Digital Signage Cost: What is the Total Cost of Ownership?
From superior versatility to dynamic messaging to more integrated communication, the advantages associated with digital signage are numerous. Understanding the fundamental digital signage costs is critical to making the right purchase decision.
In fact, the worldwide digital sign market is expected to expand to $31.7 billion by 2025 with a CAGR of 8%. Plus, in terms of shipments, growth is anticipated to reach 6.45 million units by 2025.
Although this robust activity demonstrates the well known value of digital signs, companies still want to know about the cost of digital signage. Since we’re talking about modern technology tools, the cost factor includes hardware, installation, software, tech support, and more.
Some companies might wonder about the average cost for digital signage, but averages can be deceiving. A better way to look at it is based on your signage needs and the different options available.
In this article, we’ll break down digital signage cost categories one-by-one. This will help you make more informed investment decisions to maximize value.
- Display screens
- Media Players
- Display mounts & cables
- Software Licensing Fees
- Content Creation
- IT Support & Maintenance
Best Low Cost Digital Signage
Some buyers have a misconception about what digital signage actually is. They believe digital signs are nothing more than large TVs or computer monitors. The reality is that digital signs are a specialized type of technology. They are designed for a specific purpose, which is, to improve communication for an organization or brand.
It is tempting to use free software to power digital signs. However, if the software is difficult to use or understand, it might end up consuming valuable IT resources. Also, free software often comes with fewer features which can impact how well the configuration can be set to meet your needs.
Remember, a poor quality display may make images and text appear blurred or fuzzy. Screens can have a lot of glare. This can affect the readability of the screen. Instead of focusing only on low cost, it’s better to choose the package that gives you the most value while fitting within your budget.
Now let’s look at each category associated with digital signage cost and what you need to consider in terms of price, performance, and other factors.
Obviously, the display is the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to digital signs. What should you consider when look at digital displays?
Consumer vs. Commercial Displays
A household smart TV model will be less expensive compared to a commercial grade display. Still, there are some things to keep in mind when comparing consumer vs. commercial products.
Your signage will likely see heavy use, and commercial models are designed to be more durable. Plus, commercial displays come with longer warranties. Warranties are important since they are a hedge to cover against unforeseen equipment failure repair costs.
Finally, commercial displays usually have more processing power, which is important for more advanced messaging. This can impact how well your signage gets the message across, especially if you plan to use a lot of video imaging.
Where the screen will be placed as well as potential viewing angles are important. The display size depends largely on the screen location. You want it large enough to ensure visibility, but the display should also blend in well with the surroundings. For high impact signage, you may even opt for a full wall-sized screen.
Options to Consider
- TCL 65″ 6-Series 4K Roku Smart TV – This model offers superior 4K Ultra HD picture clarity combined with Dolby Vision HDR (High Dynamic Range) for crisp, clear images largely thanks to mini LED and Quantum light technology. Price = $899.99
- Sony X950G 65” TV: 4K Ultra HD Smart LED – Provides a superior contrast ratio thanks to its full-array local-dimming backlight for deeper blacks. Plus, 120 Hz refresh rate delivers superior motion dynamics. Price = $1,789.
- Samsung QET Series 75″ (Commercial Grade) – Features eye-catching UHD resolution Crystal Display with ultra slim design. Includes MagicINFO Lite digital signage software. This display has a 3-year onsite warranty. It is built to operate 16 hours a day and 7 days a week. Price = $2,250.
More advanced options
The type of digital signage you implement will depend on your needs and objectives. Features such as touch screen and full-wall sized displays are available. These designs come with a higher cost. If high impact is what you want, then it might be worth looking into one of these more unique options.
There are many variables that go into video wall configuration. A general starting price range for a 2X2 video wall made up of 46” LCD monitors is about $18,000.
Digital Signage Media Player
All digital signage requires a media player to stream content. Memory, processing speed and different features come with each player. This is important to consider when deciding on a media player as all these factors can impacted by your signage. Are low cost digital signage media players worth it? It depends. Remember, cost can influence performance. Media players are essentially computers designed for digital displays.
