small wooden boxes placed on bundle of coins reads COST
29

Mar

What is the cost of digital signage ownership?

How much does digital signage cost?

Well, there is no one-word answer to that. The reason is ‘digital signage’ can mean several things.

For a local salon that wants to play a few promotional & entertainment videos for its customers, setting up digital signage might mean simply converting a television into a signage monitor.

But, for a multinational organization wanting to deploy an enterprise-level corporate digital signage solution at its 100+ offices, the idea of digital signage changes to a rather extensive network of screens.

You must have already deduced this: the cost of digital signage for the above two cases will be noticeably different.

Components impacting the cost of digital signage ownership

In a broader sense, the price of setting up digital signage will depend on these four factors:

  • The choice of digital signage hardware

  • The number of screens

  • The features & cost of digital signage software

  • The functionality of the digital signage

However, once we scratch the surface, a few other costs emerge that we often don’t calculate because they are not involved upfront while setting up digital signage. But those costs are intrinsic to your digital signage budget. Two such hidden costs are:

  • The cost of effort

  • The cost of content

Let’s discuss this in more detail.

A. The cost of digital signage hardware

The hardware cost of digital signs includes the investments in the digital screens, the digital signage player, and ancillary expenses like the cost of setup.

The cost of screens

The type of screen you choose largely depends on what you are using your electronic sign for. A simple LCD TV screen can suffice for showing image & video content on a digital church sign, but the same will fail to support a 24/7-ON digital advertising billboard.

Decision-making parameters for choosing the screen type:

  • Working hours

  • Interactivity

  • Indoor or outdoor implementation

  • Screen positioning (hanging, standing, mounted, or embedded)

Specifications that affect the per-screen cost of digital signage are:

  • Size

  • Resolution

  • Brightness

  • Viewing angles

  • Touch support

  • Screen refresh rate

  • Contrast ratio

  • Energy consumption

  • Durability

a digital signage screen placed outside a retail store to display offers

Here is a comparison of some commercial displays in terms of display price and features:

Sl. No. Display Type Display Model Price Features Suitable for
1 Commercial TV Samsung NT670U Series 50" $569 - 3840 x 2160 4K UHD

- Direct-lit LED technology for better energy consumption

- Super sleek with no bezel
Digital display boards in hotels, corporate offices, & retail stores
2 Commercial Digital Signage Screen Samsung PM-H Series Digital Signage (PM55H) $2,119 - 1920x1080 Full HD

- Plug and Play

- Tizen 2.4 (VDLinux) OS

- Built for 24/7 Operation

- Temperature sensor
Digital signboards inside showrooms and hospital digital signage
3 Budget Buy TV TCL 43" Class 4-Series 4K UHD HDR LED Smart Android TV (43S434) $350 - 4K Ultra HD Resolution

- Chromecast built-in

- 3 HDMI inputs

- Google Assistant

- Voice Remote Control
Small businesses with limited run time

The cost of digital signage player

The digital signage player helps render your content on screen. The choice of your player determines what type of content gets processed (images, videos, web content, URLs) and how fast it is processed.

Different digital signage players use different Operating Systems (OSs). For instance, Samsung displays use Tizen OS, Intel players use Windows OS, while the Chromebit & Chromebox players use Chrome OS.

To learn more about the most popular digital signage players, visit the Pickcel player page.

Whether you need to buy an external digital signage player device will depend on the choice of your screen model. If your signage display comes with an embedded media player, then you don’t need any external device.

However, if you are converting a regular TV into digital signage, you will need an external media player. Sometimes, displays with in-built players also need an external digital signage player for additional processing power.

pickcel android media player px300 image
Image: Pickcel's stylish, custom-made Android digital signage player PX300

Factors that affect the cost of your digital signage player:

  • Operating system

  • Memory/storage/CPU power

  • Media support

  • Working hours

  • Indoor or outdoor operation

  • Environmental conditions (temperature/humidity)

Here are some recommended digital signage players that you can use according to your budget & business necessity:

Sl. No. Signage Player Specifications Price Verdict/Suitable For
1 Zidoo 4K UHD Media player Z1000 PRO - Android 9.0 OS

- Supports almost all 3D video formats like MVC 3D (Blu-ray\MKV)

- Supports standard WOL to allow 24/7 power ON usage
$300
(approx.)
Very Powerful player

24/7 power ON screens like billboards & Passenger Information Display Systems
2 Pickcel PX300 - Optimized firmware for high performance and better stability

- Pre-built and pre-configured digital signage player app for Android

- Scheduled device sleep, ensuring longevity
$180 Custom-built player for smooth experience

Businesses that require easy setting up and want a well balanced cost-effective player with adequate features.
3 MI Box 4K - Ultra HD 4K streaming

