Industry Insights

Considering Outdoor Digital Signage

October 24, 2022
10 minute read
Industry Insights

About a month ago, I traveled to Las Vegas along with my husband, so that he could attend the Digital Signage Expo.  It was my first trip to Vegas, and it quickly became obvious why Vegas was the chosen city for the world's largest trade show for digital displays!  

In my eyes, it was the Mecca of digital displays!  

Billboards danced with colors, and videos that enticed you, as only digital billboards can do, it is easy to forget how much more there is to digital signage than just these amazing billboards.  

Outdoor digital displays have evolved into more than Vegas-style or free way billboards, although that is part of it.  Digital displays are used in a variety of different places, but there is more to it, and more to outdoor digital signage specifically.

The "more" to it includes: the outdoor basics, what to consider when utilizing outdoor media, the unique challenges that are presented with outdoor digital signage, marketing with outdoor screens, and a quick example that features the relationships and partnerships involved in creating a successful outdoor digital signage installation.

The Basics of Outdoor Digital Signage

Digital Signage is also referred to as Out Of Home Advertising (OOH), which simply means, displays that reach an audience outside of their home.  They can be used in small businesses and large corporations, sports venues, colleges and universities, retail and grocery establishments, banks and financial institutions, medical and dental offices, and quick service restaurants and drive-thrus.  

There are three types of "outdoor" displays:  Semi-Outdoor, Outdoor for Custom Enclosures, and Stand-alone Outdoor.

digital signage display in mall

Semi-Outdoor:  These types of displays are used mostly in indoor environments that are exposed to high levels of brightness.  Areas such as window displays, store fronts, or banks are just a few of the most common places to use Semi-Outdoor displays.  

These displays often still have unique challenges including sun exposure, window reflection, polarized visibility, and dwell time for the audience.  They, however, do not have the same weather and security challenges that outdoor displays have.

Outdoor for Custom Enclosures:  Outdoor displays come either as stand-alone displays or are placed in a custom enclosure.  Custom enclosures are created to accommodate the client and their needs as well as to protect against the harsh elements of the outdoors.  

Weather, sun exposure, vandalism, bugs, pressure washing, dust, internal temperatures, rust, and corrosion are all things that the enclosure must protect the display from.  

digital menu board in drive-thru

Stand-alone Outdoor:  These outdoor displays are self-contained.  They offer the same protections that the custom enclosures offer, however they can also include their own media player eliminating the need for a separate one.  

Understanding the brightness level of an outdoor display is essential.  Brightness levels are measured in nits in the digital display world.  The higher the nit, the brighter the screen.  Average indoor screens average 300-350 nits.  An outdoor screen must display at least 700 nits to be seen in daylight.  

Some companies, like Samsung, offer high-brightness outdoor displays for business that can have a brightness of 2500-3000 nits.  This allows for a display to shine and be seen through the bright sunlight.  Displays should be adjustable for night-time or overcast days to prevent over-powering viewers.  They may also use a circular polarizing technology that can decrease the display distortions caused by polarized sunglasses.  

The last "basic," is having an understanding of the LED screen.  LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes, basically they create their own light, whereas LCD's must use a secondary light source. LED's are brighter in general because of their white back-lighting and have a wider viewing angle.  

The top three benefits of LED screens for outdoor displays over LCD displays:  they produce less heat than LCD florescent bulbs, there are reduced capital or operating costs, and they are more reliable.  

What To Consider When Utilizing Outdoor Displays

There are a number of things to think about when considering using outdoor displays.  

First and foremost is your budget.  Digital signage displays have such a vast range based upon what you want and what your budget allows.  As you consider your budget, keep in mind the warranty period of your display, the life cycle of the product, and the availability of spare parts.  

Your audience is key in determining your outdoor signage needs.  Who will be looking at your display?  What is their dwell time on the screen?  Are they passer-bys?  Are you trying to upsell them?  Are you creating an opportunity for interaction?  Are you providing education or information?  Are you selling marketing or advertising space?   All of these questions have to be answered to create the best content and get the best outdoor display for your needs.

The Content Management System (CMS) is critical when choosing a digital signage display.  Will you be using a media player that has to be installed within the custom enclosure or with the display?  Are you installing a SMART display, like Samsung's SMART display, that has the media player built in?  

Consideration on the pedigree of the supplier should be a priority.  With digital displays, the age old philosophy of, "you get what you pay for," is extremely true.  Also, the display engineering and testing facilities can give you an advantage over your competitors.  Why would you not want the best "behind the scenes" happenings when it comes to the display you choose for your own services?

Lastly, we touched on it slightly above, but the security and vandalism protection is prudent.  Is there a protective film layer? Does the warranty protect against vandalism acts?  Is the display low maintenance?  Are all internal components protected?  These questions must be addressed as part of your security and vandalism protection.  

Considering Outdoor Signage?  Contact us today for a free consultation!

The Unique Challenges of Outdoor Digital Signage

When deploying a digital display in an outdoor environment, it presents unique challenges quite different from those of indoor displays.   Some of those challenges include, but are not limited to:

· Weather and sun exposure

· Power, connectivity, and servicibility

· Location restrictions

Weather and Sun Exposure.  

weather icons

Any flat panel display that is going to be used in any outdoor environment needs to be weatherproof. It may seem like a simple thing, but it is still something you need to be sure of.  

The unit must be completely sealed, with no seams and no openings anywhere in the housing, including the cable entry, so that all of the internal components are completely protected from rain, dust, sleet, or insects. This must be considered your number one priority, no matter where the display is going to be used.

If you use units that leverage thermal transfer technologies, check that they do not require external filters, vents or exhaust fans. That eliminates the cost and maintenance typically associated with those elements.  

