Industry Insights

Traditional Signage vs. Digital Signage – Why Make The Switch?

May 25, 2023
5 minute read
Industry Insights

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign,” I can hear this song by The Five Man Electrical Band in my head.  But it’s so true, there are signs everywhere, and I don’t mean the tingling your senses kind of sign.  I’m talking physical displays used as a notice, bearing a name, direction, warning, or advertisement, that is posted for public view (thanks

Did you know there are two primary types of signage?  Traditional signage and Digital signage.  

Traditional signage consists of static displays like posters, banners, billboards, A-Frame sidewalk boards, wayfinding prints, printed menus and many more.  Static just means still images and text that do not move or change. Traditional signage has been around for years and still provides value to a business.  Traditional signage is usually the primary identifier for a business.

Digital signage consists of dynamic displays, typically LED or LCD screens, that can display videos, images, animations, and more.  They range in anything from conference room signs to menu boards, to wayfinding, to large video walls.  Innovative technology allows digital signage to visually appeal to the audience and communicate with them more poetically. 

Both traditional signage and digital signage have their opportunities and obstacles, however there is a strong case that can be made for why you should jump into digital.  I’m going to share that why through comparing the two by answering 6 major questions.  

How are the Different Types of Signage Powered?

Traditional Signage:  Unless your traditional signage has a light board, most do not require any kind of power.  They are printed on materials and installed and that’s that.  No battery or electricity is required.  Your message or identity will be displayed with no power needed.

Digital Signage: Since it is a display, it does require power.  Whether electricity, battery, or solar, it will need to be plugged into a power source to make it work.  But with the power comes opportunity (ugh ugh ugh in my best Tim the Toolman Taylor voice).

What is the Cost of Traditional Signage vs. Digital Signage?

Traditional Signage:  Traditional signage tends to have a lower initial cost than digital signage.  You pay for it to be printed and installed and then you are finished.  There are varying maintenance fees depending on the sign, such as larger signage repairs due to environmental exposure or wear and tear.

Ongoing costs occur when needing to update or change the sign.  Costs can add up when reordering, reprinting, and replacing. Whoomp whoomp.

Digital Signage:   The initial cost for digital signage is more than traditional signage because of the technology element.  There is hardware (displays, mounts, media players, network cords, etc.), software (whether a cloud based or on premise), installation, and possibly support. However, over the years, these items have come down drastically in price.  

The cost to maintain typically only requires software updates/renewals.  Since your content management system allows you to make real time updates and changes, you no longer incur the cost of reprinting like that of traditional signage.

While the initial investment may seem sizable, the return on your investment is often sizable as well.  Kind of along the lines of the concept: Big Investment = Big Return.  If signage is part of your marketing strategy, digital is definitely worth investigating.

How Versatile is Traditional Signage vs. Digital Signage?

Let’s start with the definition of versatile so that we are clear here.  According to, Versatile is defined as: embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills; turning with ease from one thing to another; having many uses or applications; changing or fluctuating readily.  

Traditional Signage: Traditional signage is versatile in that it doesn’t require power (most of the time), and are portable (most of the time).  Think of that coffee shop owner that has the sandwich board out on the sidewalk displaying today’s special that can be easily brought in after hours or in the event of bad weather.  

With traditional signage, there is no versatility content wise.  Once it is printed, there is not an opportunity to change it without reprinting.  Content is also static, meaning it stays still, so it does not have the versatility to change from one thing to another.  

Digital Signage: Digital signage takes the cake when it comes to versatility.  The whole concept behind digital signage is the opportunity to portray a variety of messages or signs and be able to have them changing without difficulty or hesitation creating a visual experience for the target audience. 

Content management systems offer all sorts of features that allow digital signage to be versatile: scheduling content, day parting, real-time updates, emergency notifications, inventory management, and promotions just to name a few.  

How Interactive is Traditional Signage vs. Digital Signage?

Traditional Signage:  Unless your traditional sign is a fidget toy, the only interaction that can be done is a printed QR Code.  There is no opportunity to create 2-way communication or interactivity between your audience and your signage.  

Digital Signage:  Digital signage offers an array of interactive options.  QR codes, social media integrations, touch screens, kiosks, wayfinding, and touch/lift and learn are just some of the options available.  Interactivity creates a unique experience to your audience.

An example would be walking up to a mall directory and touching the display to tell it where you want to go and it gives you the exact path to get from where you are to where you want to go. That sounds better than asking 3 different mall employees how to get there, right?

Can Digital Signage Track Data or Analytics?

Traditional Signage:  Traditional signage does not have the awesome ability like the magic mirror on the wall to talk back, track who is in front of it, divulge that information back to the owner, nor tell the fairest of them all.  What you see is all you get. Traditional signage is informative and decorative, not analytical. 

Digital Signage: There are a number of analytics and data tracking that digital signage can capture.  Analytics software or integrations can use AI or facial recognition technology to track audience demographics and dwell time, assess average wait times, use heat maps to track where eyes are landing on the screen, and gain insight into buyer patterns.

Content management systems also have the ability to create reports that share information on content, displays, and media players.  Data such as content not published, connectivity issues, proof of play, license details (if using a SaaS cloud based CMS), playlists, and even which users have access to the system. All of this data, helps you then with targeting your audience. 

What Makes Digital Signage Badass?

Traditional Signage:  Some traditional signs can be designed and come out looking awesome.  Unique shapes can be used, as opposed to most digital signs being rectangular in shape (although this is changing quickly as innovative technology continues to shift). It can be recognizable and help with brand awareness.  It can be simple and to the point instead of overwhelming or busy. 

Digital Signage:  Bright colors, large displays, clear concise content, engaging videos, options for customization and personalization, branding and layouts, dynamic movement…all these things contribute to making digital signage attention grabbing and influential, in other words, badass. 

As you can see, both types of signage have their opportunities and obstacles (as mentioned before) but are an effective way of getting seen.  

So why make the switch?  Not only is digital signage badass, it is versatile, interactive, has data tracking and analytical capabilities, is cost effective in the long term, and is a powerful tool that can help you get your message and story to your audience. To see where digital can fit into your business, schedule a discovery call with the innovative problem solvers at Coffman Media.  

Ready to Get Started with Digital Signage?

Get in touch with our team so we can chat about your vision and what kind of digital signage would be best for your business to attract more customers and keep them engaged.