Doing business in the digital (signage) age: using screens to engage your customers
Digital signage is one of those things you may not know you know about. The term may be unfamiliar, but the thing itself is everywhere - in stores, airports, restaurants, offices… if you’ve left your house in the last week, you’ve undoubtedly encountered it.
‘Digital signage’ is catch-all to describe any screen outside of the home displaying content to an audience, ranging from internal teams to customers, diners, school students, and more.
It’s a great way to engage and communicate with your customers: TV screens are increasingly replacing printed posters to promote products & social media, display menu boards, distribute business metrics & dashboards, and communicate your business or organization’s brand.
With its advantages well established in capturing audiences who are all digital natives, the important question now isn’t so much ‘Should I be using digital signage?” (to which the answer is a resounding YES!) but rather ‘How do I get content on my business’ screens?’
IAdea - Fugo’s choice for reliable digital signage
IAdea are robust, professional digital signage players that make a great hardware option for screen networks with higher demands for stability.
As an official IAdea partner, Fugo supports all of its digital signage players!
As for our pick, we recommend the MBR-1100 A7. Its stability and affordability make it one of the most popular digital signage players on the market. If you're planning to build video walls with 4K video playback, then IAdea players from the XMP series will definitely be your friend 👍
Of course, the real potential is unlocked from pairing your player to a content management software that lets you create unique content playlists, zone your screen, schedule & update content on the fly, connect to apps, and monitor playback - all remotely, from anywhere.
The advantages of using a content management software to run your digital signage network
Expectations are high today for digital signage - screens are expected to be showing content that's fresh, meaningful, and hyper-relevant to the audience it's targeting. That means consistently updating the on-screen content, making sure that displays are on & running properly, and that anyone & everyone with a role in maintaining & controlling the screens has central access to your system.
This is where cloud-based content management systems come in. They allow you to remotely update the content that's playing on your screen(s) though not all of them are built equally. Here are some things you should be looking for:
- Support for important media formats - most software can handle displaying static PNGs & JPGs, but for more dynamic and/or moving content, double check that your software supports 4K & HTML5 playback to render the content correctly on screen.
- Screen zoning - a way to make your screen really dynamic is to split it into zones with different content running in each zone.
- Responsiveness - when planning your content for display, you don't want to have to keep track of the dimensions and size of every screen and tailor content accordingly every time you go to upload. A great platform will automatically optimize your content to fit the specs of your screens so you can focus on making it look good, rather than planning how to make it display correctly once it hits the screen.
- Great stability - digital signage is meant to be seen. Crashes, lags & other errors are very noticeable and annoying both for customers and publishers. A good platform will have near-perfect uptime and let you focus on running your business, not concerns of whether your software has crashed again.
- Scalability - many of the cloud-based softwares out there will let you run 1-20 screens just fine, but try adding any more than that & the workflows become unmanageable. Look for a platform that can let you group 50, 100, or 1,000 screens without the extra software bloat so you're not having to move platforms when you outgrow a solution.
- Remote control & monitoring - It's just plain easier & faster to keep track of your displays from one central location, especially if your network is large or you need to make frequent, last-minute, or emergency updates to your content. Cloud-based platforms let you do this remotely from anywhere.
- Offline playback - even in 2021, not every business will have a stable and constant internet. That's why it's important that your software is able to cache content locally on the player to keep playback going even during internet outages.
More advanced features to look for:
- Proof of play reporting - PoP reports can tell you what content was played, where it was played, as well as other information you & your project partners might want to know.
- Content scheduling & delivery - Especially for larger networks, manually scheduling content can be a real time drain & leave room for error. For example, you might have to orchestrate a lot of location-specific content or update weekly/seasonal promotions. Being able to schedule content in advance & make updates without having to manually re-schedule will save you TONS of time.
- Integrations - Some of the most meaningful digital signage content comes from the tools you may already be using for your business. Things like GSuite, social media feeds, data dashboards, KPI & business intelligence reporting, and more. Some platforms will integrate with these apps to let you automate content creation.
- Audience analytics - You can just throw your content up on screen and call it a day. But why stop there? Today it's possible to target content that's relevant to the audience your trying to reach. A software that can pull data on the demographic makeup of your viewers can help you understand your audience and boost the ROI of your digital signage.