The player might be built into the unit, in more advanced display screens. Also, like displays, commercial grade players are built for long play times and come with extended warranties.
Here are two worthy options that illustrate price concepts:
- NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Pro 4K – This HDR Streaming Media Player features High Performance Dolby Vision, 3GB RAM, 2x USB. Price = $199.99
- AOPEN CHROMEBOX Commercial 2 – Carries Intel Celeron 3865U, 4GB DDR4, 32GB SSD and a 3 Years Limited Product Warranty. Price = $327
As you can see, the extra $127 for the AOPEN gives you quite a boost in performance, but the NVIDIA is no slouch, especially for the money. You should take into account the total number of digital signage displays you want/have.
Digital Signage Players with Bundled Software
Some players come pre-loaded with free digital signage software. This can reduce the cost of purchasing each component separately. Digital signage software bundles may makes it easier to get your digital signage displays up and running.
The Mini-PC as a Player
The mini-PC is a small computer that can be mounted near or on the back of your digital sign display. The advantages of mini-PCs is that they are highly versatile and are more customizable. Some mini-PCs are ultra tiny and noiseless. So if your needs are more complex, such as with advanced messaging, multimedia, or marketing integration, you may want to consider this alternative. These units can run from basic $100 models to powerful mini-PCs like the MSI MPG Trident 3 which retails at $4,639.
Display Mounts & Cables
It’s difficult to quantify display mount costs as it depends largely on where the signage will be placed. For example, for displays mounted higher up on the wall, an angled mount will be needed. In other cases, requirements maybe include movable mounts with hinged arms.
In every case, it makes sense to go with high quality. Plus, you’ll want to choose a mount that is as low profile as possible. The signage should get the attention, not a big, bulky mount. Digital signage mounts can cost anywhere from $50 to $350+. Meanwhile, display cabling should use high grade cables which are more durable and improve transmission speed. A 4K Displayport to HDMI Cable costs about $16 for 6 feet of cable.
Digital Signage Installation Costs
Labor costs may vary widely by region and provider. Plus, there’s a huge difference between installing a simple 55’ wall mounted display vs. an entire wall sized screen. A simple single screen installation will cost around $200. For larger projects, the price can vary significantly so it pays to get two or three price estimates. Also, make sure your installer has digital sign installation experience since factors such as wiring, mounting, and screen angles should be considered.
Digital Signage Software Licensing
Depending on your signage needs, you have two licensing options:
- Cloud-based software license fee – payable monthly
- Non-cloud installable software – one time fee
There are several advantages to cloud-based software. Maintenance and updates are included in the cost, which is a huge benefit. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is another name for cloud-based software. Installing software on your own requires some tech expertise, plus you have to do all the troubleshooting on your own. In both cases, there may be some IT training involved. For SaaS options, training will be minimal since backend upkeep is done by the provider. If you purchase and install the software yourself, you will have to manage in-house training as well.
Provisioning & Installation
Provisioning is the process of connecting and configuring your displays and players so that they can be used for digital signage purposes. This process requires specific expertise in the digital signage field. So unless you have the right tech staff, you’ll probably want to outsource this job.
Cost issues such as Internet access and networking all come into play at this level. A ballpark figure for provisioning cost might be $250-$350 per display in addition to any broadband access costs. Other issues to consider here are networking and IT requirements. This will vary depending on what content you intend to stream and how it will be integrated with your communications systems. Finally, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) signage compliance should be kept in mind as regulations continue to become more stringent as time goes on.
This might be the most variable cost factor of all since it totally depends on the content you plan to transmit on your digital signs. For example, static text vs. a fully interactive touchscreen content will have a huge price difference. Content creation costs should be included in the monthly budget for your overall digital signage campaign costs. Start-up and installation costs are not included or part of your content costs.
What do you put on digital signage?
