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What Is Digital Signage? [Plus Examples & Tips on Setup]

Digital signs are everywhere. You see them when you go out to eat, when you shop at the mall, when you're at the airport, and when you're wandering around a museum.

These signs are known as digital signage.

In this ultimate guide to digital signage, we dive deeper into what it is (exactly), as well as its benefits and use cases.

We also cover how to set up digital signage affordable for your own business, university, or organization.

What is digital signage?

Digital signage refers to digital menus, announcements, and other content displayed on smart TVs and large screens. From cafe menus to Times Square digital ads, digital signage spreads across every industry and use case imaginable.

Benefits of digital signage

There are so many different benefits of digital signage.

With a digital sign, you can capture attention, distribute information, and achieve a variety of important business goals.

These are the most common benefits:

  • Spread awareness
  • Sell more products
  • Save money on paper
  • Hands-free information (more sanitary)
  • Easy to update
  • No need to reprint signs

Digital signage use cases and examples

To truly understand digital signage, it helps to have some concrete examples.

Take some inspiration from these common use cases:

1. Workplace or school announcements

It's smart to feature digital signs in hallways, breakrooms, and other high-traffic areas. You've got the attention of your employees or students, so use it wisely.

There are a lot of different things you can feature in this content category:

  • Employee or student of the month
  • Upcoming events
  • Safety announcements
  • Office humor
  • Social media content
  • Reminders
  • Special requests

2. Menus

Menus are a very common use case for digital signs. When you go digital, you can update your menu daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonally — all without ever having to reprint or reinstall signs or menu boards.

3. Sales and promotions

Digital signage is also great for marketing your sales and promotions. You can keep things simple and feature the products and sale prices in a slideshow, or you could upload a video explanation for a special product.

4. Advertisements

You can also use digital signage as a form of advertising. Maybe you allow other companies to advertise on your digital sign and collect sponsorship revenue. Or, maybe you advertise your other relevant products, services, or companies on your own digital signs.

5. Positive corporate impact

Digital signage is great for spreading awareness of your positive corporate impact. This could be for customer or employee audiences. You might share photos of your staff volunteering, pictures of your sustainable manufacturing processes, statistics on your low energy and water use, or anything else that shows your company's positive impact in your local community or the world at large.

6. User-generated content

User-generated content is just like it sounds: content that is created by social media users, typically your customers, fans, and employees. You can add UGC to your digital signage. For instance, next to a display of purses, you could show UGC images of how fashion influencers style the pieces.

7. Maps

Department stores, malls, museums, universities, cultural heritage sites, and other large sites can benefit from creating digital maps. You'll make it easy for visitors to find their way and you'll avoid the costs of reprinting signage in the event that you need to make changes.

What software and hardware do you need for digital signage?

The equipment you need depends on what you want to achieve with digital signage and what features you expect to get out of your software.

Simple setup

If you're looking for the simplest possible digital signage setup, you only need two things:

  1. A subscription to an affordable digital signage app that works in a web browser.
  2. A smart TV that has a web browser (the vast majority of smart TVs have a web browser such as Chrome, Samsung Smart TV Browser, Amazon Silk, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, or Safari).

Once you have these things, all you need to do is set up your content in your digital signage platform, then navigate to your browser and launch the content.

Your TV will then automatically play the right content at the right time, according to what you set up in the digital signage platform.

Most small and medium-sized businesses can use this method.

Enterprise-grade setup

Enterprises might be looking for advanced features like:

  • Enterprise-grade security like single sign-on.
  • The ability for offline play.
  • Tapping into ad networks to earn revenue (for instance, a chain of sports bars could play ads with their sports games and get paid).
  • Catering content to different people based on the demographics using facial recognition software.

With more complicated setups, you typically need the right software, media player hardware, and smart TV. Once you find the right software that has the features you're looking for, you can ask their sales team about the hardware requirements. See below for how to vet your software options.

What to look for in digital signage software

On the hunt for the right platform to help you easily and affordably launch your digital content?

Use this list to vet your digital signage software options and make sure your final choice has everything you need:

  • Central content management - You want to be able to manage the content for your screens from one place, meaning one software platform that you can login to from any laptop or desktop computer. The good news is that this is a very common feature and the tenant of all digital signage software.
  • Content schedules or playlists - With content schedules (also known as playlists), you can pre-set specific content to play at certain times, such as switching from your breakfast menu to your lunch menu or rotating through different categories of content in an office breakroom. Some digital signage platforms don't offer this feature, so if it's important to you, make sure the software you choose includes it.
  • Whitelabel ability - The platform you choose should offer white labelling, meaning that you can only see your company's content and branding and the software provider isn't injecting any of their ads on your screens.
  • Security - Enterprises might want certain security features, such as the ability to check user logs and know which users changed content. Or, they might require SOC 2 compliance or single sign-on. Make sure you vet your software provider for whatever security features are important to you.
  • Monitoring - Enterprises might expect advanced uptime monitoring and downtime notifications (meaning that if your screen content fails, you'll be alerted). If you only have a few screens running content and someone is always there to make sure they're working, this probably wouldn't be an important feature for you. But if you have hundreds of screens across store locations (for example), and sales reps might be too busy assisting with customers to notice down screens, then you might want to vet for this feature in the software you choose.
  • Design templates or Canva integration - Small business owners will often design the screen content themselves (such as a menu or an announcement presentation) in order to save money. Make sure the software you choose either includes design templates to make this easy or has an integration with Canva, a free online app for graphic design that was created for non-designers.
  • Widgets - If you're creating an announcement board for a school or office, you might want to include various widgets, such as your Twitter feed, the weather, the time, and an RSS feed with news. So long as your digital signage platform has the right widgets, this will be easy to do. If you're using digital signage for a menu or some other static design, you don't need to search for this feature.

Average costs for digital signage

You should expect to pay between $20 and $25 per screen per month for digital signage software with simple features. If you need enterprise-grade security, you could pay 3 to 5 times more.

The total cost of digital signage is made up of:

  • Software license
  • Smart TV purchase and maintenance or replacements
  • Digital signage media players (you can also choose a software that doesn't require hardware, like Juuno)
  • TV mounting hardware
  • Installation service fees (you can eliminate this cost by DIYing the TV mounting)
  • Content creation and design costs

Results of using digital signage

When you have digital signage analytics, you're able to measure the performance and results of your digital screens. If you're playing product demos in a retail store, you might be able to tie the frequency of content plays to increased sales for that particular product.

However, the results of digital signage are often difficult to track. For instance, if you're using digital signage to reduce paper waste or keep your company informed of important news or make sure all students are informed about upcoming events, it can be harder to know if it's really working. You can try surveys to find out what your audience really thinks of your digital signs. Also, if you notice that you get fewer questions about certain announcements or that more of your target audience is informed, then you'll know you're getting results.

At the end of the day, digital signage should be considered a channel. It's one method in your arsenal of communication. And it's typically very effective. Add the right content and place a big TV in a good spot, and you can't go too far wrong.

If you're looking for simple digital signage that just works, check out Juuno.

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