Digital Signage vs. Print Signage: Which Is Best for Franchises?

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In an era where businesses are continually seeking innovative ways to enhance customer experiences, the debate between digital and traditional — or print — signage has never been more relevant. This decision is pivotal, not just for bolstering customer engagement, but for maintaining brand consistency across various locations.  

Digital Signage vs. Traditional Signage 

At the heart of modern marketing strategies, digital signage emerges as a powerful tool, offering dynamic and interactive capabilities that traditional print signage struggles to match. Its ability to provide real-time updates and display a wide range of content, from eye-catching videos to interactive touch screens, presents a significant advantage, especially for franchises. The customization and visual appeal of digital signage not only attract more attention, but also offer a personalized experience to customers. This is particularly beneficial for franchises, where maintaining consistent yet adaptable branding across locations is key. 

The initial setup for digital signage might seem daunting due to the costs associated with purchasing displays, media players, and content management software, not to mention installation and ongoing expenses like maintenance and electricity consumption. However, the long-term benefits of digital signage often outweigh these initial costs, especially for franchises requiring frequent message updates. For instance, digital signage allows for the remote updating of content, eliminating the need for physical replacements and thus reducing long-term, recurring costs and ensuring brand messaging remains consistent and timely across all franchise locations. In fact, among consumers who noticed digital billboards, 93% who visited the business made a purchase, according to Nielsen and OAAA research. The increase in sales should more than cover any upfront investments. 


(Source: Nielsen)

Conversely, the advantages of print advertising and signage are reliability and cost-effectiveness. For franchises, print signage might be a dependable option for permanent or semipermanent displays, contributing to brand consistency and recognizability. Furthermore, its simplicity ensures that promotional and branding messages are conveyed effectively without reliance on electricity or sophisticated technology. 

Of the pros and cons of print advertising, two stand out. While traditional print signage might be cheaper upfront, its use involves repeated costs for content updates, including design, printing, distribution, and installation. For franchises that need to frequently update their messaging — whether for promotions, seasonal offerings, or new services — the costs and logistical challenges of print updates can become significant, whereas digital signage requires minimum upkeep and low maintenance costs.   

When weighing the pros and cons of digital signage and traditional signage, it’s crucial for businesses to evaluate not just the initial investment but also the long-term implications of their signage strategy. 

Traditional Signage 
Digital Signage  
Initial investment 
Ongoing costs 
$500-$20,000 per printed sign 
$10-$50 per month for software 
Maintenance & upkeep 
Can’t be easily updated; must print new signs to display new content. 
Real-time updates and customization result in less maintenance and replacements, plus fresher content. 
Real-time interaction & personalization 
Limited options for interaction (QR codes can provide some level of interactivity) or personalization without printing new signs. 
Ability to hyper-personalize based on time of day, inventory, location, etc. 
Analytics & insights 
Measuring ROI quickly and accurately is difficult. Must rely on surveys, dedicated phone numbers, unique coupon codes, etc.   
Digital signage systems can provide real-time, detailed analytics and metrics about how people interact with displayed content. 
Large amounts of paper and ink cartridges must be used, which is harmful to the environment. 
Modern digital signage systems are energy efficient and last longer than printed materials, reducing waste. 

Flexibility and Adaptability: Digital Takes the Lead 

Digital signage’s real-time content update capabilities offer unparalleled flexibility, crucial for franchises operating in dynamic markets. Real-time updates and targeted messaging allow franchisors to respond quickly to market and environmental changes, inventory shortages or surpluses, promotional opportunities, and more, ensuring that each location can tailor its communication to local audiences while maintaining overarching brand standards.  

Moreover, digital content management systems streamline the process of updating and managing content across various screens and locations, allowing for consistent messaging and providing valuable analytics for optimizing engagement. From an environmental and operational standpoint, digital signage minimizes physical material waste and logistical challenges associated with print signage, aligning with sustainability goals and improving operational efficiency. 

Digital signage’s ability to engage a variety of demographics makes it especially valuable for franchisors. It appeals to younger, tech-savvy customers with dynamic content, and rotating messaging makes it possible to reach multilingual audiences. Additionally, digital signage’s flexibility ensures that promotions and information can be customized to fit the local audience of each franchise location. Digital signage also allows for dayparting, where you can promote different items based on the time of day. For example, you can push breakfast items in the morning and snacks in the afternoon or announce the next fitness class in a full-screen promotion. You can even take dayparting personalization a step further if you know when different types of customers frequent your establishment and then cater your messaging to speak to them directly.  

Measuring the effectiveness of a digital signage strategy is easier than that of a print strategy. For print, you have limited options to determine ROI. QR codes, unique coupons or phone numbers, or customer surveys are some of the only ways to evaluate the impact, which can take time and lack precision. Digital signage, on the other hand, provides detailed analytics on how customers interact with the content, including measurements on the length of engagement with specific content and which content most resonates with certain audiences or demographics. For example, Digital Signage Today reports that digital displays capture 400% more views than static ones and have an 83% recall rate. These kinds of insights can all be gleaned in real time, so it’s possible to make adjustments quickly to improve outcomes.  


(Source: Digital Signage Today)

The future of print media in the digital era isn’t totally obsolete, of course. Print signage can be an effective tool for certain applications within the franchise model, such as permanent branding elements or signage in areas where digital technology might not be feasible. Its tactile quality and simplicity can complement digital strategies, offering a multifaceted approach to customer engagement. 

Embracing the Future With Digital Signage 

As we explore the digital signage vs. traditional signage debate, it becomes clear that digital signage’s dynamic interaction capabilities, real-time content updates, and adaptability to future trends make it an indispensable tool for franchisors aiming to enhance customer experiences and stay competitive — especially considering that 80% of brands using digital signage have experienced an increase in sales up to 33%. By integrating seamlessly with other digital marketing strategies, enabling consistent messaging, and offering valuable analytics, digital signage not only captures diverse audience attention, but also provides a sustainable, future-proof approach to customer and employee communication. 

For franchisors looking to make an informed choice, the path forward involves considering not just immediate needs but also long-term customer engagement and operational efficiency. Digital signage represents more than a new marketing tool. It’s an investment in a strategy that ensures relevance and competitiveness in an ever-evolving digital landscape.   

Discover how digital signage can transform your franchise’s communication and customer engagement strategies at Rockbot. 

Sarah Fruy

Sarah Fruy is an entrepreneurial marketing executive with nearly 20 years of B2B and B2C experience in the online advertising, SaaS, influencer marketing, digital media, and website operations industries, along with numerous marketing certifications from the Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management. As the vp of marketing at Rockbot, Fruy is responsible for everything from brand and product marketing to growth marketing and demand generation.