The digital signage market is a tough space. Often placed in highly visible, exposure-prone environments, expensive and complicated equipment is susceptible to damage and disruption. However, advances in touch-screen technology and larger-than-life screen sizes have kept themarket moving up, and the opportunities for the educated reseller are numerous.
"It's attracting a lot more competition because a lot of the companies in the desktop space want to move up that scale because there's more opportunities and better margins with digital signage," said Pierre Richer, president and COO of NEC Display Solutions America. "I'd say the last two years, you're starting to see a lot of people in the channel starting to understand this market more and wanting to get into it."
From the Mayo Clinic to Madison Square Garden, digital displays providing information, education and advertising (sometimes all three) offer vendors like NEC, Samsung and LG opportunities for growth. They in turn reach out to the channel and offer programs with a foundation in education.
"We've been doing road shows on a regional basis," said Don Fasick, director of business development, digital signage for LG. "Last year we brought channel partners into events so that people could have at their fingertips the ability to get more detailed information of what's needed out there to deploy digital signage."
The big challenge is content creation, Fasick said. "On the network you've got to have fresh, lively and relevant content being updated all the time," he said. Professional-grade displays that can run for 24 hours a day, seven days a week and be impervious to dust, dirt and other types of exposure are imperative.
These kinds of issues might not be immediately obvious to a solution provider looking to transition into the digital signage space, so the education initiatives continue as the market grows. "We're always looking at the solutions we can bring to market to help bring more value to the channel, Fasick said. "We'll continue to do our marketing and outreach programs that bring our message to our reseller partners about what we can bring to them."
Inova Solutions, a solution provider and NEC reseller in Charlottesville, Va., which specializes in digital signage for call centers and help desks, has seen growth in the market. "We've seen growing demand within digital signage in call centers," said Rao Kachibhotla, director of product management. "It's been a very significant part of our business—it's one of our mainstays."
Patti Baker, professional services manager at Inova, says the need for displaying lots of information helps sell the bigger NEC models like the 40-inch and 46-inch LCD displays. "We'll have deployments of five to 50 LCDs—it can get pretty costly, but the price point for the 40- to 46-inch seems to fit right in their wheelhouse," she said.
Baker says NEC's communication and support structure is a big part of their relationship. "Anytime questions come up, NEC is available to join us on conference calls or send out demos," she said. "NEC proactively lets me know of any changes to the product before they're actually released. We talk on a fairly continual basis regarding forecasts and other issues." In the complex world of digital signage, a quick response to issues is critical. "Of all the vendors we deal with, they have the best support," she said.