Deploying digital
signage in
public transit

Author: Gary Hilson

For public transit, digital signage technology offers a host of potential benefits, from improving the customer experience using targeted messaging that can reach large audiences with minimal person-to-person interaction, to generating revenue and value for advertisers. As promising as these advantages are, making the business case for your digital signage implementation is only the first step. The next phase of deploying digital signage is more technical, and you must account for all the necessary elements if you are to realize adequate return on investment (ROI).

Digital signage has a lot of moving parts, in terms of both the deployment process and ongoing operations. Successfully deploying digital signage means thinking ahead to what the day-to-day operations might entail, whether with regard to personnel, content or technology infrastructure. A public transit agency is a perfect case study for highlighting all the ins and outs of a digital signage implementation, as well as the initial key performance indicators (KPIs) you should measure.

Build your own media department: Planning your content

Deploying digital signage is not unlike running your own media outlet. Your dynamic connected digital signage network is hungry for rich, animated and ever-changing content. But before beginning the implementation, you need to envision what the deployment will look like live—then you can determine what resources you need to support it.

Start by thinking about what kind of content you wish to share via digital signage and with whom. The answers to these questions will be driven by the nature of your organization and your core audience, as well as other groups you may wish to reach. If you're a public transit agency, you want to provide travel information about your fleet of buses or trains, as well as any information that could affect passenger travel, such as weather or roadwork.

This content alone requires a great deal of work when planning your implementation: Where will it come from? How does it get onto the screen? How often does it get updated? Just getting the minimum content on to the screen can be labor-intensive. And while there's probably a number of different sources to draw from for weather data, you'll need to find a way to tap into your own transit data before you can think about how you might display it and where. This means you'll also need some IT support, as you're feeding a network of software-enabled hardware.

Understanding the capabilities you have and what you're able to add will determine how diverse your content might be and what other resources you will require. You may want to deliver additional news and entertainment through your digital signage, for example.

Break the news: Understanding technical requirements

Travel and weather information needs to be immediate, but you'll want to make sure any additional content isn't static, either. Since a big value proposition of deploying digital signage is dynamic advertising, you'll want to keep it, too, fresh as travelers will come to expect it.

If you're a sizable organization with a lot of digital signs distributed across a wide geographic area, it's wise to deploy an intuitive and scalable content management system (CMS) that accommodates different digital displays. Any CMS you select will need to account for placement, dimensions and orientation, as well as whether people are stationary because they're waiting for their train to arrive, or on the go because they're transferring from the subway to a bus. People who are transferring are not going to want to stop, stand and wait to get an update on the status of their next trip—you want to keep people moving.

Your CMS will also determine how "rich" your content can be. If you'd like more than just scrolling text, you'll need something to support engaging graphics and even live video feeds. Your immediate digital signage implementation may be fairly simple in its first phase, but it's important to future-proof it so you can expand your content offerings.

Your CMS will also need to account for mixed-light environments, video resolution, sound quality and power availability. Some digital signage may itself be transitory—a mobile-connected solution gives you the most flexibility to move the digital signs to avoid stranding any assets in the event there are changing foot traffic patterns.

Ultimately, your ROI depends on getting the right content on the screen at the right time. This requires both content and IT expertise, but you'll also need people to measure the performance of the implementation to ensure the ROI holds true, whether it's for passenger engagement or advertising partners.

Translate eyeballs into revenue: Setting and achieving KPIs

The primary goal of deploying digital signage in a public transit setting is to convey important information to travelers, but it's also important to generate revenue by selling advertising to third parties.

The ability to deliver dynamic, rich advertising should inform your resource and technology decisions, but you also need to determine if your digital signage is succeeding. This includes meeting the needs of advertising partners by understanding their KPIs as well as establishing your own.

KPIs for digital signage should be "SMART"—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. Establish them early in your digital signage implementation, guided by these common measure objectives for both your organization and partners:

  • Wayfinding
  • Time-saving
  • Customer support queue management
  • Ad revenue
  • Brand building
  • Customer experience and engagement

From there, you can begin with a few common digital signage KPIs that can be measured, such as dwell time, screen touches per month, viewer analytics, service call length and customer satisfaction scores. For advertisers, the ROI of your digital signage can be measured by conversion ratios, closed deals and qualified leads for advertising partners.

Your objectives and KPIs should guide any digital signage solution you deploy. You want a platform that meets all your goals and to keep your total cost of ownership low by leveraging an established CMS and robust operational management system supported by managed services. Although an all-in-one solution that fits your every need may be difficult to find, the right solution provider can help you plan your digital signage implementation and complement your existing resources so you can realize ROI without unnecessary capital expenses and undue risk.

Discover how Verizon's Internet of Things (IoT) expertise and solutions can make deploying digital signage in public transportation a reality.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.