With 22 million screens poised to appear in retail and commercial locations by 2015, there is no question that digital signage is hot – but, as with any emerging technology, many misconceptions abound, making it harder for business owners and marketing managers to separate fact from fiction.

1) Just Set It and Forget It

There’s nothing worse than seeing stagnant, outdated content on a screen that’s meant to help you provide timely information to your customers. Yes, digital signage is automated, but that doesn’t mean that you can schedule content and let it run indefinitely. To fully realize the tremendous potential of this tool, you must arrange for regular updates. For small business owners, this may mean scheduling a brief time each day, week or month to update or rotate templates – or taking advantage of feeds and features that update automatically. For firms with full-service digital signage content partners, just confirm the update schedule and be sure that you are providing updates to your vendor on a regular basis.

2) There’s no need for a content strategy

Rather than loading your network up with a series of existing print ads or flyers, sit down and step back to consider the bigger picture. How can digital signage support your brand and your business goals? What role should it play in your overall customer experience? In addition to promo announcements, what type of value-added entertainment, lifestyle or how-to content might be valuable for your guests or customers? Have you ever considered using your digital signage as an aesthetic enhancement to your décor, featuring stunning graphics and bold imagery as a part of your playlist? The possibilities are endless – so map out your priorities and carefully consider what content types make sense.

3) For geeks and gurus only

With all the marvelous options available to business owners with digital signage, it’s only natural to assume that something so dynamic and flexible is prohibitively complex. Not so! If you’re comfortable managing your iPod playlist or scheduling your home DVR, you’ll have no trouble navigating most digital signage platforms. Players today come with a web-based interface, so you can manage your account online and upload existing assets. Better solutions include a library of high quality templates and even industry-specific content that you can mix and match. Individual players can be grouped or managed individually to control content on all your screens. Unless you require a highly customized configuration, it’s nothing that requires a PhD or an in-house IT department.

4) All content is free

We live in an Internet age where information seems free and widely available. However, realize that all content shown in your place of business must be licensed for commercial use. This means that you shouldn’t feature images downloaded from Google, the latest viral videos from YouTube or movies purchased from a personal entertainment service. Appropriating the intellectual property of others is wrong, and often, the quality of the content and the resolution of the assets from public sources will result in an inferior experience. But, don’t let this worry you. Most digital signage providers offer a content component – either included in your system or available as an affordable add-on, and all the images, templates and assets include all necessary licensing.

5) Start-up and ongoing costs are prohibitive for small/regional shops

If you’re reading this article and thinking “Yes, I would love to think about digital signage, but there’s no way I could afford it,” then you might want to revisit your options. Screen and technology costs continue to drop and are accessible for businesses of all sizes. In fact, after the one-time investment for a media player and any necessary screens and installation, ongoing cost is usually a low monthly fee for content, account access and maintenance.

Typically, business owners see significant cost-savings by using digital signage to eliminate static signage. (Updating a backlit board can cost up to $1000 for a single update!) Plus owners of multi-locations love the convenience of deploying consistent content across multiple locations from a single account. Others point out that an active, efficient network is much less expensive than another full-time headcount.

One insider recommendation – make sure you purchase screens from a commercial equipment provider (as opposed to going to Best Buy). Commercial displays are designed to run 24/7 and offer high performance in a wide range of conditions, as opposed to screens manufactured for home and personal use. It’s worth more than the minimal price difference in quality and durability.

Do you have other misconceptions or comments to share? Join the conversation below.

– Submitted by Michele Davies, Communications