Printed posters have been around since 1798. Yes, since the time of the French Revolution. Well, the revolution is since long over and we are currently amid a new revolution, the digital revolution. While printed posters have enjoyed a long successful life, one might argue that this era is finally ending. In this article, we take a closer look at why this industry is in rapid decline and what you can do to benefit from the digital shift.
If your company is still using printed posters as part of your marketing strategy or to share information with employees and customers, it is either due to force of habit or that your organization is lacking a practical alternative. A decade ago, the number one reason companies used printed posters was because it was considered an affordable method of communication. The second reason was that it was considered easy to have an agency create a design, write a copy, and just send it off to the printer. Today, however, these are not viable reasons anymore.
A business in rapid decline
According to recent statistics, the printing industry in developed regions is experiencing a negative decline. The printing industry's struggles over the past five years have been clear, with more alternatives in the market that have increasingly replaced traditional printed materials. Industrial printers were historically central to both publishing and advertising.
Over the past two decades, however, rapid technological development has upended both markets and sent the industry into structural decline. The main factors for the decline can be attributed to costs and the emergence of modern technology, as well as a significant change in demographics. Other factors such as buying behavior, customer habits, and interaction have changed. With a more competitive marketing landscape, printed posters are no longer as efficient, and people are less inclined to be swayed and wowed by these static visuals.
Modern technological alternatives
Companies that have adopted modern technologies, such as digital signage, have had an integral impact on customer expectations. For a business that lacks the funding or creative vision to stay up to date, the risk of trailing behind the competition is both very real and dangerous. Technology has become a vital part of the storefront and tells the customer as much about the products you sell as it does about your brand.
Supplying a positive customer experience in all aspects is key in today's competitive landscape, but when you do not meet said expectations, the result can be detrimental to your business. The age-old saying goes "if you can't beat them, join them" and if you have yet to adopt modern technology in your company, you will quickly find yourself on the losing side of the digital revolution.
With climate change in full swing, corporations and medium to large businesses are also becoming increasingly carbon neutral and focusing on reducing their CO2 footprint across the board. Even though it is estimated that the printing industry is responsible for approximately 1-2% of the overall human carbon footprint globally, it can be argued that this data is unreliable as the raw materials that go into the printing often come from countries that have little to no insight into that information.
The covid-19 pandemic has given most established companies time to think of new ways and methods to do business, such as improve customer experience and satisfaction, and making the right investments for the future.
#1 – Customers demand a wonderful experience
For your business to survive and thrive, having a great customer experience is key. Let us face it, no one wants to do business with a company that treats you poorly or delivers substandard experiences. This, in turn, has a direct impact on recurring business and churn rate.
Even though eCommerce has taken a fair share of the retail market, people will continue to visit stores and businesses physically, even more so after the end of the pandemic. Being able to physically touch and see the products before making a purchase is still a valuable experience, and this experience is enhanced by the visuals of the store. Friendly employees, simple store layout, information points, and wayfinding are key to make the customer feel welcomed.
Having staff that is well experienced in the art of customer experience is one of many factors that encourage customers to return to your business. A simple store layout will make customers feel more comfortable. Finding products should be easy, even if your business has a wide array of products and categories.
Using wayfinding and digital signage to guide customers around the store has gone from being a "nice thing to have" – to a must-have. This gives the employees more time to engage with customers that need guidance, rather than just answering where a specific category is found or where the bathroom is. The same goes for information points. You can use digital signage to show product videos, features, and benefits and at the same time show relevant information such as where the return or tech-support section is located. This is the flexibility that you will not get with printed posters.
To conclude, to keep customers coming back and building brand loyalty, you must be willing to invest time and resources to meet the customer's ever-growing demands.
#2 – The cost of printed posters vs technology
A quite common question when considering digital signage is; "what are the costs for printed posters compared to digital signage?" Although it is a hard question to answer, since several variables need to be considered, we have created a scenario where we do a breakdown of the costs.
Using a simple calculation, you can compare the total cost of print advertisements vs. digital signage, and uncover which investment makes the most financial sense for your business.
To help you apply this calculation to your own business, we are using the example of a retailer with a store of 150m² that uses traditional print advertising.
The retailer has five sections in-store, with each section featuring two posters. As the store changes its posters twice a month, it requires four posters per section per month. See the illustration below to see how much your business would save.
As you can see, although digital signage or wayfinding has a higher upfront investment than traditional print advertising, within three years of using a digital signage solution powered by DatabeatOMNI, the retailer makes an impressive USD 2,427 in savings per store.
Think of the total savings that you will get if you apply this across the company over time, and how this affects the bottom line. A benefit that is not always factored into the equation is the human resources cost, less time spent on hanging posters and changing them gives employees more time to do other tasks. Read how Gant started using digital signage instead of printed posters.
#3 – Flexibility and scalability
Companies and people involved in working with printed advertisements and posters understand that the process is a continuous logistical nightmare. Managing many variables at the same time means that the possibility of mistakes and human error is big. One of the main drawbacks for posters, is that they are static. Their content and design are fixed and if printed incorrectly or a change is needed, then it is back to the printers for a new copy.
