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Commercial Digital Signage vs. TVs: What’s the Difference?

The advent of digital signage has been nothing less than a revolution in how businesses communicate with their customers.

Whether it is an eye-catching sign with visually pleasing animations to draw customers into your retail store or interactive wayfinding displays set up around an airport so that passengers can find their way through a traditionally confusing space or even digital menu boards that highlight your newest special with graphics that leave your customers’ mouths watering, digital signage has countless uses that almost any business can take advantage of.

When people talk about digital signage, they are generally talking about the use of a digital screen (i.e. LED walls, HD televisions, tablets, and interactive touch screens) that, when paired with a digital signage solution (i.e. digital signage software and a digital signage media player), displays content.

This content can include social media walls, videos, animations, apps, wayfinding displays, digital menu boards, billboard advertisements, and so much more.

One of the biggest questions that businesses that are interested in setting up a digital signage network or digital signage system in their store or offices is whether to use commercial digital signage displays or to use televisions.

In this article, we will compare digital commercial digital signage displays with televisions and show why most businesses will likely want to opt for a commercial digital signage display if they want to get the most beneficial use from digital signage technology.

Commercial Digital Signage vs. TVs as Commercial Displays: The Basics

One of the core differences between TVs and commercial digital signage displays is that TVs come with more programmable software than commercial digital signage displays. It is easy to think of digital signage displays like computer monitors.

They can display visuals, but they need other hardware connected to them, such as digital signage media players, for content management, content design, and transmitting content onto the screen.

However, the need for additional hardware and software also means that digital signage has a far more extensive range of functions than a television. TVs are great when it comes to streaming videos and similar digital entertainment in high definition, but digital signage displays, paired with digital signage software, can be far more dynamic with the content that they display.

One such advantage is that digital signage can be interactive, which can greatly increase customer engagement and optimize the customer experience.

It should be no surprise that most businesses generally prefer to take on the associated costs of programming and installing digital signage instead of TVs in order to take advantage of their flexible nature and the ease of switching out their content when they want a change. There is specialized software to modify TVs, but it can be challenging to find and expensive when you do.

However, there are certainly some businesses for which televisions will work perfectly fine and may even be preferable. If the main purpose the business has for digital displays is entertainment, TVs might be the best option, especially because they have a much lower initial cost investment.

Below, we delve into these details and much more, as we take an in-depth look into the pros and cons of commercial digital signage and televisions.

Commercial Digital Signage Displays: Pros and Cons

As noted above, commercial digital signage is essentially a display screen. However, since digital signage does not come with automated capabilities, the associated digital signage hardware and software allow you to modify or customize it in ways that are not available to televisions. Your options for creativity are endless when you go with digital signage over televisions.

You can choose between various types of screens depending on their purpose. You might want to get a digital sign for an interactive kiosk, which would be a touchscreen. If you plan to put the sign outside, you should look for an LED screen that has high contrast and a bright display. If the sign is inside, you can stick with a cheaper LCD screen.

When it comes to plugging your content into the digital signage display, you typically have a few different port options. Unlike TVs, which usually only accept HDMI cables, digital signage often has various types of ports, including HDMI ports, to allow for multiple connections between your media player and the sign itself.

Digital signage often carries longer and more comprehensive warranties to cover commercial use, unlike consumer TVs. If you plan to have your display outside or are worried about the screen getting damaged through interactivity, that year warranty or more can be a real lifesaver. However, you should always check it carefully to understand exactly what it covers.

Pros of Commercial Digital Signage Displays

1. Interactivity

Unlike televisions, commercial digital signage displays can have interactive functionality. For example, if you have a clothing retail store, you might be able to have a screen where customers can search for an item and be told in which area of the store to find that item. Another example would be interactive wayfinding content in hotels, making it easy for guests to find their way to their desired facilities.

2. Easy to change content

Digital signage screens rely entirely on the software you have installed in order to read and display content. That makes it easy for you to switch things up. Once you have new content ready to display on your screen, it is often a simple task to change the display and show off your excellent new content instead.

3. Storage capacities and playlists

Another good thing about digital signage is the storage capabilities. Depending on the media player you select for your digital signage, you might be able to store multiple pieces of content and set it to rotate through those pieces in a digital signage playlist so that customers never get bored by seeing the same advertisement again and again and instead are kept interested in what type of content might come next.

4. Highly customizable and dynamic content

Finally, digital signage is highly customizable in a way that televisions simply cannot match. Whether you want to have a revolving series of pictures, a social media wall, current information about the company in real-time in the form of graphs and infographics, or a series of video clips, your digital signage can handle it.

