The Digital Signage Insider

Selling Digital Signage: Is it a Luxury, a Commodity or Both?

Published on: 0000-00-00

While 2010 still finds us in the midst of a significant recession, the volume of deals being done in the digital signage industry is growing. These days, it's hard to go to a restaurant, hotel or retail store that isn't using some kind of place-based digital messaging system (whether they're using it effectively is another matter altogether, though). So I think it's a good time to start talking about the changing nature of how people are selling digital signage products. In the past, most of our time was simply occupied by explaining what digital signage is, what it does, and if it works. Today, most of those things are accepted and reasonably understood by most businesspeople. In my experience, the challenge now revolves around two key elements: explaining why the client should buy a "luxury" item like digital signage, and why, amongst the large and varied field of digital signage providers and integrators, your solution is the best choice.

Selling a luxury commodity

A consumer buying a Rolex or a BMW has a set of expectations about their new purchase. They may expect it to deliver an experience they wouldn't have otherwise. Or perhaps they expect it to provide access to people, places or things otherwise unattainable. Or maybe it just satisfies their aesthetic sweet tooth. Whatever the case, products that aren't necessities still have to do something for the buyer. Otherwise, they wouldn't buy them. In business it's no different. Very few businesses truly need digital signs. For most, they are nonessential luxuries that hopefully bring along some added values and benefits. The expectations of what digital signage will do for them vary from reaching tangible goals (like increasing sales of advertised products or promoting the use of largely unknown services) to yielding intangible "improvements" (like enhancing ambiance within the venue). But if the client can't articulate their expectations in some form or another, they won't buy a digital signage system, because in essence they haven't sold themselves on the idea yet.

Image credit: Brandon Baunach
When faced with a client who falls clearly into the "digital signage as luxury" category, we start by getting the client to explain their needs (which aren't really needs -- they're "wants") and their expectations. With those in hand, selling a high tech B2B product isn't much different from selling any other luxury good. In the end, it comes down to the skill of the salesman and the client's willingness to splurge. Of course, it also helps to be able to show them how they'd actually reach their goals before they buy.

Selling a commodity luxury

Next, let's look at the flip side. As a product developer, my resellers and I are offering a product that is fairly similar to other products available on the market. Much like how BMW tries to convince their buyers that they have the ultimate driving machine (even though it's just a car), we work to demonstrate that FireCast is the best digital signage platform by appealing to customers' needs and expectations. If an enthusiast wants to take a test drive, we let them take a test drive. If he's a gear head, we let him pop the hood. And if he's searching for luxury and convenience, we show off the hand-stitched leather interior (yes, that last metaphor is a bit of a stretch). More often than not, a client who's on the fence about making this "luxury" purchase will need to do all three of these things before feeling comfortable -- not only with buying our digital signage system, but with the idea of buying any digital signage system.

Every vendor's system has different bells, whistles, gadgets and doodads. Most of the time, prospective customers start their research without knowing that many of these things even exist. But over time -- and more importantly, with the experience of having compared several platforms -- they get a feeling of which features will make their operations better/easier/more successful, and which are truly unique amongst platforms (whether important or not). Interestingly, it can be useful to focus some attention on the latter group (the features the customer might not even need) simply because they allow the product to stand out in the customer's mind. When selling to customer "wants" instead of "needs," this can be a critical step toward winning the deal.

Even though a customer might walk through your door not "needing" a digital signage system, the skilled provider can turn it into a must-have item replete with newly mission-critical functions. Making the client wonder "how did I ever get by without this?" is absolutely an achievable goal, though it does typically requires a good deal of hand-holding, even after the sale is completed. For larger companies, or those whose business is selling the nuts-and-bolts, it might not be worth it. But for those who know they can drive incremental revenue, repeat business, and positive buzz towards their products and services, the payoff can be considerable.

Do customers still view digital signage as a luxury item? Do you think this perception is changing? Leave a comment and let us know.


0 # tim warrington 2010-04-22 19:26
I think digital signage was a luxury but is slowly becoming a sales tool that will gather pace.
0 # Mark 2010-04-23 12:09
Good article Bill. In answer to your final question I do believe most businesses consider digital signage a luxury with little or marginal benefits. But I am starting to see some changes as traditional media continues to under perform established expectations. We have been in the dsn business for five years and I can say we are seeing the first real sign of movement from the important advertisers. While most businesses looking for alternatives have been looking only at internet solutions, we are now seeing large agencies seriously learning about digital signage and actually hiring people to focus on the business.
0 # DoneIn60 2010-05-17 18:25
Good perspective on this! It definitely seems to depend on the venue and client. Digital signage is akin to real estate in the "location location location" way of thinking. So I think if you have the right location then it'd be crazy not to utilize it therefore making it a commodity otherwise it probably still is more of a luxury. [[|R egister]]
-1 # Tony Wagner 2010-06-02 12:03
We have seen a swing in the market place in the last year to where more of our clients are seeing digital signage as a most have and not just a luxury.
0 # Don Shab 2010-06-19 06:28
I agree with donein60 as I am a regional rep for JetSet Media where the location, location, location way of thinking truly makes sense. Our signs are located in private airports/FBO lobbies across the US and abroad and our clients realize they have a truly targeted audience - very wealthy people many who own their own planes and can travel at a moments notice. Even with the downturn in the economy many luxury advertisers are realizing that a captive audience in a captive environment/location make digital signage a necessity not a luxury purchase. It truly is akin to commercial real estate. Don Shab, JetSet Media

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