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The mass production of LCD displays has turned them into a commodity. A 19-inch LCD monitor that in 1998 sold for upward of $2,995 can now be had for $79.95. So it’s natural to see them appearing everywhere from the backseats of taxicabs to the picture frames in grandma’s living room.
And why not? A moving sign attracts far more eyeballs than a static poster ever could, and technologies exist that can tailor the sign’s content to the viewer in realtime. LCD screens deliver news, safety warnings, product information, restaurant menus and train and airline flight information. They also can be used to make reservations, sell tickets, or even be the front end of digital jukebox.
What’s more, they’re increasingly being used as decoration. In the passageway between two of its terminals at JFK Airport, American Airlines treats passengers to beautiful and moving images of international landscapes. And in department stores, it’s becoming more common to be helped by a “point of information” kiosk that can provide just-in-time data or discounts to spur a purchase. UNIQLO, a Japanese clothing retailer with three stores in New York City, recently reached an agreement with a solution provider for more than 400 NEC Display Solutions of America screens to promote its products to shoppers in its flagship UNIQLO New York Fifth Avenue store and other locations.
In addition to the market for lobby signs and decorative signage applications, which are typically one-off sales with periodic content updates, there are a few signage applications with the potential to generate regular streams of recurring revenue.
The first, and perhaps easiest to sell, is for in-store promotion of a customer’s own products or services. These are increasingly popping up in menus at quick-serve restaurants and delis but also can be seen in stand-alone ceiling or counter signs that display “Today’s Specials.”
The infrastructure for these products requires either a PC to drive content to each display, or a product that can display content from a USB stick. Solution providers generate recurring revenue from managing and updating content.
The second, and a bit more challenging, is the sale of signage for hyperlocal marketing. Imagine one customer that a solution provider already services is a deli. That deli might share space in a strip mall with a dry cleaner, a pet store, a restaurant and a bank. A solution provider might approach the deli owner to buy a digital sign to use as a menu display and offer to split the revenue that the dry cleaner is paying to advertise in a small box on the deli menu.
The dry cleaner might in turn purchase its own sign and run reciprocal ads from the deli, which might promote its breakfast and lunch specials at certain times of day. These two customers pay nothing to each other, but each generates revenue for the solution provider for managing the content and sending monthly reports.
A third way, and the most potentially lucrative one, is for a solution provider’s digital signs to be offered as part of a digital signage network. According to Pierre Richer, president and COO of NEC Display Solutions, this market also is the most complicated, and solution providers looking to enter it should have a solid background in advertising.
“It’s a bit like selling television, radio and print, but a lot more complex,” he said, because of all the technologies and players involved.
The Test Center put four products to the test for this digital signage feature. Products tested include Elo TouchSystems’ 22C2 Medical All-in-One Touchcomputer, Hewlett-Packard’s LD 4720 Digital Signage Display, LG’s 42LV355B EzSign TV and Software and NEC’s E462 46-inch Entry-Level Commercial Display. Rather than conducting a head-to-head review, the Test Center evaluated each product for its ability to meet its intended purpose.
To test image quality, we displayed the LCD monitor calibration and testing images found at www.lagom.nl/lcd-test. We looked most carefully at the contrast, color gradation, white saturation and black level capabilities of each display.
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