How to get the most out of digital screens in retail windows Digital Signage Strategy

Avtar Singh, founding director of Digital Media Systems, has spent more than 30 years in the tech industry. Singh provides tips on how retailers can get the best results from digital signage displays even on sunny days.

This digital display does not hold up well under direct sunlight. Provided

| Avtar Singh

A display in a window is an insight into your store for those who pass by every day. A successful digital signage solution showing eye-catching, dynamic content could be the trigger for that passer-by to actually walk through your door and lead to a significant uplift in sales. For this reason, there are many high street retailers with requirements for commercial grade LCD digital signage solutions that are public facing, ranging from a single small display through to a number of massive displays.

Avtar Singh

Unfortunately, not all “solution providers” have the knowledge or experience to deliver a solution that will deliver the expected outcome for the client or is fit for purpose. A bad solution reflects (literally in some cases) on your brand and products and might as well not be there if it’s not visible, has poor content or shows errors and notifications from the operating system.

So why is digital signage in a retail window any different from that installed throughout the sales floor? The sun and other environmental factors, if not considered during the project consultation phase, can cause major headaches once installed.

In no particular order here are some of the more common problems seen in the retail window:

Screen image is barely visible, color is flat and generally difficult to make out the message
This could be something as simple as the display not being bright enough. Screen brightness is measured in nits or cdm2. As an example, a typical desktop monitor will be around 200 — 300 cd/m2; a commercial display used in digital signage will be anything from 400 — 750 cd/m2.

For a screen to be used in a north facing window, we recommend using a minimum of 1,000 cd/m2 and south, east and west would be a minimum of 2,000 cd/m2. Another important factor to consider is the anti-glare and anti-reflectivity properties of the display; there’s no point installing something that has very little anti-reflective properties and so looks like a mirror. Ask your supplier to quote for a panel with <2% reflectivity and you'll be on to a winner. Finally, check so the ambient light sensor works and the brightness is turned up.

Screen goes black during the day when in the sun
Let’s face it LCD displays hate the sun, it causes the panel to heat up and eventually turn black, this is after being discolored and ugly to look at.

The sun’s surface emits about 63 million watts of energy per m2. By the time the energy reaches the Earth, after traveling over 93 million miles, it hits the display surface with over 1,200 watts/m2 of energy, which in turn causes the temperature of the liquid crystal cell to increase significantly, even on the coldest of days.

The end result is the liquid crystals boil and turn black; This is what is known as solar clearing. Most consumer and commercial screens blacken or result in isotropic failure when the LCD panel overheats, sometimes this can be as low as 60 degrees Celsius. When we install window displays which face south, east or west, we make sure our panels are high temperature LCD panels capable of withstanding temperatures up to 110 degrees Celsius without blackening — crucial for direct sunlight applications.

Screen fails soon after installation
Consumer TVs are not designed to be used in an environment other than in the home or other highly controlled environments and so are made using components that do not need to be as robust as those in a commercial environment.

Because of this, those trying to cut costs will notice screen image and component problems sooner than expected. Installing the correct commercial displays will give you many years of service while providing a high-quality, visible image in all ambient conditions.

Screen too bright at night or dark during the day
It’s important that the screen you choose is able to respond to the different light levels from day to night throughout all the seasons. An image that is too bright during the hours of darkness can be difficult to view and can cause glare for drivers. The panel should be able to dynamically adjust the brightness to keep your message visible at all times. Again, while many consumer displays have ambient light sensors, they don’t have the range of adjustment often required for a commercial requirement.

When considering an outward facing digital signage deployment, don’t gloss over conversation about the sun.

Commercial environments and cheap screens don’t mix well. If you’re looking at rolling out a digital signage solution for engaging with customers on the shop floor, back of house communications with staff or digital window displays, then use a company that can show examples of other successful installations in your sector.

Speak with the customer, see what they say, not only about the installation, but how the supplier has been post installation, how do they respond when there is a problem or a training requirement and has the installation provided what they wanted.

Avtar Singh serves as managing director of Digital Media Systems, a builder of digital signage solutions, founded in 2006.

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