- Touch screen support - One of the coolest developments in digital signage is the ability to interact with a screen. Touchscreen kiosks are popping up everywhere for things like wayfinding & ordering food. This capability isn't built into every cloud-based software, so you might have to look a little harder if that's something you're after (hint - Fugo to the rescue here 🦸)
- Content templates - small businesses who don't have the budget or skill to design their own professional content often struggle to get their signage off the ground & make it engaging for their customers. Templates help ease some of that burden by providing content that's easy to customize to be on brand.
The benefits of Fugo
If you're thinking that's a lot to ask of one tool - you're right. The majority of cloud-based digital signage software in the $10-$20 range aren't equipped with these basic features, let alone any - or all - of the advanced ones.
This is where Fugo comes in. Not only does it tick every box above, it's got a visual content editor that blows away every other one on the market (humble brag.) Fugo studio is the first of its kind to make use of what are known as containers - self contained content carousels within a screen that's been split into zones. They allow you to create a carousel of different apps or media within one zone of your screen, while another zone of your screen might contain its own carousel. Think of it like having playlists for different portions of your screens.
A note about free digital signage software
A Google search will yield plenty of results for free digital signage software. And you likely know that in most cases, it isn’t really free. A company may give away their software but charge big bucks for the proprietary hardware. In worse cases, the software will have few valuable features and little to no services or support. And a free enterprise solution is completely out of the question.
The majority of end users will invariably have to invest money to get the results they want (for display hardware and media players, certainly; I suppose there is a wider berth for software.) The best thing to do is to look at the workflows and demands of your signage network to see what you need from your software. If something free does the job, great. If you're having to risk or compromise too much, is it really worth it?
How to set up IAdea with Fugo
Before installing Fugo onto your device, make sure:
- Your player is connected to the screen via HDMI cable.
- Your player is is connected to a network via Wifi or Ethernet connection
- Your player is updated with the latest firmware
Note: if you’re looking to build a screen wall/mosaic, contact email@example.com about an integrator 😎
1.1 Go to the homepage of the IAdea Player app. You can do this by clicking and holding the left mouse button in any corner of the screen.
1.2 Select the Set Content button.
1.3 In the content URL box, enter: https://player.fugo.ai
1.4 This will launch the Fugo Player app on your screen:
2. Setting up your Fugo account
2.1 If you have not registered a Fugo account yet, you can head over to fugo.ai/app to start your 14-day free trial.
2.2 After successfully logging in, you can click Add Screens on the Welcome page. Alternatively, you can navigate to the Screens page in the top navigation bar.
2.3 Enter the PIN from the Fugo player window into the space provided.
2.4 To finish the pairing process, give your screen a name and add a location.
Hint: We recommend you name your player something relevant such as 68 Lombard Street or Clapham Coffee Shop. For my example, I’ve named my screen “Fugo HQ.” The address should be your screen’s location.
2.5 Your screen will now be listed on your Screens page:
Congratulations, you’ve added your screen! Here, have this cake 🍰 to celebrate!
Now you’re ready to start publishing content. We’ll cover that in the next section.
3. Publishing content with Fugo CMS
3.1 Navigate to the Playlist page in the top navigation bar.
3.2 Click the Create Playlist button.
3.3 Start by giving your playlist a name in the top left corner of the page. I’ll call mine “Sarah’s playlist.”
3.4 You can add screens, content, or schedule in any order. For the sake of ease, I’ll start with adding a screen. Click Select Screens and choose your screen.
3.5 Select content to add to your playlist by clicking Select Content and choosing from your media or apps. Click Add Items when you’ve finished choosing your content.
3.6 Finally, if you’d like to schedule your content, you can start by indicating the start and end dates under Date Range. Tick the box for No End Date if you want your content to play indefinitely.
3.7 You can also set the week schedule by clicking and dragging along the schedule. Alternatively, you can select just Workdays or Weekends in the top right corner of the schedule if you want your playlist to run only on those days. If you want your content to run 24/7, you can click Select All.
Hint: Selecting “Workdays” will set your content to run from 8am - 7pm. You can change those hours by clicking on a day block, and manually entering the run times in the day’s window.
3.8 Once your schedule is set, click Publish in the right top hand corner to publish your new playlist! If you don’t want to publish right away, just click Finish Later and it will save your playlist for you to edit later.
Viola - your content is live!
Hint: When you’re ready to come back to your playlist, you’ll find it saved on your Playlists page. Click “Publish” or select “Edit” from the dotted menu at the right of the playlist panel.
There you go! It really is that easy to set up your player and publish your content with Fugo!
If you have any questions regarding set up or project rollouts, you can contact our support team any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy publishing 📺