Digital Signage: What Is the Total Cost of Ownership?

Digital Signage Today. News FeaturesSeptember 9, 2019

Digital signage is an effective tool that is used to help businesses expand and reach new markets. Through digital signage, schools and offices have found ways to streamline communication and scheduling using engaging displays.

As the technology gains further acceptance among the modern business world, there are more options for acquiring signage solutions. Some of these new choices seem like easier investments due to lower initial hardware costs. However, it can be difficult for business owners to compare solutions due to a lack of understanding regarding all the expenses associated with these installations.

To understand the full financial implications of investing in this technology, business owners must look at the total cost of digital signage. This includes installation, content development, service, and upgrades. Here is a brief guide to determining all the factors that are a component of the total ownership cost of a modern signage solution.

Initial investment

The first place that business owners start when determining the total cost of digital signage is the cost of purchasing hardware. There are many components that make up a system, including:

  • Media players.
  • Displays.
  • Cables.
  • Mounting brackets.
  • Shipping.
  • Software.

Acquiring all the required parts can lead to a high price tag. This encourages business owners to look for low-cost alternatives. Android devices, Chromecast systems and chip-display solutions offer a much lower financial barrier than commercial signage providers.

However, as tempting as a lower initial investment may be, this is not a sound place to begin assessing the total cost of digital signage. Low-cost systems are more prone to failure, and any warranties on them will expire in a few years. Effective display campaigns run for years, and commercial providers install equipment that will last. Having to repurchase an entire system could lead to a much higher overall ownership cost.


To further understand the total cost of digital-signage solutions, business owners need to consider the installation costs of the hardware they intend to purchase. These can vary depending on indoor versus outdoor placement.

Outdoor screens have higher power costs and require a reinforced chassis, which can withstand the elements. The position of a sign can have further costs — signs located on the side of a building or near a busy street might require permits or routing electricity to the site. All these hurdles should be included in the TOC.


One of the major advantages of dynamic displays is its ability to display many different types of content. But where is this content being developed, and what is the strategy for keeping it current?

Business owners can opt to upgrade and maintain content themselves by tasking it to employees. Some organizations choose to hire an agency to perform this task for them. Another option, one offered by most commercial-signage providers, is to provide updates in a subscription package. This package is often bundled with the sale of the hardware components that comprise the system.

Whatever choice is determined to be best for the business must be included in the total cost of digital signage.


Electronics require physical maintenance, as well. This is even more true if a business opts for equipment that comes with a lower initial investment.

To determine how service will factor into the total cost of digital signage, business owners should consider the maintenance strategy for the equipment. Will maintenance require service technicians or sending the equipment back to a central facility? Does the equipment feature diagnostics that can let a service provider know if there are additional problems that need attention, reducing trips to be paid for? All these factors are a component of the TOC.

Furthermore, a business owner should be aware of the turnaround time on these activities. After all, if a display isn’t working, then it is not communicating its message to the intended recipients. This will have a negative impact on profits and affect the ROI of the system.

Long-term costs

Service fees tie into the long-term total cost of digital signage. A dynamic display campaign for a retail location is part of a multiyear plan, for which commercial display providers often offer subscription plans that last up to 20 years.

Media players require replacements and your content might require upgraded displays to reach its full potential. With a low investment purchase option, this may mean the replacement of the entire system.

Even with service providers, however, there are different options to consider. Display vendors can often be expected to provide upgrades and software improvements over time. However, some may even offer equipment repurchase. In order to gain an accurate read of the TOC, it is vital to assess the costs that can be expected over the lifetime of the campaign.

Using total cost of digital signage

Once the cost of acquiring, deploying and maintaining a dynamic display over time has been ascertained, the best decision can be made. Team leaders should look at overall business strategies to determine whether a long-term contract is a better option than a low initial investment. Whatever the outcome, looking at the full span of the impact of the total cost of digital signage will determine the best option for businesses looking to expand their reach.

This article was written by Mike Kilian from Digital Signage Today. News Features and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.