Searching For The Digital Signage Market


I used to be young, but now I'm old. As proof, I can remember writing a story about the inaugural season of Mitsubishi's Mark III giant outdoor screen at Dodger Stadium and sitting in the control room thinking what a cool new thing it was. Stadium screens are still cool, but not so new.

JOHN LONGWELL
Can be reached via e-mail at jlongwel@cmp.com.

Yet in our solution provider poll for this month's cover story on the digital signage market and technology, nearly half of the solution providers still judge digital signage as being in the early adopter stage, and some even put it as still in the innovator stage. I can't argue with that. But if you're running an airport or a sports arena and you haven't yet installed a digital signage solution, feel free to consider yourself among the meanest of laggards.

So what exactly does it mean that digital signage is still in an early adopter stage?

It could mean that the technology is just reaching a certain level of maturity, but deploying solutions requires a lot of custom integration and development work. That's often the case. But by most solution provider accounts, digital signage is no longer rocket science. Software vendors of late have done a lot to turn digital signage into a fairly painless solution, accessible to a broad channel of integrators that are not necessarily specialized in the technology, and the distribution channel is stocking a full set of SKUs. In our cover story, we make note of several vendors that are packaging fairly complete bundles for solution providers.

It could mean the ROI is not immediately apparent, markets are still nichy, and sales cycles are long.That appears to be true to some extent. As with the Internet, while the technology may be relatively straightforward, the larger costs—and profits—often are in creating and managing content. A static digital sign, like a static Web page, only gets you so far.

Still, industry experts report that declining display prices are lowering costs and high visibility of these solutions are shortening sales cycles. Clients get digital signage when they see it in action. And market researchers report fairly strong growth, at least measured by the number of displays being put into public service.

What it most likely means, then, is that this market will undergo a slow, steady and long expansion. While certain niches such as airports and entertainment venues are decidedly late majority adopters and even laggards, solution providers serving big retailers with kiosks and point-of-sale displays undoubtably are enjoying an early majority phase. And there is still a whole lot of early adoption and innovation going on in various SMB verticals. This is creating opportunities for both specialists and full-service solution providers that find it an attractive fit for their customer base—and it should for a long time.

What's your take on the digital signage opportunity? CRNTech welcomes letters from solution providers. send your comments to CRNTech executive editor John Longwell at jlongwel@cmp.com.