Increasing the margins on digital-signage projects in light commercial and retail environments demands maintaining a delicate balance between competitive differentiation and cost. Customers typically have very thin margins, which prevents them from making expensive capital investments in AV. However, recent advances in remote-monitoring-and-management (RMM) technology leveraged within an AV-as-a-Service (AVaaS) model can help achieve a project win that boosts revenue for integrators and that drives value and flexibility for customers. This can increase the size of the project or the frequency of refresh cycles.
In the traditional AV-sales model, the customer pays the quoted estimate upfront, and that is typically the whole of the customer’s capital investment. AVaaS, conversely, transitions that cost into a monthly operational expense. This transition allows customers to spread out their AV budget while gaining additional support services that are typically value engineered out of a project proposal. Those services lie at the heart of the AVaaS model. Not only are they competitive differentiators, but they also add to project value and strengthen customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Among those services, RMM has the greatest potential to help ensure a successful AVaaS effort, without significantly increasing financial risk to the integrator. Until recently, RMM took an extraordinary amount of resources to develop, implement and support. For that reason, it was mostly cost prohibitive for all but the largest national integrators and commercial installations. Now, however, integrators can take advantage of a new breed of RMM technologies evolving out of the residential space and into light commercial and retail digital-signage applications.
Three things are happening that make RMM not only possible outside of residential applications, but, in fact, necessary. First, more AV components, such as displays, are digital, allowing them to be controlled remotely. Second, assurance of uptime is critical, and it can be done easily when RMM services are built around global platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure. Third, security technology that allows cloud services to operate in commercial environments is rapidly advancing. What was originally designed to turn outlets on and off in the home is now a sophisticated system that boasts robust security measures and ease of operation, and that allows integrators to manage digital-signage installations at multiple sites.
In a restaurant franchise or a retail store, content for a digital-signage system is typically broadcast and updated from the brand’s central headquarters or content service provider. The content broadcaster might be responsible for hundreds of locations. Often, a particular brick-and-mortar location doesn’t have any control over the content on its screens; worse still, if the system goes down, employees and even local management might be powerless to fix it. This means the loss of potential advertising revenue and customer engagement.
This is where an affordable, yet robust, RMM solution can deliver tremendous value. When an RMM solution is bundled with the hardware and installation labor, integrators meet the customer’s design objectives while, simultaneously, insuring against downtime. The integrator can be alerted to a display that’s hung up, perform a soft shutdown, restart remotely and run diagnostics—all before the customer even picks up the phone. Some RMM systems also include monitoring, self-healing and advanced logging.
The market for cloud-based RMM solutions is broadening. Therefore, integrators should narrow down manufacturing partners by examining those that have prioritized security and that deliver on the promises made in an AVaaS contract. Any weak link in the network poses a potential security and privacy risk, and commercial customers will have zero tolerance for introducing new threats to their business.
For integrators looking to sell their clients on a bundled AVaaS digital-signage offering, the best pitch is to take a systems approach. Due to limited margins, digital-signage systems are typically assembled from low-cost components, each of which can increase the risk of long-term performance problems. By utilizing a systems approach with AVaaS and RMM, integrators can meet the customer’s design and budget objectives with the whole system in mind—mounting, networking, thermal, security, signal transmission, content streaming, connectivity, wire routing and power. When every piece of hardware and software is integrated from the very beginning, the deployment delivers the reliability and experience that customers expect. That, in turn, cultivates customer loyalty while, at the same time, reducing integrator risk. This will ensure a profit cycle for years to come.