Also, with heat transfer, the internal system of a unit is safely warmed in extreme cold and cooled in extreme heat. Therefore, components aren't subjected to freezes, overheating and damaging temperature fluctuations.

Make sure the frame construction is made from a highly resilient, weatherproof material such as aluminum that resists rust and corrosion. Be sure to pay attention to the smaller details of the frame as well. Rounded corners, for example, cause water and dust to roll off instead of building up.

It is imperative to understand how viewable the content will be when it is exposed to direct sunlight. Ask anyone who has ever tried to use a laptop or smart phone outdoors. They all know that the brightness of the screen always impacts visibility, whether the screen is in the shade or direct sunlight.

If a screen has poor anti-reflective treatment and inadequate brightness, then the image will be difficult to see. When the image cannot be seen well, then a business’s capital investment in an outdoor digital display solution has been wasted. As briefly discussed earlier, be sure when choosing a display, you pick a brightness level that fits your needs and has adjustable levels based on the sun exposure.  This will allow your audience to be able to see the display at all times.  

Power, Connectivity, and Servicibility

electrical plug icon

Once you have decided to move forward with outdoor signage, efforts to provide power and connectivity to the display will be the primary focus.  Coordination of these needs can be done with the signage provider or partner that assists in providing the full digital solution.  They can even provide the necessary power and network requirements and the end-user can then use their own vendor or internal resource from there.

The nice thing about using a software solution such as Signagelive, along with a display, such as Samsung's SMART digital displays, is that updates can be made virtually and scheduled out, and in the case the Internet goes down, the display will continue to work.  

Unfortunately, even the best designed, top-of-the-line systems will require service from time to time. Remember, since outdoor signage is required to run 24/7/365, the screen has more work to do; making it more likely that individual parts may malfunction.

Getting true value out of your signage comes into play when you have to actually utilize the warranty that came with, or maybe did not come with, your display.  Since outdoor displays are so vital to the company's marketing efforts, it is important to be aware of how quickly and efficiently maintenance can be completed on the display.  

Location Restrictions

Be sure that you have properly researched the area you are going to deploy your signage into before you even begin the process of pricing. You might have state-of-the-art signage at affordable costs ready to go, but you can still run into major obstacles if you haven’t properly researched the area beforehand.

There can be legal issues that are frequently overlooked, like governmental regulations or restrictions.  If you intend to deploy your signage on or near public property, it’s important to study that city’s rules and regulations. Most cities require permits, and many may have different rules about night-time operation. If the signage is near streets, there may be restrictions on full-motion video content or static transitions.  

Marketing With Outdoor Displays

Outdoor advertising works well for branding and creating awareness.  According to Arizona Billboard Company, the Out-of-Home advertising industry hit 1.64 billion in the third quarter of 2014 pushing the bottom line up 1.5%. “The trick is to get as many eyeballs on your message as possible.” says Kim Duchscher, sales representative with A List Banners.

Digital outdoor media is so flexible and time- savvy. One display can hold many advertisements, representing multiple companies. It can change from a bank ad to an advertisement about pharmacies. It gives the retailer an amazing opportunity to sell ad space, and the business that is buying the space, a great opportunity for a large audience.

billboard displays

Some best practices to keep in mind are:

· Your message needs to be strong and clear

· Content should be scan- able, therefore use short, punchy lines

· Use legible, large font that a viewer can see easily from afar

· Choose bold, attractive, contrasting colors

· Your brand needs to be noticed, so be sure it is prominent, but not overwhelming

· Photographs and graphics should be enhanced to really stand out and catch the viewer’s focal point

An outdoor sign is the most current way to advertise your business. When seen in an area with a constant flow of traffic, outdoor media proves to be one of the best ways to distribute your message. It is a great advertising option that sees an increasing amount of return on investment. Digital message boards increase your business’ exposure and attracts the audience that you are trying to reach.

A True Outdoor Display Story

There is a true symbiotic relationship between the partners involved in creating a successful outdoor media display.  It starts with the digital signage solution integrator who is responsible for capturing the customer's needs and wants, and coordinating the solution seamlessly.  They bring in the software and hardware solutions necessary to bring the solution to fruition and what you end up with is a successful outdoor display.  

I had the chance to speak with Nick Raymond, Strategic Accounts Manager with Coffman Media and he gave me a quick synopsis of a recent outdoor digital menu display installed for a company in Lawton, OK.  This is what Nick shared regarding that project.  

digital menu board for a restaurant

EZ Go Stores, a fast growing fuel chain based in Lawton, OK, has just completed a brand new concept to add to their portfolio. The pilot concept revolves around adding a Back40 Barbecue restaurant and kitchen to the building, utilizing state of the art technology to drive customers up and in to the store. As drivers enter the area, they first notice a bright 55” Outdoor Digital Drive Thru, where they can order their food.

Once they enter the building, 2 large digital menu boards greet customers and entice them to grab a bite before they get back on the road. Two other digital signs promote specials throughout the shop in key areas. This concept is designed to utilize modern technology to enhance the customer experience through eye catching displays and effective video communication.

Coffman Media worked with EZ Go Stores from the start of the idea, bringing together the right partners and integrating the total solution that EZ Go wanted. For the rugged, tall standing outdoor digital drive thru and digital menu boards, Samsung was chosen as the display partner.

To deliver content to the screens with a focus on flexibility and scalability for future locations, Signagelive was chosen as the content management platform. Bringing these partners together allowed Coffman Media to deliver the vision and solution that EZ Go needed for the their new direction.

What Do I Do With This Information Now?

There are so many things to consider when choosing an outdoor media display, as you can see, and it can be completely overwhelming.  Working with a digital signage integrator can help reign in some of that chaos and put you on the path to outdoor media success.  

We invite you to contact Coffman Media for a free consultation and for further details on how the above information can be used to create a solution for you.

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