Originally published in CIO.com
By David Levin
Screens. They’re everywhere. It’s an easy way to become “high-tech,” right? Stick up some screens. The bigger the screens, the higher the tech. And the proliferation of screens must be driven by CIOs and Chief Digital Officers, right?
It’s true that screens are popping up everywhere, but of course it’s not true that putting up screens has anything to do with an organization’s digital transformation strategy or being high-tech. Often-times a screen on the wall just means a designer or architect thought that particular wall was a good spot, without regard to the application on the screen or the connection to the organization’s overall performance goals.
Some organizations are doing it right, but many aren’t. So, this begs the question: given access to the same tools, why are some organizations outpacing their peers? To effectively take advantage of these new technologies, Chief Digital Officers, CIOs and CTOs must take a holistic approach, planning for the long term, not just solving today’s challenges.
Get your digital ecosystem right
A study by Facebook and Deloitte finds that companies who want to thrive in this age of technological disruption must place digital capabilities at the center of their everyday business. The report notes, “In a digital world, organizations operate as ecosystems—not self-contained entities—enabling them to quickly and constantly reconfigure themselves in response to ongoing societal, technological and market shifts.”
If you look around, an increasingly vital part of that digital ecosystem revolves around visual displays. You see video walls, interactive wayfinding stations, digital meeting room signage, promotional screens or some other type of Visual Communications application across every industry. And the challenges being solved by this display technology are as wide ranging as the industries that rely on it.
Given the scope of use cases for display technology, how each digital sign operates within a network becomes especially important. From security concerns and multi-user access through scalability and data integrations—there are many things to consider before investing in an enterprise-wide digital communications platform.
So, before the selection process begins, these are the top six things to consider maximizing the impact of your digital displays:
1. Build a unified platform
Like other types of technology, using a platform that can scale as the business grows is essential. Too many organizations have cobbled together a patchwork of digital signage assets on a variety of platforms that aren’t able to communicate with each other. All this does is cause frustration for the end users and waste money. Many companies also have different systems in various geographic regions. What they need, as Facebook and Deloitte write, is a single, global ecosystem. One platform that can handle a variety of applications—ranging from wayfinding displays and point of sale systems to registration tablets at a hotel check-in desk and more. The ability to manage multiple applications with a single platform empowers companies to tailor content to different regions, business needs and user groups. This type of forethought prevents the tangled web of multiple platforms while also enabling the creation of global signage standards.
2. Integrate with third-party systems
Getting the most from a visual display platform requires integrating with third-party data sources, such as point of sale (PoS) systems, CRMs, commercial property management systems and more. By integrating with your back-end systems, you can easily push data to screens in a visually appealing way, unlocking the power of that information and using it to drive desired actions. For example, a digital signage platform at a retail store that’s connected to the PoS can display triggered promotions based on inventory levels, driving sales on overstocked or closeout items. In fact, one home & ranch retailer saw 122% incremental sales growth of featured products and brands through the use of visual displays.
3. Be flexible
Content should be flexible for different formats and optimizable for every type of display. Basically, your platform needs to be able to do more than just show content on traditional digital signage. Sticking with the store example, retailers should be able to push a coupon to a mobile device, deliver promotional content to tablets at the point of sale and showcase brand videos on large video wall installations at the center of a store—all with one platform.
4. Leverage data and analytics
Modern displays are much more advanced than the old-fashioned walls of TVs playing the local news you used to see a generation ago. Today, displays are interactive. They are dynamic. They can be more than just one thing. And on top of that, the technology can give you insight into content engagement. Top digital signage platforms generate data that can be analyzed to improve business outcomes—you can pull reports that show click-rates, overall screen touches, content playback rates and more, enabling you to continuously improve the performance of your displays.
5. Be secure
Any network of connected devices can create a cyber vulnerability. And by using multiple digital signage platforms, you’re only exacerbating the risk of a potentially costly breach. However, a unified system not only helps you avoid the inefficiencies caused by multiple platforms, but it also helps you maintain better security protocols.
6. Ease of use
Whether your organization is a retailer with hundreds of outlets or a major corporation with offices worldwide, a visual display platform should be easy to use. Any member of the firm’s tech team should be able to change or modify any visual display by using a mobile device. They should also be able to turn screens on or off remotely. Similarly, these screens should be easy for people to use. Effective platforms help drive engagement through a host of customer-facing applications. For example, integrated cameras on screens at a retailer can connect with social media, promoting ongoing customer engagement and personalizing the shopping experience.
As organizations work to develop the best customer, guest and employee experience, they are turning to Visual Communications technology. But managing that technology can be a tough task. What is the impact of each display ad? What features improve customer engagement? What maximizes the return on investment of visual displays? Does the content on displays correctly reflect the firm’s brand values?
Putting in place the right platform to manage your Visual Communications applications makes answering those crucial digital strategy questions much easier.
David Levin is president and CEO of Four Winds Interactive.