Tapping Into Digital Signage: Vertical Opportunities Arise For VARs


Digital signage is no longer exclusive to the sprawling electronic displays found in airports or casinos. Instead, it's expanding to include smaller-scale displays that offer a more personalized and interactive experience for end consumers. And, as the trend presses on, solution providers are facing new opportunities to grow both margins and their digital signage portfolios, particularly within vertical markets.

According to Erik Willey, LCD monitor and PC product marketing director at ViewSonic, smaller-scale and touch-enabled displays, such as ViewSonic's new VSD220 Smart Display, will arm solution providers with a new inlet into vertical markets such as hospitality, where there is a growing need for more personalized digital signage offerings that can be used to interact with customers on a one-on-one basis.

"[The VSD220] is meant to be more of a one-on-one type of interactivity, not for large public information, per se,"Willey told CRN. "It's maybe in a hotel business center or some type of kiosk environment, maybe melded into a cabinet. So, typically, it would be a one-to-one usage scenario, and that's where its touch screen and some of its other features come into play as well."

[Related: Cisco's Digital Signage Portfolio Gets Cloudy]

In addition to hospitality, the retail and quick service restaurant (QSR) space is also embracing smaller-scale digital signage displays, where they are used to replace traditional point-of-sale systems or informational kiosks for shoppers, according to Kevin Goldsmith, director of Digital Media Operations at Ping HD, a Denver-based digital signage solution provider and ViewSonic partner.

"As we push more into retail and QSR, more so the brands themselves are interested in the smaller, tablet-sized displays with passive and interactive content. Self-service ordering forms are a growing portion of our sales, especially in the QSR space," Goldsmith said. "Certainly over the past 12 months, as the general population gets used to touch-screen-based smartphones and tablet PCs combined with social media, I suspect global sales in smaller, interactive displays will explode over the next three years."

Smaller-scale displays have their place in the enterprise and SMB markets as well, explained Gene Ornstead, director of product marketing at ViewSonic. They can be used to replace traditional desktop monitors, arming enterprise users with a cloud-based and touch-enabled solution.

For ViewSonic solution providers, this means they can use the VSD220 and other smaller, "smart"displays to tap into both vertical markets and the enterprise.

"This [the VSD220] could be the next evolution in the monitor business, as a desktop solution,"Ornstead said. "At the same time, it's going to be a great time for verticals in digital signage or any kind of smart, interactive product you want to deploy in the digital signage market."

"So for the VAR, if they can embrace this properly, they have a whole other area where they can add products and software and expertise, and break into this market," Ornstead continued.

As with any digital signage offering, VARs can also couple their hardware offering with software or content management solutions to bring in recurring revenue. With the surge in adoption of social media sites like Facebook as a means to reach end customers, solution providers face a new opportunity to integrate these media outlets into their digital signage offerings, as well, explained Ernest Koury, president of Eureka! Media Group, a ViewSonic partner based in El Paso, Texas.

"We still see strong demand from both QSR and retail outlets. We are also seeing a larger demand to bring more value out of the digital signage," Koury said. "My company provides various content solutions including realtime Facebook and Twitter feeds onto [clients'] displays, which better connects their customers to their brands."

NEXT: Turning Digital Signage Into Recurring RevenueWhether in retail or the enterprise, the digital signage market is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. Industry analyst IHS iSuppli projects that, as the price of commercial displays continues to drop, signage shipments this year will reach nearly 17.3 million units, a big jump compared to the 15.4 million units that shipped in 2011. For VARs, this means now is a better time than ever to jump on board.

"Now that the price and reliability of hardware has reached an affordable price point for the savvy retailer … the investment costs are reduced, which ultimately yields a faster ROI," said Ping HD's Goldsmith.

"Digital signage is no longer shrouded in black magic, and resellers that are prepared and understand the technology can take part in a rapidly growing, global multibillion-dollar industry."

As with any digital signage offering, VARs can also couple their hardware offering with software or content management solutions to bring in recurring revenue. With the surge in adoption of social media sites like Facebook as a means to reach end customers, solution providers face a new opportunity to integrate these media outlets into their digital signage offerings, as well, explained Ernest Koury, president of Eureka! Media Group, a ViewSonic partner based in El Paso, Texas.

"We still see strong demand from both QSR and retail outlets. We are also seeing a larger demand to bring more value out of the digital signage," Koury said. "My company provides various content solutions including realtime Facebook and Twitter feeds onto [clients'] displays, which better connects their customers to their brands."

Whether in retail or the enterprise, the digital signage market is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. Industry analyst IHS iSuppli projects that, as the price of commercial displays continues to drop, signage shipments this year will reach nearly 17.3 million units, a big jump compared to the 15.4 million units that shipped in 2011. For VARs, this means now is a better time than ever to jump on board.

"Now that the price and reliability of hardware has reached an affordable price point for the savvy retailer … the investment costs are reduced, which ultimately yields a faster ROI," said Ping HD's Goldsmith.

"Digital signage is no longer shrouded in black magic, and resellers that are prepared and understand the technology can take part in a rapidly growing, global multibillion-dollar industry."