Digital Signage Offers Small-Biz Service Opportunities

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When it comes to targeting small businesses for digital signage solutions, VARs shouldn't be picky, said distribution and solution provider executives.
"Retail businesses, financial institutions, local education and corporate communications are all great startup opportunities for digital signage," said Irene Chow, category manager for digital home and digital signage at Ingram Micro. And because digital signage sales are solutions sales, VARs have the opportunity to add on other types of products and services, Chow said. "Depending on the environment, digital signage can certainly be attached to the company's network, stand-alone or accompany POS equipment."

Displays require mounts, and cabling and video switches sometimes are part of the package, executives said. In addition, content management software also can be added to the solution, upping the sale, they said.

"What used to be an enterprise-level sale—large hotel chains, airports, casinos [and] stadiums—has now migrated to an SMB opportunity for virtually every type of end user," said Dan Schwab, vice president of marketing at D&H Distributing, Harrisburg, Pa. D&H has seen success with digital signage in customers ranging from single and multi-outlet hotels and motels to medical, real estate and law offices to restaurants and retailers.

"No matter what set of end users you service, there may be an opportunity for you to merchandise digital signage as a way to help those end users expand their businesses through better presentation and communication," he said.

According to research firm Frost and Sullivan, the digital signage market in North America will grow from an estimated $148.9 million in 2004 to more than $850 million in 2011.

Distributors continue to add new vendors around signage in response to increased demand among SMB customers. For example, Ingram Micro added vendors Ergotron earlier this year and Gefen in the fourth quarter of last year.

Solution providers also can partner with AV dealers on signage solutions. For example, Process Dealer Services Group, an AV solution provider in Paso Robles, Calif., has partnered with two IT networking VARs, said Kevin Mikelonis, general manager at the company. "When we go in and do a digital signage gig, it may often wind up as a hardware infrastructure rebuild or refinement," he said.

Distributor SED International also has seen digital signage sales pick up in the SMB market across a variety of industries. "It's a combination not just of the pricing coming down, but as people become more aware and it's more prevalent, more people have thought about digital signage and are doing something about it," said Rob Kalman, vice president of U.S. marketing for SED, Tucker, Ga.

VARs should leverage existing small business relationships to add on digital signage sales, Kalman said. "If somebody else hasn't talked to them about it already, they should be exploring it with them."

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