What is digital signage?

What is digital signage?

What is digital signage?

Put simply, it refers to the advertisements, information boards, and signs that appear on a digital screen rather than the usual paper or vinyl of traditional adverts and signs.

That’s downplaying it somewhat though. The reason that we’re seeing a huge rise in the use of digital signage is because it can offer so much more than the older printed techniques.

Thanks to this bus stops can now tell us at a glance which bus is due next, train stations are able to give real-time updates on any delays, and doctor’s surgeries can relay important seasonal information to patients waiting to be seen.

It can even be employed by businesses to make it easier for customers to interact with them. You may have seen fast food restaurants utilise touchscreen technology to enable you to order a meal, or perhaps you’ve even noticed digital user experience points that allow you to leave feedback.

In fact, once you start looking for it, you’ll soon start to notice that digital advertising is everywhere! Its widespread usage seems to have occurred almost overnight without us noticing, and that’s testament to how seamlessly it’s fitted into our everyday lives.

When you consider the sheer amount of applications that you can employ digital signage for, you start to see how it can be tricky to nail down to one easy definition.

A hospital may use it in a very different way to a school, who in turn may share little in common with how a cafe would utilise it either.

How it works

There are a handful of essential components that make up a successful digital signage installation. Each one being as important as the next. Making the right choice for each component is crucial for a professional-looking message.

Those essential components are software, design, hardware and the actual usage of the system.


There’s an absolute plethora of different software options out there. To choose between them all, you’ll first have to ask yourself if a particular software package will enable your signage to perform the actions that you want it to do. If you want it to work alongside several other screens to form a larger picture, or deliver real-time updates to your consumers for example, you’ll need to ensure that the software you choose can deliver that.

Of course, like any other software, you’ll also need to check that it’s compatible with the hardware you have too.

Once you have that sorted, it’s time to start choosing software. While some software packages will perform several different tasks, there’s a few main functions that utilise different types of software to conduct.

Media playback software is one of the first things needed. This is the equivalent of an old CD player: on its own it does nothing, but it’s crucial if you actually want to play any CDs (or in your case, content on screen).

Device management software acts as a caretaker of sorts for your system. A good device management software package will take care of updates and keep users updated on essentials such as memory usage, free disk space, and the status of any network connections.

Content distribution software allows for the scheduling of your content before it is distributed to your media player, or group of media players.


For a medium with as many different applications as digital signage, it’s understandable that there’s a multitude of different hardware options.

This is great news for businesses, as they’re really able to tailor their set-up exactly to their (or their customers’) needs.

Businesses can choose anything from a simple tablet-like setup for a check-in point at a doctor’s surgery, to a giant video wall as part of a large event.

Video walls are made up of a series of screens placed next to one another. These can be synchronised to work with each other to create huge visuals, making them a striking element to any in-house marketing campaign.

The screens themselves aren’t the only piece of hardware to think about. Businesses should ask themselves how they need their digital signage mounted.

A permanent outdoor installation for example, may need some emphasis placed on protection from theft. Signage intended for multiple events and locations meanwhile, will need to be easily transported from one place to another without too much effort.

Installations that allow for movement to another location are an ideal solution for small, but fast-growing businesses: allowing them to take their existing signage setup with them when they inevitably have to relocate to larger premises.


You can have the most amazing hardware running the latest software, but your signage will only ever be as good as the content you give it.

This can be outsourced and sent over by another company, or updated yourself.

The beauty of digital signage design though, is that if you make a mistake with a spelling or price, it can be amended instantly, rather than having to scrap and reprint several posters, menus, or other items that have often been printed in the past.

Unlike traditional signage that relied on graphics and text, digital signage has the options of including video and audio to your message. This instantly makes any signage much more engaging and striking for consumers.

Even graphics and text can become more eye-catching than standard print advertising, just by virtue of it's ability to refresh itself with different content whenever it’s needed. That never-changing restaurant menu might feature a bit of snow during the winter months, or pictures of pumpkins around Halloween time.

Usage as a Marketing Tool

That adaptability makes digital signage invaluable for growing businesses. Not only can it change alongside your business needs, but it can also help to grow your business by utilising it in your marketing strategies.

While brochures and leaflets often go untouched, our eyes are automatically drawn to a screen .

This means that it is perfect for waiting areas, showrooms, or anywhere that a customer might be queuing.

As well as offering something to look at whilst they wait or browse, a digital signage system can actively upsell your services and even make customers aware of products they didn’t know existed before. All without the need for ‘hard sales’ techniques that can deter some customers or clients.

