Small-to-medium-sized businesses utilizing digital signage should look beyond just superficial advertisements in order to increase customer engagement and inform its audience. Digital signage is commonly thought of for its advertising capabilities. Of course, signage is a great option for advertisers looking for another route to engage with the public, but any kind of digital screen used to convey information is classified as digital signage. 

Creative locations
Fast casual restaurants often use digital signage for menu boards. Educational institutions spreading information around campus using signage. But even the most seemingly inconsequential locations can benefit from digital signs. Consider ATM service provider International Cash Solutions, which uses Samsung displays on its ATM toppers to provide messaging based on the location of the machine, according to Samsung.

For example, an ATM in a bar would use the displays to show off daily specials, the case study said, or one at a gas station would market propane tank refills over the summer by showing customers food grilling. The ease of all-in-one displays that provide media players and content management with wireless connectivity means that digital signage does not require a complex infrastructure or a massive cost.

"Digital signage can be used to hybridize the online and offline shopping experiences."

And as consumers start looking to online and mobile to facilitate their shopping experience, retail stores can use signage to link a store's physical presence with its digital one, as Digital Signage Today contributor A. Jay pointed out. Digital signage can be used to hybridize the online and offline shopping experiences by providing personalization and enhanced brand engagement, the author mentioned. 

Unifying the e-commerce and brick-and-mortar experiences is particularly crucial for retailers, according to Jay, because a third of all consumers worldwide use multiple channels to shop. By using digital signage as the customer-facing image of a retailer, the author said, brands can showcase their messages and help facilitate a digital customer's transition to the real-world retail experience.

Signs that smile back
Digital signage doesn't have to be a one-way street, either. While strong messages can give a customer insight into a brand, digital signs can give SMB owners insights into their customers.

With anonymous viewer analytics, owners can use sensors integrated into a sign to see what kind of person is looking at it – age, gender, etc. – and other useful metrics such as how long customers see the sign, whether that content is being perceived and how the audience responds to it, and whether signage placement has been optimized through the store. 

Messaging can have built-in context awareness. Showing different messages at various times of the year, or targeting messages to different demographics using AVA, or using beacons/NFC to interface with a customer's smartphone apps to deliver hyper-personalized messages provides a deep layer of brand awareness through multiple channels

There are a countless number of applications for digital signage. As more SMBs turn toward using digital signage to improve customer engagement and help brand awareness, it's important that those businesses find creative ways to use signage as more than just fancy billboards.