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Effectively scheduled Digital Signage content

Scheduled digital signage content is most effective by being on-time. By ‘on-time’ content, we mean scheduled content such as videos, promotional items, ideas, and images. Nothing is better than having catered content served up to your customers at the perfect time. Ah, sheer bliss. You know your hard work has paid off at this point. Users are engaged, presenters benefit, and your brand image skyrockets.

But how do you get there? Maybe it’s easier than it sounds. Here’s what we’ve learned over time as we’ve scheduled content out.

The location determines the timing.

Where is your screen located? If it’s located in a university hallway, consider displaying information for classes, announcements, or maps at key times during the day. If you want your screen to be useful, make sure that it’s timed to fit a need of your user. Students may need to be able to see upcoming events during break times from classes. New visitors to a hospital might need maps available to look at. Anyone from potential customers, new visitors, or loyal fans, can be your user.

Keep content relevant and up to date.

There’s nothing worse than Christmas banners and events still showing up on a hallway screen in February. Remember to update your content at least once a month. Your users will see the signage as a reliable source of information for this frequency. Plus, they’ll keep coming back to check for events or information that might appeal to them.

Time multiple regions on one screen to match up thematically.

Use this to your advantage! You may have one screen that can play videos, and show promotional information at the same time. You might even have a ticker at the bottom to show additional feeds. Theming each region to match up with one promotion, can create an additional ‘wow’ factor for your viewer.

Content doesn’t need to play for 24 hours a day.

Lastly, we recommend leaving the screen off for an hour or two every night when there aren’t any people around. This helps give the screen a break and prevent content burn-in from damaging the screen. So feel free to turn off the screen for a little while. Your hardware will thank you (and possibly your IT team as well).

Keep scheduled digital signage content relevant for the viewer, practical for the time, and simple for the user.

Why Aren’t Digital Menu Boards More Widespread?

I don’t travel as extensively as I once did, but I’m still blessed to get around our beautiful country, and occasionally outside of it, a few times a year. As a long-time digital signage vet (they say once you start, you can’t stop!) I always notice digital signage and Building Map Designs wherever I go.

One question I have is why aren’t there more digital menu boards out there? It has always seemed to be a logical application of digital signage. Beyond the talk of an FDA mandate for nutritional data, digital menus are often billed as an easy way to update menus, add animations of certain content (e.g. steam coming off a hamburger), push specials during certain times, integrate with POS inventories (“stop selling burritos when the tortillas are gone”!), and more.

Despite the myriad of reasons to implement digital menu boards, most restaurants I go to don’t have them. Here are four reasons why I believe digital menus will become more widespread.

1.Decreasing Cost of Hardware (Displays and Players)

Historically, displays have been fairly expensive, which has stymied growth into commercial use. While most Americans have TVs in their living rooms (at least 96.7% according to Nielson), the numbers need to work for businesses to make the leap from paper/poster/dry erase board to digital. As supply chains tighten and demand grows, the price of televisions is dropping. We see this both with retail televisions, and commercial TVs (in various sales, though data isn’t readily available).

Another component of the hardware required to implement digital signage is the “player” – typically a device running a propriety software on Windows, Android or even Linux. These players range anywhere from $35.00 to $1,200.00 – a Linux based Raspberry Pi 3 on the low end (case not included), to a Windows-based unit with Intel processor on the high end (think Windows 10 Pro with Intel i7.

We find that in certain situations a Raspberry Pi is sufficient. These are no-frills devices, that excel at playing HTML5/“web” content. We recommend finding a device in the mid-range that bundles some hardware monitoring software. Bright Sign is a great choice, with hardware costs from $350.00 to $850.00 and built-in device management. The $350.00 HD222 is plenty for digital menu boards. If these prices don’t seem right, Google has also entered the market with their Chrome Box (available from DELL, ASUS, HP, ACER, and others) and SaaS-based device management.

2. Reduced Cost of Software

Software is an aspect of your investment that deserves research and planning. Software is often confused with “content.” But, it is the toolset that you need to do things like load new content, schedule an image or video for a time of day, remotely restart screens, and more.

Feature-rich software for digital signage is most often required when you’re building an interactive kiosk, incorporating wayfinding (plotting location on a building map), integrating with a database, etc. In the case of digital menu boards, displaying static graphics is sufficient for most users. Your options for software are many, and oftentimes free! Doing your research and being familiar with your team’s skillsets will help you here. Even though some software will allow you to, “update menu data from a spreadsheet,” it’s actually easier for your design team to export a new image from Photoshop. While including animations is nice, expect additional hardware requirements and higher costs per unit if you add a lot of video to your digital menu boards.

Even among providers of feature-rich solutions, it’s clear that to compete in the menu board space, their prices need to be lower. Look for a monthly cost of around $30.00 or an upfront cost of $1000.00 max for software. All that said, you should be able to find a free software product that will more than serve your needs for a single digital menu.

3. Better Uptime (Menus Can’t “Go Down!”)

Nothing can be more detrimental to a restaurant’s quality of service than a turned-off screen in place of a menu. We regularly hear from prospects who are fearful when technology is a part of a menu – without a menu, food sales can be affected. But one of the top benefits of the maturing digital signage market has been the increased reliability. You can now be much more confident that a digital menu in your restaurant will be lit and working during all business hours.

One key to assuring our customers of better uptime is redundancy. That is, we use multiple layered technologies so if one layer (the player, let’s say) fails, the screen can fall back on a USB drive. There are various other ways to do this, where a simple guide for the store manager can allow for redundant layers to be used where necessary. This ensures that all of the advantages of digital menus can be leveraged, while the downside of black screens is all but eliminated.

4. Store Owners Realize the Benefits

When it comes to technology, the market majority are late adopters. This has certainly been the case with digital menu boards, where even as the technology grows more affordable, ownership just feels more comfortable with old school methods. This can be changed by getting the word out, providing examples of where the technology can improve food sales or improve the customer experience.

Let’s rehash the benefits. For operations using a hub and spoke system where multiple stores use shared “commissaries” or “depots” for inventory, shortages of certain ingredients can update at the stores immediately. Where nutritional information needs to be listed, or where new menu items are regularly added, the design and alignment of content on the screens can be updated seamlessly. Where videos and animations can be eye-catching and street-facing, menu specials can be highlighted to accelerate sales.

And the bottom line is that, if a static (paper/magnetic/etc.) menu board costs $300.00 to purchase and $600 in labor to deliver, hang, and maintain, then the cost of static versus a digital menu board becomes roughly equivalent. Replacing this static board leads to costs over and above making it digital. One common complaint – energy consumption of televisions – is less of an issue, with modern televisions costing about $10.00 a month to keep on.

NOTE: In this shortlist, I’ve omitted situations where there isn’t enough physical space for screens, or screens simply don’t fit in the environment. Digital menus are a particular fit for QSR environments where customers walk up to the counter and order from a menu (typically behind the cashier).

New video content on the way!

One of our recent initiatives has been more regular video content updates across our website and social media pages.
I am happy to report that we are making great progress in this area! In addition to updates and tweaks to the website, we’ll be publishing new videos to explain the services we provide. Additionally, customer case studies will be added, and we’re discussing the idea of making pre-canned training webinars available through our Portfolio.

What Is The Vision?

Importantly, our vision is to offer a glimpse into the personal touch that we provide to our customers. Video allows for clear and personal communication, and we look forward to expanding our use of it.
So, make sure to continue to follow these exciting updates. We look forward to receiving any feedback you might have!

All the best,
Matt Krebs, Founder of Creating Margin


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