Cons of Digital Signage Displays

The only real con of commercial digital signage displays is that they can be incredibly expensive. What is expensive is not only the displays but also the installation of the screens and the maintenance that some screens will require.

On top of that, you will have to pay for a digital signage solution, which can get pretty pricy. One way to get great content while not breaking the bank is to go with loop’s digital signage solution which is completely free and highly capable of providing you with top-of-the-line digital signage.

Pros of TVs as Commercial Displays

Given that we are all highly familiar with televisions, it can be the case that this familiarity will make using televisions as commercial displays easier since most employees will have no trouble working a TV.

Moreover, TVs definitely have a lower cost of entry than commercial digital signage, so they could be the best option if your business does not have the capacity to establish and maintain a digital signage system.

1. Sound functionality

As many of us know from owning televisions in our homes, TVs are capable of producing sound. Sound is a built-in attribute that you do not need to install or buy hardware for with a TV separately; the audio is already there. If you want to play video clips with sound, a TV is much more convenient than digital signage.

2. Familiarity / Less training necessary

TVs are more comfortable to operate because most people are so accustomed to owning them. Unlike complicated hardware for digital signage, you likely will not need to make time for separate employee training to teach your staff how to work the TV displays or how to change out the content when needed.

3. Built-in features

If you are using TVs as your display system saves your company money. You likely do not need to purchase separate hardware or software in order to get the TV to display your advertisement because it is more than just a screen. Most TVs are now smart TVs, and the fact that they are all-in-one functioning devices is much more cost-effective if you plan to purchase a lot of screens at once.

4. Brightness controls

Most TVs have the functionality to allow you to adjust the brightness levels of the screen, while this is a feature that is often missing in many commercial digital signage displays. This might seem like a minor point in favor of televisions, but this functionality can truly make a difference. If it is a sunny day, you can change the brightness of your television so that customers do not have to squint to see what is being displayed on the screen.

Cons of TVs as Commercial Displays

1. More power needed

Typically, consumer displays need more electricity to function that digital signage displays. This means that although you may be paying less upfront, you may actually end up paying more over time because of electricity bills.

2. Not customizable

The ability to customize your TV screens simply does not come close to the functionality of commercial digital signage displays. The content that you are able to display will not be as exciting and you may miss out on the potential that digital signs have for increasing foot traffic, brand awareness, customer engagement, and, of course, sales.

3. Less longevity

TV screens typically do not last as long as commercial digital signage displays and are more susceptible to wear and tear. You may find yourself needing to replace your TVs far more often than you would like, especially if you have your TVs outside. Digital signage displays typically have far better durability and a longer lifespan.

Choosing the Right Display for Your Business

1. Purpose

The first question you will want to ask yourself when deciding what type of display to install in your business or office is what purpose you have in mind for your digital display. If your main goal is to entertain your customers or to highlight simple information, then a television might be perfectly fine. If, on the other hand, you are trying to optimize your marketing or level up your employee communications, you might want to go with a digital signage display.

2. Format

What type of content do you want to display? As we said above, if you are trying to entertain your customers with the latest sports game or show a simple spreadsheet of events your business is hosting, a TV might work for you. However, there are lots of different types of content that a commercial digital signage display will allow you to display, such as social media feeds, real-time company information, video walls, web pages, and much more.

3. Interactivity

If you want to increase customer engagement or have another reason for wanting to have a screen with which your customers can interact, such as interactive menus in a restaurant, then you will clearly want to go with a digital signage display. TVs simply do not have the functionality for interactivity.

4. Size

Although TVs do come in many more sizes than they used to, there will always be more options for commercial-grade products than products made for individuals. Depending on where you want to display your content, you might want something much larger than any consumer TV can offer you.

On the other side of the spectrum, digital signage also comes in much smaller sizes than TVs too. A tablet might suffice for something handheld, but plenty of table-sized kiosks are too big for a tablet and often too small for a consumer TV. This is where the flexibility in sizes available for digital signage can come in handy.

TVs vs Digital Signage Displays: Conclusion

Making the decision of whether to use commercial digital signage displays or consumer televisions for your digital displays can be a hard decision. However, as we have shown, most businesses will want to opt for l digital signage displays. In the long run, you may end up paying less money, and the dynamism and creativity digital signage commercial screens allow for in marketing and internal communications will likely reward the business's bottom line.