- Cortex-A53 Quad-core 64bit, 1.5Ghz CPU

- 8GB eMMC storage

- Chromecast built-in
$50- $60 Medium-grade budget-friendly player

Screens that want to run 4K content
4 Raspberry Pi 4 - Supports 2x4K displays

- Highly flexible modular player
$35 - $169 Highly versatile player

Organizations or entrepreneurs with coding knowledge or IT manpower who want a budget buy
5 Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max - Easy plug-and play device

- Quad-Core 1.8 GHz CPU

- Fire OS 7 (Android 9.0)

- Resolution upto 4K @ 60fps
$60 Most user-friendly & universal device

Businesses that want a quick setup with a readily-available and affordable digital signage player

B. The cost of digital signage software

Digital signage network owners often make the mistake of betting on the digital signage hardware. Meaning they often end up spending an arm and a leg on the digital displays and neglect the importance of having a powerful, feature-heavy digital signage software.

However, the software is the most important component of any digital signage system. So, it is important to choose your software partner carefully.

On-premise versus cloud digital signage software

The software for your digital signage can be hosted either on a cloud server. Or, it can be deployed on your private data center (on-premise).

The following infographic compares the cloud and on-premise digital signage software:

table showing differences between cloud-based digital signage and on-premise digital signage

Most cloud-based software have a subscription-based license model. That means the cost of your digital signage software is calculated monthly. You pay a month’s fee and if you don’t want to continue using the software, you cancel the subscription and you will not be charged for the subsequent months.

On the other hand, purchasing on-premise software needs a one-time upfront cost. On-premise digital signage software is generally preferred by enterprises which already have an established IT infrastructure; for example, hospitals and corporate offices.

At Pickcel, we offer both cloud digital signage software and on-premise solutions. The Pickcel's digital signage software pricing is 3-tiered:

Free 14-day trial: Unlock all the software features for 14 days (no credit card details required). Just register and get started. Users can register up to 2 screens during the free trial.

Professional plan: The plan offers all the software features at $15/device/month. Choose this plan if you need licenses for less than 250 displays.

Enterprise plan: The Enterprise plan is for organizations with network coverage of more than 250 displays. Pickcel enterprise customers enjoy all the Pro features, plus additional customizations of the digital signage software such as custom apps, custom reporting, and integrations with internal servers.

See Pickcel Software Pricing

Free vs. commercial digital signage software

There are many open-source digital signage software. These open-source software are free of any cost. You can go to GitHub and search for the codes and build your own program.

But here is the catch: open source means you need to be technically sound and the onus lies entirely on you. From challenges in setting it up to zero accountability protection, the list of risks and obstacles keeps piling up.

In fact, many open-source software users end up spending a bounty more than those using proprietary software. How?

There can be software-hardware compatibility issues (leading to hardware damage, hardware repurchase, and loss of time).

There will be challenges in bug fixes and getting a software update. The user has to maintain the software independently.

Unless you are a hobbyist looking to build a software in your leisure time, getting a licensed digital signage software is the right thing to do. These software are designed such that even your grandfather can control them.

There is robust data security and you get all the support that you need. Generally, the software provider will guide you through the software configuration (often without any extra charge).

Since these vendors are professionals and have a thorough understanding of all kinds of digital signage requirements, their software is built with lots of useful features. For example, most providers have an in-built app store with tons of business, social media & utility apps.

We are making businesses grow, one screen at a time.

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C. The effort cost of implementing & maintaining a digital signage network

So you have purchased the digital signage hardware and the software. Now what?

Now, you need a team of experts to set the system up for you. Here are some effort costs that often get ignored in our digital signage costing budget.

One-time implementation cost

The hardware installation, screen mounting, and cabling costs are one-time physical setup cost. Generally, this shouldn’t be more than $100 for a small project (but it can multiply based on the size of your digital signage network).

There is a second setup cost, that is, the cost of software configuration. That too is a single-time investment. However, if you are using plug-and-play devices, there shouldn’t be much complications with the deployment.

At Pickcel, we support all our clients with offshore assistance. Our plug-and-play devices have pre-built digital signage player app and are easy to get started with. Users do not require any technical expertise.

However, if you are configuring the software on more complicated signage systems like immersive video walls or giant screens, there may be additional costs.

As compared to the cloud-software setup cost, the implementation cost also increases significantly when you deploy on-premise digital signage.

Continuous technology maintenance cost

Besides the upfront cost, there is a maintenance of IT (keeping the server up & running, software updates, and physical maintenance of the data center in terms of environment) These expenditures will vary based on your network size, your software partner agreements & more.

With Pickcel software, you can enjoy free software updates for a lifetime! Try Pickcel free.

