Indoor vs Outdoor Digital Signage: 4 Key Differences

Digital signage is a versatile tool. It increases in variation when comparing indoor and outdoor environments. Right off the bat it’s important to say that neither of the two is more or less valuable. You certainly shouldn’t think or try to get your digital signage to meet both sides of requirements these environments set.

Both, the great outdoors and the cozy indoors, present unique challenges for your digital signage, and advertising in general! It is best to work on them separately, and only if possible ideally have them work together. You will see their main differences consist in the goals of your digital signage, your hardware, the mentality of the indoor/outdoor audience, and accessibility. So let’s get started!

Differences in goals

Outdoor digital signage typically, if not always, aims to attract the attention of your target audience. It lures them in and provokes a certain response. For the main part, it’s used to inform or make the user aware about your business, brand, services, products, or whatever you want to share. Even a new need they were not conscious they had can be the matter of the outdoor digital signage. The intention is to send a message for quick and clear observation.  

When it comes to indoor digital signage on the other hand, one additional unique goal is that it can also be of value to staff and aim to achieve goals within a department. Said supplement aside, the principal goals of the indoor target audience differ from the outdoor ones. Indoor digital signage provides more personal and specific information to an already invested consumer. For example, a billboard or an outdoor display may tell the audience that your business sells the best coffee in town. Meanwhile, the indoor display speaks to the coffee drinker with a particular and immediate demand for coffee. It shows him a detailed offer, pricing, features, and more. While it should equally be clear and quick in providing information, digital signage has more time to work on the viewer indoors than outdoors.

Differences in hardware

Digital signage comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be as tiny as a tablet, or as big as a billboard or even a whole building front. This obvious difference in size aside, there are other distinctions in hardware elements which stand out when observing indoor and outdoor digital signage next to each other.

The requirements of the indoor environment are easier to meet. Inside, you have full control of the environment and it’s more stable! Once your digital signage is set up, you don’t have to worry too much about changing the brightness, or protecting it from any unexpected damage.

Outdoors, brightness is only the beginning. During sunny days, brightness needs to be cranked up to the max to fight the sunlight, but it must be adjusted once it gets dark. Automatically, if possible. If it isn’t adjusted, the digital signage becomes irritating to look at. You want your display visible. You don’t want it to light up the entire block! Any similar factors you cannot control, weather or malicious people considerably influence your hardware choices outside.

Another common matter of hardware is the LCD vs LED display battle. There are many differences between the two, but the prevailing one is that LCD displays are intended for the indoors, as they work best with fluctuating content. With excessive brightness or with content which changes infrequently, permanent damage can occur. LED displays are far better outdoors, they scale better and have no issue displaying the same content for longer periods of time. That’s why you mostly only see LED billboards these days.

Differences in audience type

Digital signage is commonplace and not rare to encounter in commercial streets. In fact, you will surely run into it on a daily basis, or however often you go to the city, that is. With that in mind, your outdoor displays will compete with competitor displays, alongside the noisy, distracting nature of the 21st century. This severely affects your strategies and approach, because the audience in this case will stumble upon your display unintentionally, and attribute it very little importance. Your task is to snatch their attention and keep them interested long enough to deliver a message.

Indoors, the audience doesn’t just stumble upon your display. They willingly entered your business. They already know what to expect and you can proceed with a more targeted and direct content strategy. Even in a mall where people walk past your store display, they know what to expect in that particular environment.

When used indoors, be it an institution or a store in a mall, your audience knows and expects certain things from your content. This gives you the freedom to go to a more personal level with your content. You’ve been given the attention. Use it!

In a nutshell, one could say that outdoor digital signage works on attracting attention of your target consumer, and prepares them for the goals of indoor digital signage.

Differences in accessibility

In what way can the user access and interact with your digital signage? While interactivity can be present in both realms, it's notably more comfortable and appropriate indoors.

Indoors, it is common for your displays to have interactive capabilities because, as we said, the user is on a more direct level indoors. Ordering, entertainment, browsing or any other purpose is very common, reasonable and expected these days. Interactivity makes things more personal, and that’s what makes it a perfect match with the indoors.

Outdoors, interactivity can be used as well, regardless of it not being so expected and common. For the most part, interactivity should be used within reason outdoors. It shouldn’t get too personal, because with a reach of hundreds or thousands of people daily for your display, it’s not too efficient. Plus, as we mentioned, the outdoor audience has different expectations than its indoor counterpart. That’s why outdoor ad campaigns mainly use interaction as a way to get attention and get people to talk about it.

As you see, both are unique and have specific expectations and challenges. When it comes to hardware, the outdoor world is a more unpredictable environment than the indoors. Your hardware must be capable of adjusting to the unpredictable outdoor elements, unlike the indoors.

While goals, your audience or your content strategy are very different in both environments, they’re equally important! Ideally, you should have your outdoor digital signage content aiming to draw the attention of your target audience. It should sway them into your grasp. Then, let the indoor digital signage work its charm and engage with them on a more personal level.