Digital Signage Growing As VARs Eye Recurring Revenue, Back-End Opportunities


In digital signage, it's about hardware, software, networking, content -- and opportunity


Seize The Opportunity

In addition to blurring the lines between the AV and IT channels, the aggregated nature of the digital signage market bodes well for solution providers that can seize the opportunity to create all-in-one digital signage solutions.

Chris Kemp, director of business development at Allied Technologies, a Little Rock, Ark.-based reseller, does just that. The company already has started to reap the benefits of offering of an all-encompassing digital signage package.

“We see an opportunity to open up some more revenue sources, especially on the recurring revenue side,” Kemp said. “With the equipment, management and software … being able to bundle that and offer it as a hosted solution [is key].”

Bob Rosenberry, manager of visual solutions at Hewlett-Packard, Palto Alto, Calif., reiterated this all-in-one opportunity, as he’s seen IT resellers fare increasingly well within the digital display channel over the past six years.

“I’ve seen this industry evolve to be very channel-driven,” Rosenberry said. “Within digital signage you have the hardware, the software, the networking, the content, the physical installation ... this big, extended team used to be needed to make this happen. And now, through the channel, this is becoming much more efficient and kind of ‘everyday.’ A lot of the software companies in the industry are pursuing channel strategies and seeing that as a key to growth.”

The opportunity for IT solution providers to take advantage of an aggregated market is no doubt there. But here’s the kicker: The many “moving pieces” that come with digital signage mean that solution providers getting into the market will need to step up their game.

Kevin Prewett, vice president of vendor management at distributor Ingram Micro, Santa Ana, Calif., spoke to the learning curve many solution providers encounter when warming up to the digital display channel.

“People see the screen and say ‘that’s digital signage,’ but there’s so much more on the back-end side,” Prewett said. “It’s really just so much more involved than that, and somebody just stepping into it, most of the time they realize that it’s a bit of an undertaking.”

In response to this learning curve, many vendors and distributors -- including NEC and Ingram Micro -- offer training programs to bring prospective solution providers up-to-speed and help them better meet customer needs.

Betsy Larson, channel director at NEC, stressed the importance of reseller training programs within the digital display channel.

“I’ve met so many resellers and solution providers through groups, and boot camps and digital signage summits. They’ve just been great, and that’s an easy first step,” Larson said. “I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and it’s great to see the solution providers really catching on and seeing the value in learning how to put these solutions together.”

Alison Evans, vice president of marketing and development at Better Direct, a solution provider based in Tempe, Ariz., said that the robust nature of digital signage partner programs and training initiatives was one of the driving factors behind the firm’s decision to enter the market.

Whether through a seminar, extended flooring terms or client “Try and Buy” programs, most partners in the digital signage space seem eager to help. “The partner programs are excellent,” Evans said, “and are still high-margin. I think it’s a really attractive market.”

It seems, then, that despite its potentially high learning curve and “jack-of-all-trade” prerequisites, the digital signage channel is brimming with opportunity. The fragmented landscape in which it sits almost demands a solution provider’s involvement to meet customer expectations and deliver that full, soup-to-nuts solution.

“I think there are more benefits than there are challenges,” Larson said. “Many of the vertical markets right now are leveraging signage, and so many of the SMB VARs play into these different spaces, meaning there are a lot of opportunities within their customer base. Look in your current backyard. You might even have an opportunity there.”