Back-of-house Digital Signage SystemsThere is a lesser-known niche within the digital signage market that receives little notice yet can yield vast opportunities for AV integrators and system designers: back-of-house digital signage sys 1/13/2011 9:04 AM Eastern
Back-of-house Digital Signage Systems
Jan 13, 2011 2:04 PM, Provided by InfoComm International
Despite the recent recession and continued challenges to the world economy, the digital signage sector has enjoyed stellar growth for the past several years. Advertising-based digital signage in particular has seen a double-digit increase in 2010, according to several industry reports. However, there is a lesser-known niche within the digital signage market that receives little notice yet can yield vast opportunities for AV integrators and system designers: back-of-house digital signage systems used for employee communication.
Similar to advertising-based digital signage, back-of-house systems have seen increasing interest and growth despite the rocky economy. These types of digital signage systems are targeted toward employees and other internal company stakeholders, with content that is specifically geared for them rather than for customers.
“No matter what the vertical market, there is always a need for employee communication. Communicators have always struggled to get the attention of employees, and what they communicate is important information so it’s necessary to grab their attention and engage,” says Chuck Gose, director of business development at MediaTile . “There are a variety of employee communication tools such as newsletters, focus groups, and intranet. Employee communications digital signage is one part of the wheelhouse.”
“Employee communications is a bigger opportunity due to the sheer numbers of vertical markets who use these systems,” says Mike Strand, president and CEO of StrandVision Digital Signage . “Employee communications is night and day compared with marketing communications. The message is not about selling, but more of a focus on staff development and interaction.”
Strand started in the digital signage business because of employee communications. At his previous company, a bar code printing software manufacturer, he always wanted a better solution to communicate with worldwide staff. “We had an intranet, but people had to seek it out rather than it being presented to them,” he says. “My background is in computer programming, so I learned about web programming to implement a solution for our company. This pet project turned into what is now StrandVision Digital Signage.”
For Steve Gurley, senior vice president of marketing and new market development for Symon Communications, this category of digital signage has seen a bump in spending. “Companies are dealing with an increasingly unsettled workforce, so they are increasingly turning to digital signage to try and create a positive feeling,” he says. “Just as important, today’s employees tend to be so distracted with so many alternate forms of communications that visual communication solutions such as digital signage are terrific for capturing mindshare and acquiring attention.”
In addition to providing visual communications solutions targeted at general employee communications, Symon also provides realtime operational performance reporting for distribution centers, warehouses, and customer service centers. These systems are used to increase employee productivity by empowering them with information.
Gurley says that digital signage is but one component of a larger visual communication ecosystem consisting of display solutions that include marquees and way finding, information kiosks, LED wallboards, desktop displays, and smartphones. These display solutions work in tandem to create an immersive visual environment. “Large multinational companies with multiple locations such as hospitality, finance, healthcare, and other distributed companies have embraced this ecosystem approach to visual communications,” he adds.
Uses of Back-of-house Digital Signage
Some of the common uses of digital signage for employee communications are company information dissemination, human resources program updates, employee contests, corporate videos and messaging, and realtime accident or performance reporting. Frank Kenna, president of The Marlin Company, says that digital signage is the newest evolution of workplace communication strategies that stretches back decades before computers were invented. “What we do today is the same thing my grandfather did 60-70 years ago with a photo and a poster about safety information,” he says.
The Marlin Company approached digital signage as a way to focus on the message of workplace safety. Founded by Kenna’s grandfather, the company’s product (first analog, now digital) is aimed at helping companies relay safety information. “Until the mid-1990s, we were a print-based business. We had been producing designs that looked great on paper and wondered if there was a way to present them digitally. The Internet came along and solved the delivery problem; then flatpanel displays were the final piece,” Kenna says. “Employee communications all comes back to changing the behavior of employees; sending the message about a safe, productive, quality-conscious workplace.”
Opportunities exist at both large and small companies for employee communications digital signage systems to reinforce the mission and goals of the company and act as rumor control during tough economic times. “The more employee involvement means the easier it is to reinforce the company mission. You can implement an employee photo contest. Employees will stop and watch for their photo to pop up onscreen,” Strand says. “You can mix in company messages, recognition, sales, and kudos to employees.”
Another example of use is by an international hotel chain that is implementing a StrandVision system. Two years ago, this hotel chain removed all of the bulletin boards from the employee area citing that they weren’t attractive, it was time-consuming for the manager to print and post announcements, and that there was no corporate control of content. The hotel’s headquarters now sends content via the digital signage system, but each hotel site can add their own content for customization.
This article is an excerpt of InfoComm International’s Special Report on back-facing digital signage. To read the report in its entirety please visit www.infocomm.org/specialreports.