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Why Some Digital Signage Deployments Fail

Digital signage deployments across the world come in all shapes and sizes. Each deployment makes use of various screen technology (LCD, LED, 4K, video wall, etc) and pushes different content formats depending on the screen type, size, geographic location and audience demographics. Some screens are used as a revenue generating component for a business, while others are used purely for information with no driver for ROI.

With so many applications for digital signage it's difficult to categorize what makes a deployment successful. We could categorize success to mean increased social buzz, strong ROI, or an ability to quickly grasp information. Regardless of the goal of the deployment, there are a few things that will prevent companies from having a successful roll out.

So why do some digital signage deployments fail? Below are 3 key reasons:

1. Poor Post-Deployment Planning – It’s easier than ever to deploy a digital signage network. Hardware is now a turn-key solution, software platforms are plug and play, and integrating it all into your network is almost unnecessary with Wi-Fi and cloud-based platforms. This is great news for anyone deploying signage, because it can be up and running in no time. But this ease of deployment can mean that no formal plan is put in place, which is where the problems begin.

Without a formal plan, most networks are doomed for eventual failure. Even if the network is easy to get set up, keeping it up and running will be a difficult task. A detailed plan helps determine what happens when there is a hardware failure, who is responsible for creating and updating content, and defines how the network will grow and expand in the future. Many digital signage networks are faltering not because they don’t have great hardware and software, but because they lack a formal plan to keep everything running smoothly.

The digital signage plan should be created prior to choosing hardware and software vendors. Developing a plan in advance helps filter out the right and wrong partners for your network based on the way your organization plans to manage the network. A formal plan will also help with the development of a potential RFP and the necessary questions to ask vendors.

 (Example: Media companies like Outfront or JCDecaux need to provide proof of play reporting to clients, so it’s important that this process is seamless and fits into the format that they provide other performance metrics to their clients. Asking questions like the data output format and how the software can integrate with existing technology will tremendously help reduce the workload once the network is fully deployed.)

Planning Success: The US Navy has deployed hundreds of digital displays across the world in their naval shipyards and bases to display important information and messaging to officers and employees. When the Navy first began looking at signage solutions, they knew that security was critical. Everyone at the time claimed that their software would meet the necessary security requirements, so the question became who could do this the best while fitting into their strict network configuration. They developed a thorough requirements document prior to talking to any software vendors, and they used that plan as their basis for requirements during their over four-year evaluation of vendors and eventual deployment. (Read the US Navy Case Study

2. No Division of Labor - Digital signage is a powerful tool, but if there is limited buy-in from departments responsible for its success, then the network has a high likelihood of being neglected over time. Different departments and individuals within the organization need to have a clear understanding of the goal of the network, as well as what their role is in achieving that goal. Bringing all the stakeholders to the table in advance can mean the creation of a formal workflow and process which sets the network up for future success. Most organizations do not have a dedicated team for the digital signage network, so creating this process in advance will reap benefits down the road.       

It’s easy for executives to roll-out a platform like digital signage without any division of labor, expecting that the platform will deliver the desired results. This is why a strong process for who will perform what tasks is critically important. Understanding who is responsible for which tasks and who’s on call when something goes wrong is important to know up front.

Creating a division of labor for the signage network will not only help the organization achieve the desired result, but it will also limit the amount of work down the road for an individual person or department. Too often digital signage is relegated to a single individual or group, which puts undue burden and stress on them.

(Example: A recent discussion with a large university revealed that their investment in digital signage several years ago has resulted in a network that is no longer updated or used. The network was quickly deployed across campus, but the management was relegated exclusively to the IT department. There was no buy-in from marketing, faculty, students, or communications to get on board and help out with the management and success of the network. Eventually the network was neglected, and now it is not used for anything meaningful on campus)

Division of Labor Success: Fairfield University recently performed an overhaul of their digital signage network, upgrading the software platform on campus and bringing in new procedures to get multiple campus groups involved with the success of the network. Fairfield allows students, faculty, and staff to push content across the network, while centrally managing the content management from the Communications department and relegating back-end networking to the IT staff. Read The Fairfield Case Study.)

3. No Tracking Metrics – The words metrics and tracking continue to become more prevalent on a daily basis. The amount of data that can be extracted is constantly growing, but even with all this available data not many organizations are using it. The key is not to pull as much data as possible, but rather to look at the available data and develop a specific set of metrics which can be analyzed to make decisions off of.

When trying to understand success metrics, the most important thing to look at is the overall goal of the network. Media companies need to track uptime and proof of play metrics, because if the network is down it means they are losing money. Uptime metrics for higher-ed don’t matter as much, but tracking the amount of fresh content and number of student organizations pushing content can tell if the network is effectively communicating to the campus.

Digital signage software platforms now have many tools which can automate the data metrics that your organization relies on. Content reports, uptime reports, user activity, etc can all be output into reports which will help track the performance of your network. Organizations who put the right tracking metrics in place will certainly find greater success and network performance over the long run.

Metrics Tracking Success: In 2014 Anheuser-Busch deployed its first 1,000 transparent digital coolers. This was a very aggressive and innovative deployment of a technology that had never been tested in the field. The deployment needed to both drive the bottom line and also increase engagement and awareness of the A-B brand across retailers. The organization developed tracking metrics in advance which allowed them to prove out the use case and success of the first deployment, which lead them to ultimately deploy an additional 1,000 coolers on a few months later. The metrics that A-B tracked allowed them to quickly make a decision to increase their deployment. (Read the Anheuser-Bush Case Study)  

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