Reasons why businesses choose digital signage


If your business is constantly having to change and adapt to suit your customers’ needs, it makes sense that your signage doesn’t stay static either.

One of the best examples of this is in cafes and takeaways. Once an eatery discovers that diners aren’t interested in a particular dish, it’s far easier to remove it from the menu altogether.

Perhaps their supplier for a particular ingredient has raised their prices, forcing the cafe to up their prices too. Instead of having to buy another menu sign reflecting the new prices, a simple change on any digital signage system can be performed instantly.

The cafe could even decide that they’d create more revenue from operating as a deli, and use their signage as a ticket monitor instead, making customers aware when it’s their turn to be served. It really does act as a blank page: ready to become whatever you need it to be.

Outside of restaurants, a notice board in a local library meanwhile, can be updated whenever a new event occurs. If they think that users who are interested in a local yoga class might be interested in a meditation group too, they can schedule these notices so that they run after one another.


While you might think that digital signage would be more expensive than traditional print methods, you may be surprised by just how affordable it can be. Its use really can make for significant savings for a good deal of companies.

Sure, the initial installation can sometimes be costlier than traditional print methods (although, it often isn’t), but over time it usually becomes far and away the most economic solution for a lot of businesses.

Any business that might have to use several different signs, notices or price boards in their day-to-day running will soon notice the savings made by not having to have the cost of numerous print runs (and deliveries) adding up.

If your business runs multiple different promotions each year, the cost of printing new marketing materials for each campaign can be significant. Most retail outlets would benefit from a digital advertising installation for this very reason.

Even in scenarios in which digital signage would cost a similar amount to traditional print for some businesses, you’ll often find that by simply being more eye-catching and professional-looking, it can actually help to create more interest and thus revenue. Isn’t that what we want all our signage to achieve?

At its most helpful, it can even help you save money by freeing up your workforce. If your business lies in a retail sector that sees customers ask your staff the same questions over and over, you might find that a digital information board can free up your staff’s time to concentrate on other tasks. It could be something as simple as the differences between watch movements in a jewellery store, or lens options in an opticians.

It looks more professional

Of course, simply installing the signage doesn’t automatically make a business more of a professional outfit, but the impression it makes upon clients and customers is certainly one of professionalism and competence.

The majority of the world’s biggest companies have long been utilising digital signage. As a result, when consumers spot smaller firms with similar attributes (or in this case, signage), they assume that the service will be similarly adept and accomplished.

Using a cafe as an example again, how many times have you seen an old, battered menu board with the old prices taped over and a new price handwritten in marker pen on top? It’s something we’re all accustomed to seeing, but it hardly creates a professional look. It also prompts customers to start wondering what the original price was, and why they’re having to pay the new price now. Not a good impression to make.

In corporate settings, that professional image matters even more. Window displays for businesses that you have to place your trust in, such as solicitors and accountancy firms, definitely benefit from the professional look of digital marketing over tired, yellowing posters that explain the services they offer.

Even the most proficient printing services will struggle to match a high-resolution digital image when it comes to signage.


Digital signage allows businesses to make small or significant changes at the drop of a hat. There’s no having to wait around for printers to manufacture signs, deliver them, and in some cases install them too.

This means that business owners can take action as soon as they hit upon a new idea, or even if they need to react to unforeseen circumstances.

A hairdressers may notice that a local competitor has a promotion on offering students cheaper haircuts. Without acting fast, they may find that not only does their rival soon take a large portion of that market, but also the repeat business afterwards.

It also makes it possible to react to competitors instantly. The week or two spent waiting for print designs to be manufactured and delivered can mean a considerable amount of lost potential customers.

Enterprising bars or eateries near sports stadiums can quickly change advertising to appeal to their home team’s fans on match days (or even the away team’s fans if there’s more of them)

Collating useful information

Digital signage has multiple benefits over traditional print signage. Not least is the ability for customers and clients to interact with the signage directly.

Interactive touchscreen technology allows people to use signage specifically to help them with whatever query or task they need help with.

GP surgeries now utilise these to help patients to announce their arrival for appointments, rather than waiting in a long queue at a reception desk and potentially missing their spot.

Other businesses operate interactive digital signage as customer points in which they can rate the service they’ve been given and even make suggestions.

The information garnered from such points can be invaluable to business owners, who can then seek to adapt their business to any customer needs that aren’t being met or capitalised on.

Even working as an appointment check-in point, surgery managers can use the information gathered by the machine to see how many patients attend their appointments, and make scheduling changes based around that.

With so many options available to you, an expert’s opinion on the best setup for your business is recommended.

Get in touch with our team at All Vision Media for bespoke advice tailored to your company and your specific requirements.


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