D. The cost of digital signage content

The heart of digital signage is the content. There are countless blogs on digital signage content ideas and how to design a signage content. But what often doesn’t get mentioned enough is that there is a cost of creating and managing these content too.

The cost of creating content for your digital signage

There are two ways to create a content for digital signage: either you design your creatives yourself, or you outsource it to a professional. Either way, there is a cost of creating your digital signage content.

Firstly, if you go into a full Do-It-Yourself mode, there is the price of a design software. The most common design app that beginners and DIY-ers use is Canva. The app super user-friendly and also gives a number of free graphics & templates. In fact, that is the primary reason Pickcel has integrated the Canva app within its software (Pickcel users can design unlimited content for free once they sign up.)

cost-of-creating-content-for-digital-signage

There are hundreds of other alternatives to Canva that provide easy editable templates. But there is a catch. These tools offer limited period free trials beyond which you have to switch to a paid plan.

The price of these software plans roughly range from $7/month to $40/month.

But practically speaking, DIY content creation is only feasible if you don’t have much requirement of content.

But what about the medium to large organizations that use digital signage daily to communicate information, advertise their products & conduct branding campaigns? The DIY way wouldn’t work for such scenarios.

If content occupies a centre stage in your digital signage strategy, then there will always be a significant cost for designing that content.

The cost of content management (publishing and monitoring)

It might sound absurd that there is a content management cost. Aren’t we already paying for the software?

Well, that’s true.

Most businesses do not need to spend a single dollar on content management as most modern digital signage software support scheduling content for auto-publishing.

But there are also businesses that have large screen networks and require a steady flow of content in real time (or even a very targeted & dynamic distribution of content). Organizations with such complex content management needs often outsource these cumbersome assignments to professionals.

Here is an example: When Pickcel took up the Amazon Easy project, the task of publishing real-time product promotions and the latest offers from Amazon sellers on the Easy Store signage screens was handed over to the Pickcel Services team. This allowed the ecommerce giant to utilize their in-house workforce better.

Sample cost sheet: Digital signage cost breakdown

It is tough to meticulously outline the cost of digital signs without having proper knowledge of the digital signage components. Therefore, we have used the following sample cost sheet to roughly estimate the budget.

Customer - A retail chain having 5 stores in different parts of New York

Business Need: Real-time publishing of offers & discounts along with product showcase

Solution requirement:

  • Indoor screen of 40-43 inch size,

  • Operating hours 12-14 hours a day.

  • Ability to publish content from central location

Proposed solution and cost:

Digital Signage Component Per Unit Cost
TCL/Sansui 43-inch (Android TV) 300 USD
Installation and brackets 100 USD
Internet subscription Already available - no perceived additional cost
Software license cost monthly 15 USD (yearly 162 USD)
Electricity and power cost (18 hrs a day) 20 USD a year

Total cost of ownership for 5 units and 3 years -

1 year per unit cost (CAPEX + OPEX)
= 582 USD

3 years per unit cost
= 946 USD (Considering 3 years Hardware life)

3 years 5 unit total cost of ownership = 4730 USD*

*Effort cost for content creation and publishing not included considering:

  • Part time activity of management and not measurable/tangible

  • Power full signage software providing ready-made templates and tools for creating and sourcing content reduces effort costs significantly.

Disclaimer:
The above estimate is the most simplistic and generic case study. The cost of digital signage ownership may vary significantly depending on the complexity, constraints and other environmental conditions.

Reiterating what we started with: The following parameters would affect the expenses:

  • Number of displays and their geographical distribution

  • Type and size of display

  • Outdoor implementation (the hardware cost increases significantly)

  • Integration with third party application for displaying data

  • Interactivity

  • Operation time (24x7 usage will increase the cost)

  • Security compliance related requirements

  • Data retention within the premise which would require on-premise implementation

  • Criticality (high critical signage application would require redundancy to be built in)

Is the digital signage cost worth bearing?

Digital signage is one hundred percent going to add value to your business goals!

We are living in a digital age where paper medium is soon becoming a relic, so far as business is concerned. The question that you as the owner need to ask is how do I maximize the returns from an incredibly versatile digital asset like this.

With the right signage partner, you can get a great deal out of digital signage expenses. At Pickcel, we provide free consultations during our product demo.

Start your digital signage journey and take your business to new heights!

Try Pickcel Free
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About Basudev Saha

Basudev Saha is the founder and CTO of Pickcel. Being addicted to screens, he found himself making his favorite gadgets more smart and agile. When he is not at the innovation meetings taking giant leaps of faith, you can find him outdoors running, cycling & playing badminton. He dreams of scaling the mighty Everest one day.

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