Digital Menu Boards… What Can They Do For You ?
The days of walking into a restaurant or cafe to find a printed out menu at a table or a fixed menu board on a wall may be dwindling with the popularity of digital menu sign boards increasing every day.Digital menu boards are similar to any type of digital signage in that it is based on a LCD, Plasma, TV or LED screen (or set of screens) that display digital content. The content is normally sent to the screens from a central content manager, and any changes, additions or updates should be able to be made remotely (via the web) based on the particular restaurant’s requirements. The ability to monitor and change menus frequently, with minimal fuss from a central location, is particularly useful for franchise operations and chain restaurants.
As digital signage becomes more prevalent in shopping centres, workplaces and transport hubs such as airports and train stations, it will also be seen more in food establishments such as restaurants. Let’s look at some of the advantages to digital menu boards:
– Keeping stores progressive and relevant to younger generations. Especially in “family friendly” environments, a digital menu board will encourage direct engagement with the customers who are used to such technology in their homes. Some companies are even experimenting with “gamification” or using digital signage for gaming as a way to engage customers. Digital menus can be installed as part of an overall refurbishment or redesign to bring a restaurant or cafe “up-to-date”.
– As part of keeping “up to date” and using the latest technology to not only engage with customers but enhance the brand, social media such as Facebook or Twitter can be incorporated into the digital signage content in a meaningful and easy way.
– Restaurants have found that digital menu boards are a more efficient and cost effective way to introduce new menu items or new promotions, time and day-specific deals. The time and cost associated with printing high-end menus will been reduced dramatically by having only the initial outlay for the digital menu boards’ hardware and software. Some companies are experimenting with self-order kiosks and menus that will reduce the number of staff required and errors, as well as provide a fun and engaging experience for customers.
– Interestingly, some companies who have deployed digital menu boards have reported a discernible lift in sales, and even an increase in the average margin per transaction. When it comes to special discounts and daily deals, the increase in sales is even higher. So it seems that if people are comfortable with the technology, they are more likely to purchase products and services, and also more likely to purchase higher value items (or more of them) with digital menus. For all companies this should be music to their ears, especially at the moment with the tough economic outlook.
Should I get a proper digital signage player?
As anyone who has gone through the process can tell you, there are many options when you’re looking to purchase and install a digital signage solution. One of the biggest decisions you have to make is what you will use to control and run your digital signage campaigns. There are a range of players out there that can do that job. There are two main paths you can take when choosing a player, buy a PC that will run as a media player with the appropriate software, or by a dedicated digital signage player. Let’s look what you should keep in mind when considering purchasing and deploying either of these systems.
Installation and maintenance
The beauty of digital signage is that it looks effortless – all the consumer or passer-by sees is a high tech screen that seems controlled remotely, without bulky computer equipment or wires. That’s the impression you want to give. Of course we know that behind the high tech screens is a very complex and sophisticated piece of computer hardware – either a PC or a digital signage player. So when considering installation of a digital signage system, where do you keep the “back room” hardware? The answers depends on your location of course. In a restaurant, shopping centre or airport, for example, you may have to rent a space in which to house and maintain a PC, whereas due to their typical small size you may be able to mount a dedicated signage media player behind the screen itself. Picking a media player that runs content that can be wirelessly updated will mean that its placement is less restricted as well.
One of the biggest causes of electronic failures comes with the damage caused by excessive heat and dust. PC’s, with their fans, whilst they work well in an office, can have issues in more open environments. Signage players on the other hand generally are fan-less and have become super efficient at dissipating heat and maximising up-time for the equipment. Signage players that don’t use fans to cool themselves must be mounted in an area with adequate ventilation. This requirement can often mean changing where the unit is mounted. When you consider that most digital signage solutions need to operate for long periods of time with minimal maintenance it makes cooling a even greater priority
Communication ports are a critical factor for any digital signage player, and experts suggest considering an integrated network with RS-232 ports which makes remote monitoring and screen control easy. Having just one video output can also restrict a media player’s usefulness, while having too many different types of video outputs can make the unit itself too bulky, and therefore restrict where it can be placed. The solution, it seems, is to use a hybrid connector that supports DVI, HDMI and VGA displays.
Increasingly signage players are called upon to work reliably up to 24/7, 365 days a year. This is a significant request when you consider that the unit is largely unattended and is never shutdown. This is an area where a dedicated digital signage player often with its own dedicated software are manufactured as a complete system to ensure the utmost reliability. This is one area where we have found the signage players can far exceed the standard PC especially when you consider cost Vs performance
Ultimately the system you choose will be based on a number of factors such as budget, and whether you need a general device that can do a range of tasks such as network administration (a PC) or a dedicated player that will be more cost effective. While a PC may be a great short term solution because of its operating flexibility and the ability to upgrade its components and functionality, a dedicated signage player may be a better investment in the long term with less hassle
Digital signage or narrowcasting is an amazing and increasingly ubiquitous method of out-of-home advertising for many companies. Digital signage has become the ultimate way to provide video content, messages, information and advertising to a large and varied audience. Because it is instantly updatable and can be specifically targeted for both location and type of customer, it is rapidly becoming the standard “must have” technology for today’s business.
