#2013SignExpo Is Over But It’s Just Beginning

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

Well, #2013SignEexpo came to a close Saturday afternoon at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, a success for the International Sign Association, as usual, with a total attendance of 19,700 registrants.

Further, its 45 educational sessions drew a total of paid bums-in-seats of slightly over 2,300.

Rich Gottwald

Rich Gottwald

Of specific importance to the digital signage sector, though, is the fact that, while goal was to draw 10 exhibitors within the Digital Zone, the hard work of the International Sign Association and the Digital Signage Federation together resulted in a total of 19 exhibitors

A year ago, the sign industry wasn’t quite ready to take a leap from print to digital electronic signage, nor, to be truthful, not many in the digital signage sector were considering any business potential working with the static sign companies. (There were always exceptions, of course). So last year saw only a few toes dipped into the water.

The year was a different story. Both the sign industry and digital signage were ready to wade in up to their ankles, if not over their knees, to gauge interest, business potential, perhaps even develop some partnerships.

“We’re convinced that small- and medium-sized sign businesses will be a big market for the digital signage industry,” says Rich Gottwald, ISA executive vice-president. “The sign people, most of them SMBs, have long histories and strong links with their customers. But their customers are beginning to ask for digital signage, and, if the sign companies can’t give them what they want, those customers will find someone who can.”

Even looking across the regular exhibition floor, outside the Digital Zone, there were already a number of sign companies showing LED screens.

But there is a fear factor, an intimidation factor, that has been prohibiting most sign companies from taking the leap into digital, and both the ISA, the DSF and digital exhibitors all agree on the need for education to help get over the barriers, because digital signage could eventually comprise between 10% and 30% of the sign companies’ business.

And it’s not only fear of learning the electronic side of the business. There’s also a worry that their digital revenue margins may be lower.

It’s true that sign companies may have to make an initial cost outlay, but they must be shown how they can recoup costs and have a recurring revenue model, making money, for example, on content and, where applicable, on advertising.

And it’s not only the digital signage industry that was looking at the sign industry. There was a full education day where 140 designers were registered to learn how they could create a link with sign manufacturers.

In the Digital Zone, which was tucked away on the side and difficult to find, even you tried to follow the map, traffic was light each morning but picked up during the day. Judging by what we saw, a great many of those searching out information were from South and Central America and Asia – and on Saturday morning, for some reason, quite a few from Canada.

What they were looking for, and what were the thoughts of the Digital Zone exhibitors, we’ll leave for separate articles. (We’ll be writing several more articles over the next few days.)

As one exhibitor said, “We got quite a few leads, not in quantity but in quality. We’ll see how they pan out before we sign up for sure as an exhibitor for next year.”

Gottwald isn’t worried. “There are two tricks that sign people have learn: how to use an iPad in sales, and the electrical on signage. Education can help them learn how to make money on digital signage in the long run. The digital signage industry can help them learn.

“We’re going to grow.”

#2014SignExpo will be held April 24-26 (preceded by education day) in Orlando.

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