This post contains affiliate links.
Digital signage is becoming more and more popular as an effective tool for advertising and marketing. Through streamlined communication, digital signage helps all sorts of businesses and corporations convey their ideas and messages to the general masses, thus expanding and enhancing their work dynamics.
You've probably seen big name brands already use digital signage to attract customers by showcasing their products on TV screens and digital displays. A grand example here is the New York Times Square with those gigantic displays running ads of movies, concerts, food chains, and many others.
The digital signage approach is known and proven to work, and so, a lot of business owners are considering how they can implement the technology to boost their own market.
Fortunately, as the modern business world embraces digital signage, more options keep popping up to help you acquire signage solutions. But before diving headfirst into any of these choices, you should be completely aware of the costs that come along with such a technology.
So, to help you understand the full financial spectrum of investing in digital signage, we'll be breaking down the total costs of the technology throughout its entire operation, from initial installation all the way to long-term subscriptions.
Understanding the Investment
If you want to determine the total cost of digital signage, you must first understand what comprises this technology.
Digital signage consists of various parts. There's a hardware setup that includes flat LED panel displays, media player devices or computers, as well as networking equipment such as wired and wireless routers. You should also account for the cost of cables and mounting brackets.
After installing and connecting your hardware, you'll be needing digital signage software that's responsible for managing the displayed content and creating playlists or schedules. Following hardware and software, there are costs related to shipping, installing, maintenance, and extended subscriptions.
With all the different components of digital signage, it's rather smart to plan ahead so you can learn about the real cost of this technology. This allows you to set your budget accordingly and determine the volume of profit you can expect from implementing such an advertisement.
To make things easier for you, we'll discuss each part of the digital signage and how much it can cost you in the following order:
- Media player
- Content creation and strategy
- Shipping and delivery
- On-site installation and support
- Protection and maintenance
- Internet connection
A display screen is an integral part of digital signage, after all, it's how people will be able to see your presented content.
Depending on the demographic you're trying to target and where you're looking to communicate your content, whether it's a school, at a mall, in your office, or a front lobby, the choice of your display will vary, as will the prices.
For example, interactive monitors, video walls, tablets, and LED panels, all come at different price points. You should consider a digital signage service provider with enough experience to understand the options available on the hardware market, so they can introduce you to suitable candidates for your specific requirements.
We say this because you may already own monitors or TVs that are enough to meet the software needs. Also, there are some installation types that'll demand commercial-grade display screens. These will cost you more than a standard display.
Either way, you should have an expert provider determine this aspect to avoid paying unnecessary expenses.
Such a reputable provider may also be able to offer a leasing option on the display hardware. This can be a great way for you to buy everything you need for your digital signage from one place at one go.
Additionally, you should think about the number of monitors you'll need to cover your communication demands. Of course, the more screens you'll implement, the higher the cost will be. Some companies set their pricing flat per screen, so you can pay for how many screens you want to use.
Once you get your display situation figured out, it's time for you to choose a media player. This particular device functions to send content from your software (more on this in a minute) to your assortment of screens. A media player is a crucial part of your digital signage as it keeps the stream live.
The type of media player you should purchase will mainly depend on the sort of display and software you want to implement. The cost of this device will also vary according to the quality, performance, and level of security you want for your shared content.
In any case, your media player should be able to reliably support the different features and specifications of your display set up.
You'll come across several options in this department. You can buy a basic player with limited features for less than $50 brand new. However, you should keep in mind that a cheap purchase is very likely to fail and compromise your digital signage. It also won't be exactly solid when it comes to warranties and guarantees.
We do recommend that you consider budgeting at least $900 for the expense of buying a proper, high-quality media player. It's a one-time investment that'll probably save you a lot of replacement and maintenance costs later on. You can even find providers that offer leasing on media players to help with your cash flow.
Similar to display screens, if your digital signage plan requires a large number of media players, then the cost will be higher. You can cut a bit on the expenses if you do volume spend.
Any digital signage network requires software to be able to display content. Such software is responsible for managing the content you want to share across the digital signage system, as well as coordinate what information gets displayed on which monitor.
Not just that, but the software also allows the integration of content from various data resources to make it easier to share information across your digital signage network. You may think that something as crucial as the software is sure to put a dent in your wallet, but fortunately, this isn't necessarily the case.
If you've decided to obtain a digital signage system, then you'll most likely be paying for a software license or subscription cost. This cost can widely vary according to the provider you're dealing with and the type of product you're purchasing.