When looking at getting the right digital signage solutions for your business, you really have two choices: you can choose consumer or domestic grade panels, which are exactly the same as the screens you have at home, or you can choose to purchase commercial grade LCD’s. While buying and installing a domestic grade 65 inch screen with 1080p resolution may seem like the more cost effective choice for businesses wanting to get into digital signage, most industry experts warn that domestic panels are great in a domestic setting, but are not effective in most commercial environments, and may, in fact, end up costing you more in the long run.
Let’s look in more detail at the differences between domestic and commercial LCD screens. One of the big design differences between the two types of panels may not be very noticeable at first glance or for those not directly involved in the industry: it’s the quality of the enclosures, or the bezel on a flat screen panel that surrounds the viewable area of the screen and the back casing. Most of us take no notice of this area, but in terms of durability and strength, commercial screens are simply better designed than their domestic equivalents. The reason for this is simple – flat screen digital signage is normally found in areas of high traffic, dusty locations (think of airports or railway stations), or areas where they are likely to come into contact with other elements not normally found in households.
The enclosures of commercial panels have been specially designed to withstand a commercial level of wear and tear, just as the materials used in a commercial kitchen will be higher quality and more hardwearing than those used in a domestic kitchen. Apart from their hard-wearing nature, commercial panels will also simple last longer than other types of screens. This in itself makes them the only choice for businesses who wish to display their signage for long periods of time (sometimes days at a time).
Due to the relatively complex nature of the hardware needed to run digital signage, commercial grade panels also come with extra inputs such as serial ports and PC inputs for any hardware that might be need, while domestic screens tend to only come with simple HDMI or RCA connections and no serial control.
Finally, another huge benefit of commercial panels for digital signage use is their warranties. Most of the top commercial screen producers such as Samsung, NEC and LG offer commercial grade warranties of up to three years and even 24/7 operation, as opposed to the standard one year warranty on domestic models, which are usually automatically voided if the product has been used “over and beyond” four to six hours a day.
In summary, as the popular saying goes, “The right tool for the right job” – if you are considering investing in technology for digital signage, then it will pay in the long term to look at commercial grade panels rather than cheaper domestic grade screens.
Take the time to plan your Digital Signage Project and it will come back to you in spades
Everday I see poorly thought out and implemented digital signage attempts. These are not necessarily restricted to the small sites but also extend to some very large organisations that should have the resources to know better.
Here at Active Ads we advise that you should work backwards. Sounds strange but works
Think of who your customer is. Is you customer a particular demographic and does it change by the hour or day of the week? What do they like to consume?
What are they interested in? This is not necessarily what type of products or services you have available. If you want them to look at the screen more than once perhaps break you “message” with other content. News, Weather, Quick tips, Latest recipes, anything your customer considers to be of value. This encourages engagement and whilst they are viewing the screen your “message” will also be better consumed
How long do they have to see your message (most important)? Is it just a few seconds or minutes through to perhaps hours. If it is only a few seconds you are really interrupting them during their daily business. Make it short simple and straight to the point. Many times I see a lot of advertising that is trying to be so creative it looses the message and I’m left wondering what was that all about. Or worse still who was that advertising….what a waste.
If you have more time be more engaging with longer pieces of information perhaps going into more depth.
What is that message that you are trying to convey? What is your end goal? Is it to get more people into your business from the passers by in the street or is it prospective customers in your business already? Or are you trying to convey a message to staff? These are all very different messages with different goals in mind. Part of this strategy should be continual testing.
It is very easy to test a message if it is set up correctly with a good piece of digital signage software. The beauty of the new digital advertising age is the ability to test and re-test, and gather real feedback. No more blast a message out and hope for the best as in print, Radio and TV.
If it doesn’t seem to be working change it until it does! Digital Signage gives you the medium to be able to make that change quick and easily.
Where is the best location to capture their interest? Consider where people look… stand back and watch. I once saw an installation in a large supermarket chain where the screens were located some 2.6m above the customers’ heads over the Deli counter. Who ever thought this was a good idea should have been told in no uncertain terms!! (worse still they were showing a TV corporate branding message telling people how good their company is. Sorry but you’re already preaching to the converted …. they are already in your store!!)
Lastly take the time to get professional graphics done. Even if this is in a template form so that you have the ability to update the actual content with new information. PowerPoint and clip art are poor substitutes that simply reflect poorly on your business.
The Importance of a Great Digital Signage Message
Anybody new to the world of digital out of home (DOOH) may find the industry a quagmire of jargon, technical speak and a myriad of companies regaling the importance and benefits of their software, network systems, or content creation programs.
Nearly every company you speak to will stress the importance of a different aspect of digital signage, from type of content, type of hardware used to the definition of the screen; however, in reality, as a form of advertising, there are only two things that really matter-the message you are putting out, and the position of the screen.