They also only show a singular advertisement and provide no flexibility. With dynamic solutions such as digital signage, you can change the message in an instant. Images can be brought to life and attract more attention.
Many studies show that businesses tend to see an increase in sales and interest after starting using digital signage - especially when displays are placed in prominent places combined with eye-catching material. Digital signage puts your advertising campaigns firmly in the present. With the ability for messages to be effortlessly updated with updated content anytime at the press of a button, the savings continue to add up. We all know that time is money. In just a few clicks latest content can be displayed on your digital signage in-store, across one or multiple locations around the country, or throughout the world. Just imagine the time saved, and thus the money saved.
You can instantly make updates to your campaign materials effortlessly, tailored to whatever time, day, or date you wish, whenever you want, ad hoc, or on a predefined schedule. With digital signage, the possibilities are endless. The scalability is also a key point for why companies are changing from printed posters to technologies such as digital signage. You can easily add more screens to your existing solution, and start showing content on a new location in a matter of minutes.
#4 – Sustainability
Sustainable printing methods are becoming increasingly popular as individuals and businesses work to reduce their environmental footprint. Advances in technology allow print suppliers to produce sustainable printed material with no effect on quality. Using methods such as LED UV printing, digital print, carbon balanced print, and recycled paper have been steps in the right direction, but at this point countries, organizations and major corporations need to make leaps, not steps to become carbon neutral.
Unknown sourcing of raw materials
Based on a report from The Association of Norwegian Publishers, unknown sourcing of raw material for printing products worldwide is creating a headache for statistical bureaus, NGOs, and organizations in charge of collecting the data needed to aggregate the current CO2 footprint. Information by certain countries is not shared either.
Well documented fact from the Rainforest alliance, companies that appear as the “middlemen” source the raw materials from unknown sources, and do not disclose their sources, partly because of the competition. This means that the illegal and vicious cycle of tree-logging for profit continues.
Is digital signage better for the environment?
That is a question that we often get, so let us review the facts. Digital displays use no paper – zero. They do use electricity, but there are ways to reduce the energy load and its associated costs for your visual communications. Displays, PCs, and players have become increasingly energy efficient with each new model or generation – our devices today use a mere 10% of what similar devices used 20 years ago.
Let us look at a screen that uses 40 watts and that is being used for 12 hours a day. The average cost per kilowatt-hour is around $0,12 cents, so that display uses $1.75 of electricity a month, or $21.03 a year, consuming 175.2-kilowatt-hours each year (based on data from Energy Use Calculator).
With green and clean energy on the rise and carbon capture becoming an industry that will evolve in the near future, digital signage is a clear leader when compared to the printing industry.
#5 - The effect of print vs. digital signage
We have already covered the cost of print vs. Digital signage, but what about the effect?
The effect on sales
A recent study shows that 4 out 5 brands saw a sales increase with of 33% after they adapted digital signage in their stores and franchises. With good digital signage content, you can increase brand engagement, which in turn can lead to an increase in sales. Digital signage is capable of handling multiple messages at once. With dynamic content and motion graphics, you can display content to a particular audience when right, and many ideas can be communicated in combination without messages getting lost.
The effect on the workspace
Using digital signage instead of printed posters can also result in a better workplace. Data gathered from the US in 2019 shows that digital posters with dynamic content resulted in fewer workplace accidents, a lower rate of absence, and increased productivity. The more information management shares with their employees, the more included the team feels which can result in increased productivity.
What will the future look like?
Traditional print media is certainly not dead, yet. Posters are still a reliable form of signage for smaller businesses around the world. Digital signs, however, have now proven their value in terms of engaging customers, as well as increasing foot traffic and sales. Emerging technology such as augmented reality, AI (Artificial Intelligence), and more user-friendly apps will all pave the way for creating the ultimate customer interaction and experience.
Nonetheless, in our current marketing climate where we are subjected to hundreds, if not thousands, of printed and digital messages each day, display blindness is on the rise and retailers must make more innovative advertising choices to gain attention.
Both digital and printed signage have their strengths and weaknesses, but with digital signage now being more affordable than printed posters, it is difficult to defend spending money and resources on wasteful and ineffective communication methods such as printed posters. The truth of the matter is that regardless of the size of the organization, digital signage is now accessible to everyone, it is no longer associated with a major investment.
If you have been debating whether to upgrade to digital signage from traditional mediums such as posters or noticeboards, you will hopefully have gained a few insights from this article. While some companies have gone for a combination of the two mediums, we are still seeing a trend where digital signage is rapidly taking market shares from the print industry. The question is if this is indeed a combination or if it can simply be defined as a step-by-step implementation.
As outlined in this article, the pros of digital signage in comparison to printed posters far outweigh any potential cons. While the printed poster has enjoyed a long and healthy life, digital signage is scalable, sustainable, and flexible in a way that can never be achieved with printed materials.