samsung’s large format displays (LFDs) is greatly enhanced with a quad-core system-on-chip (SoC) architecture. What exists now is a highly capable solution with an upgrade path within the Samsung portfolio.
But Samsung’s success has set a precedent for other CE brands. Elsewhere at ISE 2014, Toshiba presented its digital signage solutions to the European market for the first time. The solutions on show included signage TVs – with built-in signage display feature available in sizes up to 126 cm (50”) screen sizes – pro-signage monitors suitable for 24/7 operation in sizes up to 70”.
Further up the market the company has Smart Signage Management Systems – connected solutions from one central management. Solutions available include professional signage displays incorporating 24/7 operation and OPS connectivity designed for all-day advertising to smaller screen hospitality TVs for use in hotels and Ultra HD models.
With its experience in the office channel, Toshiba’s entry-level solutions (you might be familiar with the Virtuoso and Slim Signage ranges)have been developed with ‘real’ end-users in mind. To many in AV, the whole approach seems a little less than cutting–edge. But Toshiba makes the point that solutions aimed at retailers, for example, just need to provide shoppers with prices and product details – and, for that, digital will always have the edge on a poster.
Just a week after ISE 2014 closed its doors, LG unveiled its next-generation line of digital signage products at Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas. “We’re seeing an explosion of digital signage use in new categories and installations, and the importance of adapting our products for new uses is also increasing,” commented Dan Smith, director of digital signage, LG Electronics USA.
A number of LG’s new digital signage products, enabled by LG’s new webOS platform, feature an all-in-one hardware and software solution. This allows LG software partners to install and run their software in a more simplified solution. LG’s architecture enables easy-to-build web-based apps across multiple platforms, including Android, iOS and Windows. LG’s software development kit allows integrators to construct their own ideal customised signage solution.
The introduction of a middleware layer above webOS allows system integrators to write HTML programs for their customised solutions. LG calls these hardware platforms ‘convergent displays For the entry-level market, LG has retained its TV-based product, SuperSign TV. This 47-inch unit expands on the idea of the original EzSign TV. SuperSign TVs offer customisable signage content running simultaneously with live TV, attracting attention while delivering messaging to consumers.
Digital signage purists will always be sceptical about simple one-box signage solutions. The aggregation of so many features into a low-cost bundle has attracted the ire of those who see digital signage as the ‘gift that keeps on giving’. The reality is that digital signage, at the entry-level, has become a target for a number of different types of technology providers, all seeking to increase their spend with end-user businesses.
As a provider who understands the display aspects, the network and can give guidance on content generation and management, the AV community holds a lot of key advantages. The challenge is to understand a culture that neither knows nor cares about the technical tenets that AV resellers hold dear. As an example of this, Toshiba makes vastly more of its revenues from sales of printing and copying than it does from AV currently. To give its digital signage solutions the best chance, they are designed to be sold by the company’s print sales team as well as the AV division.
While not all of them know a great deal about digital signage, the point is that all of Toshiba’s sales team know a great deal about the office market and its requirements. Toshiba will even create content for users of its signage solutions, illustrating the need to provide a service in addition to a technology.
Productise the services
In fact, when selling to novice users, it is important to have a chargeable service on your books for every eventuality. A new mantra at AV News is: “service revenues sustain margins”. Pip Thomas, MD of N-vest explains: “Trends in digital signage such as on-chip signage built-into displays and software platforms going into the cloud are having an impact on resellers and integrators and their ability to make margin. One way to replace lost margin on hardware player and software licences is services such as training.”
Thomas believes that the best time to sell training is at the time of the solution sale. The customer benefits because training at the point of installation ensures they can get up and running smoothly. The reseller benefits because they increase the value of the sale, boost their margin (N-vest training resellers can make 30 points on a half or full day’s on-site training) and help their customer get good value from their investment.
N-vest is developing a range of ready-made training products that can be sold as a SKU just like any other accessory. These options are ideal for selling alongside digital signage display or media player, and are designed to be a great fit for telephone sales teams or online sales from a website, Resellers can sell single or series of courses covering all new users need to know such as how to install and set-up, walk them through the basic features, create and manage content and some basic trouble shooting.
At first, it might seem that the opportunities available to the reseller from selling one-box and entry-level digital signage are limited – low cost solution, very little installation work and not much in the way of maintenance required on System-on-Chip solutions. In fact, being able to offer a proposition that really is a complete solution – hardware, software, content and training -carries with it increased spend, higher margin and customer satisfaction. This puts you in a great situation when the time comes for the customer to upgrade.