Firstly, no matter what the message you are putting out on a screen is, the most fundamental aspect of any digital signage is that the screen can be seen. As with any form of advertising, digital signage is only effective if people can view it.
Any display screen in a retail environment like this needs to be in a central position, by the till, or in the most visible location possible to ensure the maximum number of people see the sign. A common sight when visiting a convenience store, gas station or other small retailer is to see a display screen tucked behind the counter or hidden away amongst the stock.
Even in digital outdoor signage, the wrong positioning of the screen will make a huge difference to the number of views the screen will get. And with outdoor, dwell times are a lot briefer than for an indoor sign (especially one at a point of sale queue), which can make the effectiveness of a badly placed sign even worse.
Eye-level is by far the best position for a screen, either indoor or out, but often this is not possible. Angling the screen towards the approaching audience’s eyes will improve things but the screen does need to be in a place where it is noticeable.
Another aspect of digital signage which is often a cause of a poor campaign is a lack of understanding in what you want to achieve with the screen. The benefits of digital signage is the ability to schedule and upload content at will, it is not a miracle device that will sell products better than a poster or other advertisement.
Having a clear idea of what you want to do, whether it’s pushing or promoting particular products, raising awareness of the brand, or influencing customer behaviour, will make it more likely to be a successful campaign.
|Richard N Williams is a technical author and a specialist in the digital signage industry helping to develop outdoor digital signage and protection for plasmas. Please visit us for more information about LCD Enclosures or other digital signage solutions.|
Using outdoor digital signage poses different challenges to indoor systems, from protecting the device from the elements to getting the content delivered but the benefits of using outdoor LCDs and plasma for digital advertising or information is that you can reach a lot larger audience. There are of course many pitfalls in implementing outdoor digital signage, here are ten ideas to avoid making costly mistakes:
10. Have a goal – You must have a clear purpose in mind. If you are to invest in digital outdoor signage systems you must have focus on what you want to achieve, more customers or strengthening your brand or perhaps you wish to entertain or inform. Define your expectations before you invest in any system.
9. Plan for costs – digital signage is never cheap, always plan for everything. It never surprises me to hear of companies that have spent small fortunes on outdoor digital signage systems only to have run out of money for things like maintenance or even content.
8. Use the right people to manage your project – often digital signage projects get farmed on to IT. Sure there are technical aspects to DooH (Digital out of Home) but it is far more suited to someone with marketing experience. Also ensure you have a clear project leader, there are many aspects to outdoor digital signage and unless someone is in a position to keep all the facets together your project could soon falter as soon as you hit he first obstacle. Ensure you have somebody to manage and update the content – you’d surprised how often this is overlooked.
7. Position – People can spend huge sums of money on digital signage campaigns but if the LCD, plasmas or LED screens are in the wrong place it could all be money down the tube if nobody pays any attention to it.
6. Weather protection – Outdoors is a totally different environment than indoors and any signage device will need protecting from the elements. Always ensure good quality plasma or LCD enclosure houses the device. Often European IP 65 or USA NEMA 4 standards are applied for outdoor digital signage enclosures.
5. Choose the right software and tools – Don’t get distracted with expensive and often overly-complicated content creation tools. Often the simple desktop office tools like PowerPoint will create good quality and innovative content
4. Testing, testing 1, 2, 3 – Properly test your campaigns ensure. Don’t just test that the devices are working, practice changing content and carrying out general maintenance like cleaning, it is often small practicalities like this that can cause the failure of an outdoor digital signage project.
3. Be Innovative – Don’t be frightened of trying new things. Look at different types of LCD or plasma enclosures and see which looks best. Try placing the devices in unusual areas or trying new content anything that will hope it get noticed. Often the best digital signage campaigns are the ones where they have been bold in attempting something new or something different.
2. Security – It is unfortunate I know but it’s the world we live in and despite the falling costs of LCD and plasmas they are still attractive items for thieves. Ensure the device id properly secure from theft but also ensure the LCD enclosure is rugged enough to withstand attacks by vandals.
1. Content – The most important aspect of any outdoor digital signage campaign by far is content. Content is key, no matter how fancy your digital outdoor signage systems looks if they don’t display interesting, informative or entertaining content they are being wasted. Be innovative and be different. If you are attempting to generate income from advertising then mix in entertainment too, people become advert blind and will simply ignore any messages.
Keep things interesting and mix and match advertising content with more entertainment and informative stuff. Ensure you use plenty of colours, moving images and keep things simple. Too much going on, on the screen, will confuse and distract. Audio works well too but don’t blast out music this can be quite annoying to many people, particularly if they don’t like that genre.
Outdoor digital signage is a great way to expand a company’s profile, advertise, increase branding, influence customer behaviour and generate sales but it only works if you invest the time and effort along too with the money.
|Richard N Williams is a technical author and a specialist in the digital signage industry helping to develop outdoor digital signage and protection for plasmas. Please visit us for more information about LCD Enclosures or other digital signage solutions|