Though this is somewhat of an oversimplification, I see the increase in Electronic Message Centers (EMCs) use in business as twofold: Changes in advertising venue and advances in technology.
Changes in advertising venue: The customer base is no longer focused in a particular set of areas available to advertising. People don’t listen to the car radio as much as they have streaming audio from specialized music vendors and/or use of their phones. Television is changing over to programming which is off a schedule and on-demand. Newspapers have lost millions of readers to online media. There are too many places to advertise with little chance of a high return. On-premise advertising is becoming the major focus and EMCs offer greater flexibility and an opportunity for businesses to get their message directly to their potential market.
Advances in technology and manufacturing are lowering costs. EMCs which used to cost $100,000 or more can now be purchased for less than $30,000. This is a minimal investment when business owners look at the vast amount of money funneled into advertising venues which no longer offer the same level of performance and return as on-premise advertising.
Points for entry into the EMC market:
Resellers/Dealers looking to enter the market need to be sure they have a strong and solid PARTNER not a vendor. Anyone can go out to the market and find hundreds of EMC manufacturers who are willing to sell at a rock bottom price. The old saying is still true, “You get what you pay for.” The overall value comes from the service, support and availability of that partner to be there years later for the buyer to ensure replacement parts are available, issues are quickly resolved and the software/hardware for the system is routinely updated WITH backwards compatibility kept in line for support of older systems.
Overall there are a few things to look for with any vendor:
1. Quality of the components: What is the brightness level of the message center and how does the manufacturer achieve that? Do they use an IPC for the controller or embedded technologies? What is their warranty and (on average) how many calls a week does their service/support center receive?
2. Software: Is it easy to use? You wouldn’t buy a car without driving it, so test out the software and see how hard or easy it will be for end-users to use on a daily/weekly basis? Could a restaurant manager put up quality looking content on their LED message center within 5 minutes with the software?
3. Service/Support: Will the vendor be there for you when you need them? How long have they been in business? Do they have good references? What is their 5 year roadmap? (If a vendor doesn’t have a 5 year plan, be cautious as they might not be looking to be in business five years down the road.)
Some applications for EMC technology:
EMC technologies are being applied in many venues now. They were mainly used in entertainment, however they are an excellent medium for on-premise advertising for small, mid-sized and large businesses. Chains see the immediate value in reaching their direct market customers at the various locations and the integration of telecommunications and IPC technologies allow them to centrally control and manage large numbers of displays over vast territories. EMCs allow small and mid-sized businesses to have a cost-effective means of advertising directly to their potential customer base.
With the improvements in software and hardware, it’s easy for even the non tech-savvy end-user to put out high quality content on their message center which drives business and has a proven history of 10-15% increase in business*. Originally the majority of EMCs were capable of only basically communicating time and temperature; now they are being used to integrate with amber alerts, send community messages and allow businesses to communicate with their customers directly. Current technology allows for integrated social networking as EMCs utilize SMS (text) interactivity and the option for the communities and businesses to have immediate information pushed to the public. As the number of EMCs increases in a community, the options for use improve and overall everybody wins.
*Statistic drawn from a 3 year poll of 40 small-mid sized businesses from various industries in the New England area.
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