Digital Signage

The Formula for Retail Digital Signage

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The persistent challenge in the retail digital signage market is to find the perfect balance between digital decoration and the link to a measurable return on investment. 

At the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to repeat myself. Although does it count as repeating yourself if it’s been a few years since you repeated yourself? Perhaps I need to clarify why I am, to coin a phrase, repeating myself.

Once upon a time, I posted about the need to be able to calculate the return on investment for a digital signage project in the retail vertical. I got a very warm and fuzzy feeling when Lyle Bunn commented favorably on it. I miss the guy, he was a real gentleman and really knew what he was talking about. The formula was also used by several signage companies and students for presentations and papers, respectively. 

Enough drivel, here is the formula for retail digital signage. Firstly let’s take a look at the challenges posed by getting an effective digital signage campaign rolling. One that will not only look good but prove effective in generating revenue. Let us assume for the sake of less typing on my part that the client already has a functional Content Management System with screens that are able to display the relevant content. If we are really lucky they didn’t go the free software with consumer television route. That’s a rant for another time.

The first real challenge is space. Retail stores are designed to display as much product as possible while still making you walk all the way to the back for milk. Clever or insidious, you decide. This means that they are usually cluttered and assign a hefty premium to this three-dimensional real estate. Finding a spot to place that 86” display panel is tricky and this makes marketers unhappy. Anyway, finding the right spot to place your screens is the first part of the equation. Screen Position. 

The second place in the challenge goes to the amount of time a prospective customer spends looking at the finely crafted visual enticement. It’s called dwell time by those in the know. It was once mentioned to me that the most dwell time you can expect in a shopping mall is three seconds. Not a lot of time to get your message across at all. This lends itself to the type of content that gets displayed. Again, a rant for a different time. 

Speaking of content, that’s the third part of the formula, and the fourth come to think of it. The messages on the screens need to be relevant to the audience consuming them. Telling people in a coffee shop that Bobs Cars down the road sells cars, is a complete waste of time. They want to be told that no ants were stepped on when their Himalayan coffee beans were harvested, and the muffins have no gluten (or taste). 

All of this brings me to the formula itself. (Screen Position + Dwell Time) + (Focussed Message + Focussed Audience) = Transaction for Return on Investment. 

(SP&DT) + (FM&FA) = ROI

By way of an example let’s say you have screens up in a pharmacy dispensary. You have a good screen position because the people in the queue have no option but to look at the screens or die of boredom, the boredom adds to having good dwell time. The captured audience is in a medical frame of mind or they wouldn’t be there, so advertising the newest and unimaginably effective yet untested herbal remedy is a given. Finally having the advertised product on the counter when they finally do get to see the pharmacist will ensure a decent enough pickup ratio allowing the advertiser to get a measurable return on investment calculation thus proving that the system works. 

Simple hey? Good luck getting it right though. You are still going to find yourself walking into a widget store only to be told in huge animated letters that you are, indeed, in a widget store. If you are able to get the formula right you end up with a solution whereby the retail store owner not only gets to see the benefit of well-run signage but also won’t chase you away when you suggest bigger screens.

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