Guest Post: Sean Matthews, Visix
While costs are certainly coming down, a comprehensive digital signage deployment is still a chunk of change. What a shame to spend all that money and then fumble the project when it comes to getting the system up and running. Unfortunately, that happens far more often than you might think.
Organizations fail to implement their digital signage correctly, and months later they wonder why the whole things seems to be so difficult to use or wonder why it isn’t working as well as they’d thought it would. Or, even worse, they have no way to tell if their digital signage is effective or isn’t.
Digital signage isn’t magic – simply putting in a system doesn’t automatically increase audience engagement and make an organization a great communicator. It requires serious planning and thought before, during and after deployment. Here are some common mistakes organizations make when setting up their digital signage:
You know you want a digital signage system, and how you begin will affect everything thereafter.
- Having no clear objectives for the system. “We want to communicate better” is too vague a notion to actually do anything with (and “It looks modern” is even less helpful). You have to think about who your audience is and how to engage them, how to encourage them to respond to your calls to action and how you’ll measure the system’s effectiveness. The processes you use will follow these goals, and no clear plan means no clear processes.
- No site audit. Just tossing up some screens isn’t going to be terribly effective. You need to figure out how many you need and where exactly they should go and know why they need to go there. What about mounting the screens, or cabling? They need power and data connections that are on all the time. Even things like viewing angles and glare on the screen surface at different times of the day need to be considered. And then there are security and firewall limitations to take into account. This needs to be done before a single piece of hardware is purchased.
- The wrong hardware. Don’t get limited in the long run for short term gains – one of the great strengths of digital signage is that it can be scaled up to just about any size you need. Plan with the future in mind. Should you buy new things that will be supported longer, or can you get away with repurposed gear? What kind of warranties have you got for the screens, players and other hardware? Is there a hardware trade-in program for down the line?
- The wrong software. It doesn’t do what you want it to do or requires a lot of workarounds to accomplish your goals. Or it doesn’t scale, limiting your growth in the future. Is the cheaper option really cheaper – are there hidden costs anywhere? How often is the software updated? And, of course, the software and hardware specs need to match.
- The wrong provider. No direct access to support, no training available, no technical support agreement. It’s unrealistic to assume that you will never need to contact the vendor, so how easy and painless a process is that? Do you have to go through a third party?
- Not thinking about the tech’s fullest potential. You need to think about all the possibilities – you’re going to live with this system for a long time and it needs to be able to change along with your goals. Maybe you want to add interactivity or integrate with future applications. Will you need to get all new hardware and software to do that, or can your current purchases handle additions like these? What are the benefits of a cloud-based content server versus a local one?
- Not including everyone. All stakeholders need to be on board and behind the choices being made from the very beginning. You don’t want time-consuming and costly changes down the line because someone didn’t get a memo or didn’t really understand enough to make an informed decision.
- Rushing things. Give yourself enough time to really map all this out. No money has been spent yet, so give everything a good think – have discussions with everyone who is involved, especially the people who will be using the system on a day-to-day basis. You might want to consider a pilot program to ensure the system aligns with your goals, and that your goals are realistic and executable.
Planning is over, components have been purchased and now it’s time to put everything into place.
- Sloppy hand-offs. Make sure all teams are briefed on the full plan. It will slow things down to pull in IT techs who don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish. The more advance knowledge and buy-in, the more efficient the process.
- Needless delays. Is access to the location where you’re installing the system limited to certain times or days of the week? If so, make sure to plan accordingly. Physical access might entail security clearance, guest passes or escorts. Access can also be virtual – a lot of your software configuration might happen online, so make sure technical teams have all the specs and credentials they need.
- Ignoring labor rules. Can you use local labor, or do you have to go union? What are their rules and limitations?
- Bad timing. Make sure to consider time zones. Install everything during the business hours of your vendors so you can reach them if needed. If your media players come from a company on the west coast, and you’re in Georgia, then you won’t be able to contact them until 8am their time – which is 11am for you. That can really slow things down and cause a lot of frustration.
- Inconveniencing your audience. Make sure you have minimum disruption of the physical environment during install – tearing up walls, closing hallways and rooms for long period of times. Things like this will simply annoy and alienate your potential viewers before you’ve put up a single digital signage message.
Everything is now up and ready to go. But your work is far from over.
- No clear workflow. It’s essential to spell out who does what and make processes absolutely clear. Create some documentation for workflows and best practices – your main person running the digital signage might move on to a different job someday or get ill for two weeks.
- Overburdening staff. Don’t pile all the work on one person or one team. There’s a lot going on with a good digital signage system and parceling out the workload makes everyone’s life easier. Getting more people involved also creates more ideas, inspiration and diversity in your communications.
- No champion. There does need to be a single person who is the main point of contact for the system. It should be someone who loves the system – a cheerleader for its adoption and use. Simply handing the task of managing a constantly changing, dynamic system to someone who thinks of it as a burden is a sure way to have a mediocre impact on your audience.
- No ROI or tracking metrics. How effective is your digital signage? Do you have a plan in place to measure that? You should. How will you know what to tweak and adjust if you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t? It’s a common mistake to just set up the digital signage system and then do the same things over and over, maybe taking a quick look at the state of things once a year (usually when budgets get renewed).
- Relying too much on revenue to offset costs. There are plenty of effective ways to monetize your digital signage, even making it profitable. But if that’s is a requirement from the outset, you’re going to have problems. How can you tailor your content to your audience, getting them interested and engaged, if you’re constantly worrying about the bottom line or the requirements of advertisers (who don’t know your audience as well as you do)?
- Bad content. When everything is said and done, lousy content will ensure people stop looking at your screens, so they don’t get the information you want them to, and certainly can’t follow your call to action. Amateurish design elements will detract from effective communications – too much text, bad colors, low-res pictures, poor scheduling practices, too little information or too many items on the screen at once – the list of design and content mistakes you can make is a long one. Do some research and find best practices, and always be improving and adjusting your content and campaigns.
Yes, it’s a lot of work getting a digital signage system up and running and then maintaining it. But forewarned is forearmed, and the more you think things through and give yourself room to grow and change in the future, the more pleasant the whole process will be. And a good process leads to good communication, more audience engagement and greater impact for your digital signage system.