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Top 5 Considerations When Solving Business Challenges with Digital Signage


In 2004 I attended my first Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas. The industry was young, the promises around digital signage benefits were incredible, and the costs were out of reach for all but the largest of companies. The primary focus was on digital signage for retail. Providers were talking about how you could replace posters with digital screens and save so much money. But business owners were responding that, for the cost of a $3000 screen, you could print and ship a significant number of paper posters, and even pay a professional to travel and replace them. The drive to purchase a digital signage solution was missing, as Simon Sinek would say, the “Why”?

Fast forward to 2012 and the industry was still debating the ROI on customer-facing signage. Did the screens have an impact on sales, or was the fluctuation simply a result of weather, a special promotion or a fad-driving demand? Customer experience was still something only large, premium brands worried about. During this time, Hughes realized that employee engagement tools are critical and launched Hughes Breakroom TV™, a digital signage solution for back-of-house communication and infotainment. Developed in response to a customer request, Breakroom TV had a “Why”. With it, employees could enjoy their breaks while viewing live television programs, and placing some general-purpose information on the screen next to the programming was a great way to distribute corporate information. ROI was quickly and simply proven; employees had a higher recollection of general information in those locations with Breakroom TV compared to those without.

Based on this experience, we determined that there are 5 key factors to consider when creating a solution using digital signage.

  1. Start with “Why”?

As mentioned above, Simon Sinek made this phrase and this concept very well known. Before you talk about how and what you will do, figure out your “Why”. Digital signage is a bright, shiny, fun and exciting technology with big screens, high contrast, high resolution, and many other distracting technologies. And like all technology, as soon as you invest in it, an updated or improved version is released. Start by searching your business and then you’ll understand the real challenges at hand that need solving. This will allow you to assess if a digital signage solution can help solve those challenges.

Breakroom TV was the result of a distinct and definite “Why”. The CEO of a large retail customer got low marks from employees about the breakroom and decided that this needed to be addressed. New tables, new chairs, new microwaves and refrigerators were added, and a new television was also specified. The HR department had the foresight to suggest that the old company corkboard could be augmented or replaced if they could use the fact that people were looking at the TV to help share messages. The “Why” in this case was corporate communication. They needed to strengthen their delivery, and this gave them a chance to test it out.

  1. Have the End in Mind

As with any program or project, it is critical that you define success at the beginning. If you don’t have a destination in mind, all you will do is wander. In my retail example above, the end was improved employee satisfaction scores. Having this goal defined meant the company could measure their performance objectively. Often in digital signage, the goal is tied to Point of Sale (POS) increase. This is too abstract, as POS is subject to a wide range of variables. More specific – and measurable – goals would be to look at whether you can improve the shopper experience or increase shopper awareness of products. A better measure would be customer retention of information or recall of content on the screens. This might require exit surveys, or something of the like, but increasing the awareness of special promotions or recall of key messages are end goals that can be tested, measured and improved.

  1. Create Milestones to Track and Adapt

There has been much said about the idea of “fail fast” – which is to say, monitor your progress and, if you’re not meeting targets, change tactics and don’t wait too long to adjust. When you plan a digital signage program, set up check points or milestones along the way. In the Breakroom TV example, good milestones would be to periodically solicit comments from store managers about whether the employees are liking the changes and if they are noticing the content on screen. If early checks don’t show good results, adjusting the content mix, revising the creative, and changing other variables are good next steps to take on prior to checking in again.

Don’t wait until the next annual employee survey to find out if the number has gone up or not. Check along the way, make adjustments, and you will be much more likely to have a positive report from the annual employee survey.

Every digital signage project we do starts with a lab test then a pilot deployment at two to five key locations. Make sure that you have milestones associated with this activity, too. In the lab, was the solution easy to implement, were people able to make changes easily and update quickly? In the pilot locations, were the changes noticeable, did they make it to the screens in time? Then adjust as needed before the mass deployment.

  1. Have a Content Plan

A digital signage system is a very hungry beast. Once you set up the system, it needs new content on a regular basis. The frequency of these content updates depends on the target audience. Digital signage in a customer-facing retail environment should be updated to reflect current promotions and seasons. But signage in the employee breakroom, should be updated at least weekly, and in some cases, daily. Now, that doesn’t mean that the whole playlist needs to change daily, but if someone watches the screen for a period of time, they need to see new things, or they will tune it out. Another way to introduce freshness is to incorporate social media and news feeds. This will give you a source of constantly changing content that can be intermingled with longer term content (e.g. Program and Policy information).

Another area related to content that is important to change is the layout and the colors. Of course, you want to emphasize your brand — and that will certainly define the palette and visual aspects. But the position of content on the screen, the location of the logo, the background color and other subtleties can change through the day or week. These small changes cause the human eye to look closer because something is different.

No one team or group within the organization needs to provide all the content. Create a submission process through which groups can submit content and content ideas and then a marketing, HR or publication group can execute the final visual product. Updates and new information keep the content fresh and engaging.

  1. Use a Managed Service Provider

Digital signage, especially if you find one with a quality content management system (CMS), is not rocket science. You upload content, schedule content and in many cases report on the playback of content. However, this doesn’t mean it is a completely DIY project. First and most importantly, your tech teams have plenty on their plate today. Yes, they are smart enough to carry out the signage system. But do they truly have the bandwidth and time to install, configure and maintain a new digital signage solution?

And what if your operations, marketing, merchandising, human resources and executive leadership all want variations of signage? An MSP can provide you with proven digital signage solutions such as digital menu boards, promo boards, Breakroom TV, Waiting Area TV, Endless Aisle Kiosks, and so much more.

Based on previous experience, the MSP will know best practices on deployment and on-going upkeep. The MSP will use proven specs and can recommend choices and options that will meet your needs and save you time. The MSP has already gone through the learning curve and can help you avoid pitfalls that can slow your path to success. Be sure to find an MSP that will work with you and put your needs first, designing a managed digital signage service or solution that is tailored to you and your company.

Since deploying the first Breakroom TV installation in 2012, Hughes has delivered 6 major revisions of the software. They have also done a technology refresh, which migrated from a player-based solution to a SmartTV based solution. Along the way they have integrated employee recognition systems and social media channels. They have added the ability for store managers to input local content to recognize accomplishments, goals and milestones in their local store.

Early adopting customers started with over 75% of the screen showing live television content. Over time they have actually reduced the percentage of screen space allocated to live television in order to show more employee-centric content.

Most recently the system was upgraded to include an Artificial Intelligence engine that monitors screenshots from all locations. This AI review provides an always-on review and monitoring function that will ensure that content is being delivered and if something is not right it can correct it or notify support teams.

Employees at this customer mentioned at the beginning they are giving the Breakroom TV system high marks and the use of employee recognition and social media posts have increased 300% as employees realize their submissions are getting viewed.

Hughes is providing a fully managed digital signage service and meeting regularly with customers to discuss new ideas, new communication requirements and to find ways of improving the performance of this important information channel. Hughes entered the digital signage market in 2004 and introduced the Breakroom TV solution in 2012. With thousands of screens in use today, the digital signage service is flexible, dynamic and robust. It can be tailored to meet the communication requirements of distributed business and government agencies.