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The Comprehensive Cost of Implementation: How to Budget for Digital Signage

If you have tried signing up for a digital signage solution, you quickly discovered it could be like a building project. It has so many hidden costs that the initial budget seems more like a bad guess. So how do you budget for digital signage?

Example of a digital menu board in a restaurant

Once you have studied this guide, you will know the requirements at every step. You can then budget with confidence as it takes the guesswork out of the cost of digital signage. The guide will show you precisely what to consider to arrive at the total cost of ownership (TCO).

A. Hardware

Signage hardware refers to any physical parts of the digital signage solution, such as the digital displays. There are several types of display units, including:

  • TVs or digital displays
  • Menu boards
  • Tablets 
  • Interactive screens
  • Kiosks
  • Video walls

Your choice of hardware will depend not only your budget but project type as well. The basic formula you should consider when looking for a digital signal screen is:

  • Your needs and project goals.
  • Location of your display, that is, will it be indoors or outdoors.
  • Screen use – what size should it be, mounting area size, and viewing angles.
  • Best performing displays for your budget.

You could pick a consumer-grade TV to cut down on costs, but they are not good enough for commercial purposes. As the most visible part of your project, you will be better off spending on a quality commercial unit. Of course, the purchase price is significantly higher, but you will see its return on investment (ROI) in the long run. That’s because commercial displays have extended warranties, have more powerful processing power, and last longer.

Man in electronics store looking at large consumer TVs

Indoor signage

You will see the biggest ticket item when constructing a budget for a digital signage is the display screen. A good, sizable TV display will set you back anywhere from $200 for a consumer-grade TV to well over $2000 for an enterprise commercial solution. Have a look at these price points for indoor display digital signage solutions:

  • Consumer solution: $230-$550 for 40’-55’ screen.
  • Commercial solution, value segment: $600-$4,000 for 40’-75’ screen.
  • Commercial solution, premium segment: $1,000-$6,000 for 40’–98’ screen.

Outdoor signage

For outdoor signage, you want a display unit with high visibility and is robust enough to withstand the elements. Using a consumer unit in this instance is out of the question. Commercial units are the only way to go. Using Samsung displays for illustration, notice how the pricing varies widely:

  • For displays set on retail store windows: $2,500 – $4,500 for a 46’-75′ screen.
  • For normal outdoor usage: $3,000 – $10,000 for the same size screen.
  • In extremely bright spots with extreme heat: $5,000 – $13,000, same size screen.

Video walls

If you want huge displays in a department store or convention center, you can take the game a notch higher with a video wall. They offer continuous, detailed, close-up viewing using several display screens to form one larger display. As you’ve probably guessed, they are not cheap. For instance, the cost for a single display unit ranges from $2,000 – $6,000 for a 46′ – 55′ screen size. 

Full Service Digital Signage

Media player

The next most crucial part of a budget for digital signage is the media player. A media player will stream content to your display device.

There are three categories of media players:

  • Plug and play sticks – these are the most basic and cheapest solution.
  • Media player – if you prefer more storage, durability, and most powerful processing power, this is the best solution.
  • Built-in solution – these are the hassle-free solutions that are built into the display unit. However, they do not have the same processing power or functionality as a media player.

The price of digital signage players will vary according to how you intend to use the digital display. That said, the variation is not as wide as the digital signage display units.

Mounting hardware

Now that you have purchased your screen display, you will need mounting hardware for it. There are different display mounts, all depending on where you intend to mount your display. They include:

  • Flat wall mount 
  • Video wall mount 
  • Tilted wall mount
  • Ceiling mount

The viewing angle and mounting space will determine what kind of mounting hardware you need. 

As usual, there are consumer and commercial-grade mounts, you are better off with commercial offerings because of the superior build quality. Additionally, they have better specifications since installation, service, and adjustments will be a lot easier. Long term, they are going to be more cost-effective.

  • Consumer mounts: from $50-$150
  • Commercial mounts: from $200 

Installation costs

Another tricky heading to provide a final digital signage project budget cost is labor. It will boil down to how big or challenging your project will be. 

Digital Signage Installation Services Cover Image
  • Simple installation of single or double screens: $200 – $300
  • Complex and large projects: $2,000 – $10,000

B. Licensing

Most digital signage software is cloud-based and requires a monthly licensing fee. The subscription plans grant you access to templates, apps, playlist managers, tutorial videos, and 24/7 support. If you opt for the paid digital signage software, it supports multiple operating systems. That allows integration to your current solutions, and you can scale it to various display devices. Some companies also offer free digital signage software.

Digital signage is heavy on graphics; you may want subscriptions to include: 

  • Stock photo
  • Websites specializing in graphic design elements for example Canva.  
  • Adobe, MS Office and/or Google Drive.

C. Set-up Costs

For your digital signage project to work as intended, you must conduct device provisioning or set up. Device provisioning is a highly complicated and time-consuming process. It is highly recommended you hire professionals. 

Integration or switching over

Switching over or integration means using a new or different content management system (CMS) with your current displays. It’s usually a pretty simple process. Just ensure the new digital signage providers software is compatible with the hardware you already have.

Software and content creation

Digital signage software have intuitive and friendly interfaces, so they are easy to use. However, it can be confusing if you have never used it. You will have to factor in training costs or hiring new employees who are familiar with it.

A simple training might seem the cheapest and best alternative, but you must remember that you need fresh content. The employee must be competent enough to churn out creative, informative, and new content to keep your audience captivated. They would need to know a lot about graphics to compile fonts, design assets, and stock photos on a regular basis. Luckily, there are plenty of such resources online for free.

Brainstorming content creation meeting

Running costs

When your service provider is through with installation and the system is running, you have to consider running costs such as maintenance and repairs. You will pay for maintenance and troubleshooting, so you will need standby staff to take care of any problems. They should be knowledgeable enough on such issues; otherwise, your digital signage will face downtime. 

You could potentially lose ad revenue or inconvenience your target audience who need information from the displays. That is where 24/7 support for your digital signage needs come in handy should you encounter any problems.

Digital signage costs for maintenance depends on the scale and complexity of your installation. Monthly subscriptions may seem expensive, but they will save you from many headaches in the long term.  

D. Lifespan

It’s easy to overlook digital signage hardware’s lifespan, but it is vital when working out the TCO. 

From expected degradation to wear and tear, you should expect your hardware to last around five years. Additionally, there will be upgrades, repair, or replacement fees along the way. There are options such as Signature Care that include tech refresh – where hardware gets replaced every 3 years for free.

Is digital signage right for you?

That is a lot of hardware, software costs, and monthly licensing fee costs to keep in mind when creating a budget for digital signage. Digital signage costs can add up, so it’s best to dip your toes before splashing out on components. You should test out any solution’s capabilities to ensure it fits your needs before buying. Ask for a demo from digital signage providers to get a free demonstration of their platform’s capabilities.

For business owners, the smart move would be to use a digital signage solution integrator’s services. They know how to assess your needs and provide solutions that solve your digital signage needs. Additionally, they know all industry players, from software and content developers to media player providers. It means they will find you the most cost-effective solution for your budget.

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