In the face of increasing emphasis on factory image programs and corporate branding, it’s no wonder auto dealers are looking at signage as a way to gain a competitive advantage. With quarterly bonuses from factory image programs creating a widening disparity between older dealerships and newer, remodeled ones, digital signage has become one of the easiest ways to refresh a dealership’s image.

There are many reasons an auto dealership would embrace digital signage, most notably because they make tailored advertising easy to create and inexpensive to change. Featured inventory, sales and promotions can be updated in just minutes, a clear advantage over other, more traditional forms of signage. According to the National Auto Dealers Association, auto dealers across the country are searching for ways to incorporate more tools into their digital advertising strategy. Because an LED sign can fully integrate with a dealer’s online marketing presence, it can provide a vital link between live customers and the information they will use to drive a purchase.

As you decide when and how to make an investment in digital signage, it’s important to do your research. Here are five key questions to ask your digital signage manufacturer:

1. How long have you been in this business? Can I see some of your signs that are a few years old? Investing in a digital sign or electronic message center can yield big benefits for your dealership–if you can trust that you’re getting a quality product. A digital sign manufacturer may start the conversation by focusing on price, but your purchase should be the beginning of a relationship that will last over the lifetime of your sign. Consider it an investment, not a capital expense. Be sure to ask about the company history, how long they’ve been in business and their experience with digital signs. Find out if the manufacturer makes its signs in the United States or overseas and where they source their LEDs. Finally, ask to see some of their LED signs in operation and talk with a couple of the manufacturer’s long-term customers.

2. How are your signs built? The engineering, construction and materials that go into a digital sign can all have a significant impact on its quality, durability and cost of ownership. All digital signs should be UL 48 listed, and higher-quality products will carry additional UL Energy Efficiency Certification. Take the time to learn about how the sign cabinet is manufactured. Heavy-walled, extruded aluminum weighs less than sheet metal, is more durable and can reduce the cost of installation. Look for modules that are coated front and back in silicone gel to protect against the weather. Ask about heat and ventilation. A carefully-engineered and -constructed product will be the best investment for your business.

3. What kind of warranty do you offer? A solid warranty is a good indicator of how confident the manufacturer is in its products and how confident you should feel with the manufacturer. Typically, a longer warranty means the manufacturer performs extensive quality testing and will stand behind their product. Ask to speak with customers who have had their signs serviced to understand what level of customer support you can expect.

4. Do you have a dedicated service department? A dedicated, in-house service department is another strong indicator of a high quality manufacturer. Find out if the support team provides project management support before the sale and whether or not expert help desk support is provided free of charge after the sale. Ask whether you can count on local support through a qualified custom sign company and how the process of ordering parts might work.

5. How easy will my sign be to operate? A sign manufacturer shouldn’t expect you to be expert at anything but running your dealership. So, they should make their signs as easy to use as possible. User-friendly software and a rich library of artwork for the sign should be a part of your purchase, not an add-on. Talk with customers to find out if the software is intuitive and ask to try out the software for yourself. Finally, ask if the manufacturer offers training to help you make the most of your move to digital advertising.

Taking the time up-front to ask the right questions can ensure that you’re making the best choice when choosing a digital signage partner. For dealers like former NFL running back Mike Pruitt, it has made for a smart advertising strategy. According to Pruitt, the move to digital signage has given his Akron, Ohio, Honda dealership a broader customer base that clearly responds to targeted promotions. “Customers refer to the sign when coming in to get a car,” he said. “It’s that top-of-mind awareness. We’ve actually reduced our advertising budget by using the digital sign.”

For auto dealers looking for a smart investment that will refresh their image, a well-researched move to digital signage can yield big results.

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