Tips for digital signage success

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Many dealerships are “digital deserts” but with some planning and strategy you can weave in powerful digital signage content throughout your facility

We have been hearing about the in store digital revolution for years now. Many dealers have invested to put up lots of shiny screens that seem to only work on all news channels such as CP24 in the Greater Toronto Area. Slowly but surely, OEMs and dealers are realizing that without great content, putting screens in dealership provides little value and generates no return on investment. The content game is evolving rapidly. Even within the past eight months, we see leaders evolving in the market who are creating and curating content that can be used in different areas of a dealership to communicate awareness, products, offerings and even educate customers.

In fact, the creators of this fine publication (Universus Media) are leading the way with OEMs such as Toyota and Lexus to create content and “channels” that can be displayed in Service, Parts and Sales that are assisting to drive sales and keep the message consistent with national ad campaigns and incentives. With content becoming increasingly accessible, it’s about time we look at how to best implement digital tools in your facility. With a few simple tips, we think that you will have the infrastructure to organize your messaging throughout your dealership and send the right messages at the right time and in the right location.

To start, it is important to understand how to properly “connect” your digital network. In our experience, the focus has always been on three main elements: the hardware, the software and the content. The secret sauce to get started, in my opinion, is to properly connect and integrate the hardware and software pieces. Once you have that set up, you have set up a pipeline for content to flow for years to come. In my view, it is kind of like setting up a Sonos sound system that plays music in various rooms throughout your home – but instead of speakers, your key ingredient is screens.

Screens, like most pieces of technology, change very quickly. The good news is that a flat screen purchased within the past five years still looks presentable and will have HDMI capability. Obviously, HDMI is the key. Although we are told that it is a wireless world, it is still extremely difficult to rely on wireless streaming to work all the time. This means that wires are a reality, and to integrate hardware in a sophisticated manner, proper conduits and wire mapping is a paramount. Where do the wires need to lead? This is the part that segues into software When providing floor plans to dealers, we are frequently offering wiring/digital integration plans as a supplement to our OEM DCDs.

By adequately planning wiring routes through the floor, walls or ceiling that lead to your server/IT room, you can be assured that you are ready to easily plug in your digital content. One last note about hardware. Although many OEMs will recommend or even mandate the screens you need to purchase, we strongly recommend that you purchase all hardware on your own. Ideally, they are purchased first and in your possession, so that you have exact measurements for height, width and weight.

This is important information so that you can make proper cut outs in your walls and provide the proper structural support/backing. As well, the locations of the screen outlets are inputs can vary. How often are you twisting your extremities just to get to a plug that is always at the wrong side of the screen? With all of the HDMI wiring heading to your server room, you may find you do not have large enough conduits to handle all the wires. One of the tricks we learned to deal with this is to use displays that are battery powered. There are a handful available on the market that can hold a charge for a few days. This does not take care of wires entirely, but it definitely helps.

Once you have gotten all of your screens wired to your server room, there are many small “boxes” that have software to distribute your content to your various screens. Many of them are run off Android. You can program them (or get a provider to program them) to adjust the loop time and content being displayed in each area of your showroom. For instance, you may only need a 15 minute loop in service that talks about your winter tire specials.

In the waiting area, you may have a two hour loop that incorporates a News Service (not CP24) and mixes in national, local and dealer based messages. In your showroom you have that month’s loyalty or rate “deals.” When it comes to software, there are many platforms that perform the same duties. If your supplier/partner insists on one in particular, you should be made aware if they profit from using that software. We strongly recommend against signing up for a long term contract with the software provider.

Capabilities and costs are constantly changing so we advise caution if signing up for anything longer than one year. In any new build or renovation project, the last 5 percent is always the most difficult. Rest assured however, that if you can successfully connect/integrate your digital network, you will have success implementing different content “channels” and drive sales and education in your dealership for many years to come.

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