Graphic design, video creation, and other software supported content (e.g. bus, train, and plane schedules) all have different use cases and costs. If you use stock photos, you’ll need to consider the cost of stock license purchase. If you create your own images, you’ll need to pay the photographer, models, etc. Video footage will be even more expensive.
The content you choose must make sense and align precisely with your brand and the message you want to transmit. For example, wayfinding on a college campus shouldn’t get mixed up with menu choices for lunch. The reality is that an entire content creation team, calendar, and strategy should be deployed to get the most out of your signage. This implies weighing the costs of having the work done in-house, by freelancers, or through a professionally managed service/agency.
IT Support & Maintenance
Every digital system will require maintenance and troubleshooting from time to time. Capable and experienced in-house IT teams might be able to handle this on their own. If not, it makes sense to outsource it. The advantage of outsourcing is that digital signage specialists know exactly how to approach a problem. They can fixed issues faster, and in most cases, a lower overall cost.
For digital church sign costs, digital menu board costs, or any other organization’s digital signage costs, it makes sense to consider depreciation. Depreciation is an accounting method of allocating the cost of a tangible or physical asset over its useful life or life expectancy. This method helps you cushion the economic impact of buying digital signs as well as taking into account the normal wear and tear of the hardware.
Depreciating digital signage assets helps companies earn revenue from an asset. You can do this while expensing a portion of signage cost each year the signs are in use. Especially for larger projects, if depreciation isn’t taken into account, it can significantly affect profits. Businesses can depreciate long-term assets for both tax and accounting purposes. For example, you can take a tax deduction for the cost of your signage fleet, thus reducing your taxable income.
Digital sign startup costs categories
As a review, these are the items that you need to consider to get your signage project off the ground:
- Display screens
- Media Player
- Display mounts & cables
- Purchased software
Here’s a graphic representation of the costs (your costs may vary from this example depending on factors such as display size, hardware quality, labor costs, etc.):
Ongoing digital sign costs
These items are monthly or as needed costs to keep your signs up and running:
- Cloud-base software Licensing (SaaS)
- Content Creation
- IT Support & Maintenance
Tips to keep Digital Signage Costs Down
Leveraging Dynamic Content
Making sure the right content goes out at the right time to the right audience improves message impact and conversions. Methods to improve content dynamics will improve the content ROI.
Professionally curated Content Feeds
Content curation finds and selects high-quality, relevant content for a specific industry or topic. One can pay to purchase these services. Which will likely result in the conservation of in-house resources and time.
Independent VLANs to reduce IT expenses
VLANs can keep network applications separate. Whether they are in same physical network or not. Therefore, avoiding the need for multiple sets of cabling and networking devices to be deployed.
Technology Lifecycle & Obsolescence
Hardware doesn’t lasts forever. Software updates are important. This is because it will eventually become outdated, if it’s not. This means you need to plan ahead for replacement.
Optimize technology refresh costs
The key here is to plan for this from the moment you install the technology, or even sooner. For instance, when purchasing, it makes sense to standardize (buy all the same model) if possible. This allows you to better predict the product lifecycle. Also, you might plan for a phased approach to refresh your hardware, perhaps starting with media players then later video displays in a stepwise fashion. As a rule of thumb, major pieces of technology usually last between 3-5 years. This varies depending on hours per week of use and environmental factors (outdoor vs. indoor, etc.).
Are Digital Signs Worth It?
It’s plain to see that digital signs are a business investment. The question remains, will your return on investment (ROI) be worth it? Our world increasingly uses visual methods of communication. The value of having signage that appropriately transmits your organization’s message has become more important than ever. Plus, digital signage offers a wide range of advantages, such as:
- Ability to adapt message & content quickly
- Can craft signage to match special events, seasons, or promotions
- Capability to integrate signage with organization’s digital messaging campaign
- Respond to health and security alerts faster
- Modify messaging in real time
- Ensuring that messages are current and relevant
- Ability to stand out from the competition
In the end, each business must decide for itself if the advantages are worth the cost. Still, with the right amount of planning, nearly any organization can find a digital sign solution that fits their needs and budget.