The digital signage market is big and growing. Depending on which research you believe, it was valued globally at $16.88 billion in 2015 and is expected to increase by 6.7% between 2016 and 2022. Whilst schools, shops, corporate enterprises, hospitality and leisure, healthcare businesses and sports venues probably account for the vast majority of applications, there is virtually no sector that wouldn’t benefit from a digital sign in some form, so there are still plenty of untapped opportunities for digital signage manufacturers and suppliers.
But what exactly is meant by digital signage? Generally it is the hardware - from displays through to media players, right through to mounts - that accounts for the bulk of the technology. Content management systems are also a key part of the overall solution, and even edge servers and distribution and scheduling software gets a name-check, but rarely is mention given to the tools needed to actually create the content that will be shown on those displays, and responsibility for getting that content right, usually lands at the marketing department’s door.
Currently there seem to be three schools of thought where content is concerned: the first is that the user creates it using a popular presentation tool, such as PowerPoint; the second is to invest in one of the few standalone packages that have been developed for signage; and the third is to outsource it to a specialist design, marketing or advertising agency who can bring together pictures, words, videos and graphics to make an impact on the target audience.
All of these options are fine, and have been working adequately, but they have limitations. PowerPoint is a proven presentation tool, familiar with marketers, easy to use and it facilitates the display of stored video, pictures, text and charts. But the content is static. The traditional standalone software on the market is expensive, and technically challenging to use, so it requires extensive training. Creative agencies, on the other hand, can develop imaginative campaigns, often with moving images, that will catch the eye, but they are not on hand if you suddenly want to make a change, or if you prefer to keep your marketing messages managed in-house.
If users don’t have the ability to quickly become creative, stream live video, include rich html content or update a page at a moment’s notice they are not making the most of the considerable investment they have made in the hardware and the CMS. The old adage, ‘emphasise the sizzle not the sausage’ springs to mind.
The trajectory of development in digital signage is much the same as in many other technology sectors; the hardware comes first, and the software catches up a little while later opening the market to a bigger and broader audience. To date, digital signage users have made the best of solutions that already exist to bring their displays to life even if they are not always fit for purpose or they are complex to get to grips with, but with the new arrival of dedicated easily-accessible creation tools, the market is about set to see significant change.
Digital signage creation software stands apart simply because it has been developed specifically to add the sizzle to signage displays. It is quick to deploy, easy to learn and allows users to design and build signage assets that can be displayed or streamed live onto multiple displays.
This type of program is flexible to suit different signage needs, so where one user will benefit from a range of helpful layouts and templates, another user has the option to create their own bespoke background, and live video streams can be made even richer for viewers with the addition of crawls, tickers, transitions and other effects.
Some users will be cautious, wary that this new breed of software will be just as difficult to learn as previous solutions, or that they will be disappointed by the lack of creative options. But they shouldn’t worry, these programs are intuitive, feature packed and entirely dedicated to digital signage applications.
These tools provide more opportunities to create impactful, memorable displays, which mean that users are likely to spend more time than they would on a static presentation. However, with every new layout, they will be maximising the original technology investment and the content they create can also be aggregated and scheduled to produce maximum effect within their premises.
In some ways it is surprising that it has taken this long for accessible digital signage creation software to hit the market, particularly given the growth in the market, but now that it is here, it won’t be long before marketing departments are starting to wonder what on earth they did without it.
By Shaun Oxenham, CEO at Cabletime
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