When video wall technology was expensive it was hard to sell. But selling digital signage has dropped in cost and many companies are now eager to replace static signs. Now, any solution provider can sell digital signage solutions. What’s more, once they partner with the right vendors and distributors, solution providers can sell the technology to a fairly large cross section of customers.
Digital signage has evolved from being a niche technology to a mainstream market with applications to suit just about every vertical sector. Today, solution providers are discovering the benefits of forging new relationships with traditional AV vendors as this lucrative market enters a phase of rapid growth in the Middle East.
According to IDC MEA, the market grew by about 28% between 2013 and 2014. “The market is very active at the moment,” said IDC’s research manager Nabila Popal. “We see a move from generic solutions to customised ones, not only by sector but also according to client requirements. Therefore, in addition to vendors and resellers, system integrators here are taking a very active role in providing solutions.”
Popal said the best opportunities for resellers lie in addressing sector-specific needs, and offering end-to-end solutions that include hardware, customised software and after-sales services. In education, for example, that means smart board packages, while retail and hospitality is crying out for menu boards and large video walls for visual display in stores and hotels. The government sector is looking for screens that can be used in control and conference rooms, and transport requires touch screen navigation maps, as well as signage boards displaying advertisements or essential information such as flight times.
Girish Narayanan, managing director at Granteq Distribution, said smart governance and smart learning initiatives across the Middle East are having a significant impact on the digital signage market.
“This region’s method of increasing footfall in malls and creating business advertisements majorly relies on digital signage solutions,” he said. “Restaurants encourage customers to select their choice of food on tablets, doctors monitor patients’ progress using interactive display screens, retailers have devised interactive mall directories, corporates use the latest 3D presentation and conferencing solutions.
“All this clearly indicates the proactive techniques adopted by each industry segment in the region, which pushes resellers to ensure adequate focus is given towards digital signage solutions.”
However, the increased complexity of many digital signage applications means there also has to be shift in skills investment for both established AV integrators and IT solution providers who want to take advantage of the boom in demand.
“In the Middle East, digital signage solutions are mainly being offered by AV systems integrators, some of whom, have very little or no IT background,” said Adarsh Nair, business development manager–LFD displays MEA region at vendor NEC Display Solutions Middle East and Africa.
“What we have seen (and work with mostly) are AV integrators that are being pushed into working with digital signage and tie up with an IT integrator (or vice versa) to manage the digital installations. There are a lot of players that say they offer digital signage solutions but it is fair to say many are lacking the ideal levels of expertise.
“Typically, the AV integrator would have the hardware but would need the software and applications that would integrate the hardware into the main IT network so that the retailer could manage the display applications and so on.
“If it’s basic digital signage, then usually there are easy, off-the-shelf apps that normal AV integrators are quite capable of handling. These days, though, (and traditionally it has been the NEC business), digital displays in retail need to perform several functions and this requires better knowledge of networking as well as software skills to be able to put together better solutions.”
This means resellers face some complex challenges when it comes to covering all the aspects of a solution-based sale.