You'll probably pay a monthly (starting from under $20) or an annual fee for digital signage software. If you need a high volume of licenses, then you can get a deal for reduced pricing. Some display screen suppliers include the cost of the software license in a bundle form, while others may charge you separately.
Content creation and strategy
Since you're looking to implement a digital signage system to serve your establishment, chances are you already know what kind of content you want to showcase on your display screens.
Your content may be timed calls-to-action, animated adverts, or even digital schedules. But whatever it may be, your approach to this particular part of digital signage should be carefully calculated since it's the most costly component of your system set up.
The expense of content creation and strategy can be an in-house cost managed by your own team of marketing and communication. Or, it can be an outsourcing cost if you decide to hire an agency to develop, produce, and manage your content for you.
Such agencies typically employ individuals who are experts in digital signage, with a firm knowledge of why, when, where, and how digital communication should take place. You'll have arranged meetings with them so they can get a better understanding of what exactly you want to convey, who you want to reach, and what your expectations of the system are.
The cost of partnering with a content expert will vary from one agency to the other. But to paint you a general picture, the total cost of proper content creation and strategy support can average at $3000.
Some agencies will let you pay in monthly, quarterly, or annual fees, while others may offer “pay as you go” services so you can pick the best option depending on your needs and budget.
Furthermore, your chosen digital signage partner should provide flexible payment solutions to support your digital signage strategy. They should offer monthly plans that can be tailored to suit your business structure and requirements.
But what about “free” software options?
Well, the term itself can be quite misleading. You see, “free digital signage software” can mean practically mean anything.
It can refer to a free trial period during which you can try out the software at no cost, or it can be a highly crippled version of a legitimate commercial product.
Also, it can mean that the software is completely free to use for as long as you want, but without documentation or support. In this case, you may be required to pay for technical assistance.
You may be able to find open-source software that's truly free, but you still need to pay for core services such as storage fees. There are also hardware providers who offer bundles that include software, but those are often limited when it comes to features and services.
Shipping and delivery
It's rather common for business owners interested in digital signage systems to overlook the cost of shipping and delivery. However, these fees do add up and you should keep your eyes open for the extra cost.
This can vary greatly depending on location. For example, if your equipment is shipped from overseas, the delivery cost will surely be higher than a local provider.
Moreover, the delivery cost can also differ according to the amount of hardware to be shipped, especially if you're having multiple parts coming from multiple suppliers.
As a business owner, another cost you need to consider if you plan to implement a digital signage system is the fees required for installing the hardware you intend to buy. This cost will vary according to the placement of your equipment; outdoor vs indoor (more on this in a minute).
Depending on the number of screens you'll be using, you're going to need one or more A/V technicians. The latter will obviously cost you extra cash.
If your hardware provider offers installation and support services, they'll probably charge you a fee for setting up your network and training your staff on how to manage it if needed. You may also get lucky and land a deal with free installation!
Protection and maintenance
Remember when we mentioned that installing your hardware outdoors is different from when it's indoors?
Well, the main reason is that when screens are placed outdoors, they require protection from several risks. These include weather conditions, droppings, dust, exposure to sunlight, vandalism, and theft.
Consequently, you need to invest in a screen designed for outdoor usage or install a professional enclosure. Otherwise, your display screen will end up costing a fortune when it comes to maintenance, repairs, or replacements.
If you decide to purchase outdoor-ready screens, the provider will probably offer you insurance and ongoing maintenance for a fixed monthly fee.
The cost of electric consumption of your digital signage system is definitely with considering. It'll vary depending on the venue, so be sure to check with your operations manager for an estimate of pricing.
While it's true that a good-quality digital signage system should run efficiently both online and offline, you'll still need a reliable internet connection to be able to perform updates and monitor each screen in real-time.
Also, an internet connection is a must if you're planning on displaying live social media streams.
This means you'll have to provide a hard-wired connection for each screen, which is mostly done by purchasing a single internet drop then using VLAN technology to spread it out among your screens.
The cost of an internet connection depends on your region and service provider.
There you have it, a break down of the total cost of digital signage. Even though we've pretty much covered all the financial implementations of investing in this technology, it's important for you to keep in mind that a major part of the final cost will depend on your particular goals.
This includes your own vision when comes to the visitor's experience and journey, as well as the type of message you're trying to communicate with your digital signage.