Retailers looking to pursue the upside advantages of digital signage need to resolve a few questions before they begin:

  1. Who will own and underwrite the network? As the article suggests the third party route is a two-edged sword, and if a retailer believes that digital signage is a strategic system (as Walmart does), then ownership and control should probably rest with the retailer. This also will speed integration with other systems. If the application is not viewed as strategic, then the third party option may be best. An “eyes open” approach is recommended either way.
  2. What is the objective of their network? A network deployed to primarily support a retail brand and influence a shopping experience is fundamentally different from a network deployed in order to generate advertising revenue.
  3. What roles do I want to assume in-house, and which do I want to outsource? From content development to network management to reporting to ad sales to project management and more, digital signage requires care and feeding. Understand the full scope of the various roles, and decide which are best to keep in-house, and which may be best to outsource.
  4. What network architecture makes sense for us? There are many architectural models in the marketplace, and a cross functional team should understand the differences and how some may be more appropriate for retail than others.
  5. Which vendor(s) understand retail and retail IT?
  6. How do we cut through the hype and positioning of the technology vendors to make an intelligent choice? Clearly, there is no shortage of sound bites and claims of superiority in the intensely competitive digital signage solution space. The fact is that there are real differences between approaches, architectures, functionality, cost effectiveness, scalability, relevant experience and product road maps among the vendors. Understanding your own requirements and conducting some research is the best place to start. Insist on “Show” as well as “Tell,” and view the relationship as a partnership, because it can not end at the purchase for ongoing success to be ensured.
  7. How will we address content? Putting technology aside for a moment, it is important to realize that “garbage in, garbage out” is an operative mantra for digital signage. Your approach to a content strategy, including the type, length, quality and refresh interval will all be very important in terms of customer perception. The best technology can not make lousy content more engaging or relevant. Invest time, energy and capital in content and content strategy.

Begin the process with a vision of where you want to be, and let that guide your actions as you proceed. The benefits are there, and execution is ultimately the number one critical success factor.