Most content strategies do not meet the more complex needs of today’s digital signage deployments. It’s important to take a more holistic approach to set the foundation for long-term digital signage ROI.
Now that customers are demanding elements like personalization and omnichannel, there is more at stake in these projects. You can see it by looking at market winners. Innovative companies are stealing market share by simplifying interactions with customers. According to a 2021 study by McKinsey & Co., faster-growing companies drive 40% more of their revenue from personalization than their slower-growing competitors (“The value of getting personalization right—or wrong—is multiplying”). Their content strategy helps them go beyond a beautiful appearance to achieve ROI. Not just for Marketing, for the entire company.
But unfortunately, many content strategies do not establish the necessary framework - even for prototypes or test sites. Digital Marketing consultancies think in terms of UX recommendations, but there are larger issues at play. These UX-focused strategies will leave important questions unanswered, questions that would lead to deployment at scale, further testing, or failure.
If your digital signage project is stuttering and in need of better management, follow these 4 best practices to get back on track.
1. Set Digital Signage ROI Metrics with ALL Stakeholders
Without a score, there is no game.
Agencies interpret content strategy from a UX perspective. It’s important to take UX into account further down the line. But a content strategy places all of those hypotheses into the right framework.
For example, we recently worked with a Top 50 quick service restaurant. They had done a test with another consulting company. That test had been deemed successful, as well. It met their parameters. But when we sat down to discuss it, they could not say why it worked. Our first question was, how do we apply those findings? They could not say.
During our discovery process they established baselines and two major goals to come out of our work. They wanted to see a 3% increase in average check and a 1-2% increase in beverage attachment.
Over a 12-week period we tested the impact of our recommendations. Ultimately, we posted closer to 4% increase in average check and a 7.8% increase in beverage attachment.
Those results validated our hypotheses, but the results would have still been meaningful if we had failed. To be effective, a content strategy does not dictate what you should do. It gives your business a framework for understanding results, so you can create new hypotheses based on findings and apply that experience at scale with confidence. The creative and UX perspective refines based on the data.
So start by discovering the real digital signage ROI. These are the rules of the game. What are your objectives? Are you testing sales lift? Are you testing message retention?
To come up with that framework, talk to the stakeholders. Each brings unique objectives that you need to track in order to define success.
Discussing digital signage ROI typically elevates the project from a technology experiment into the business of every stakeholder, usually with an emphasis on Marketing, or Brand Messaging, where it needs to be.
2. Establish a Baseline
A common error in content strategies is to establish a baseline from general UX studies, not expertise.
For example, we were tapped by a Top 20 quick service brand to help them with their content strategy. They wanted us to audit a prior consultant’s work on their outdoor digital menu boards. The consultant was a well known global services company, but their approach to the project put the cart before the horse, so to speak.
They started by saying how the content should be displayed. Simply put, the agency said, “You need an outdoor digital menu board? Well, here’s a tracking study that we did, which shows how people consume content. This data suggests that you organize the content like so.”
But you don’t use tracking studies to create a baseline. You use tracking studies to validate what you’ve done to see if what you’re doing is making people look at the things the way you think they should.
We interviewed category management, the digital folks, the people that designed the menu. We talked to about six or seven different stakeholders. And then using their inputs, we refined objectives. None of these had been considered in the initial agency plan.
With those objectives in full view we went through the day parts, who comes in during which times of the day, and we baked that into the menu board strategy for digital signage. It looked much different, more targeted — not based on an eyeball tracking study. It was based on human behavior.
Know the Difference between Web/Mobile app and Digital Signage Expertise
This one is quick.
If you’ve never worked with digital signage, you’re at a disadvantage. Digital agencies that are more fluent with web and mobile don’t understand that with digital signage, context is incredibly important. With web and mobile, we don’t care about whether a user is in a living room or in a car (hopefully the passenger’s seat). Some mobile apps are beginning to consider on-premise versus off-premise, but they frequently miss context.
Prime example: It turns out that the tracking study mentioned above was too general to apply in a drive thru. When we look at a digital menu in a drive thru, we start at the speaker, where the voice comes from. If the speakers are located to the left of the display, then we look to the left of the display. That is naturally where we turn first.
Digital signage expertise is the secret sauce in today’s digital Marketing marketplace. It is rare but necessary for establishing a meaningful baseline.
3. Test, Validate and Change Iteratively
Validation is extremely important as a concept and even more valuable as a practice. You need to change your assumptions into hypotheses first. Then you need to validate or invalidate them with data.
Why is validation important? Because some of your assumptions are wrong. Prime example: full-screen takeovers.
A lot of customers, regardless of the industry, like to use these big, spectacular takeovers, Times Square Style. They think people love it. But they don’t test it.
In reality, takeovers can do more harm than good. They can confuse customers. They can slow down the ordering process because people need more time to comprehend what they’re reading.
How long should you test your digital signage prototypes?
We typically recommend 8-12 weeks of initial testing because the first month of data is inaccurate. It takes customers time to adjust to new things. If there’s an existing, digital signage network, people already have predisposed behaviors that you’ll have to change. And it takes customers at least a month to get accustomed to the change before results show up.
The first month of data does not give you an accurate picture of the future, but the second month does.
4. Cannibalism Is Optional | NOT a Best Practice
A lot of companies test, but they do not test everything. When constructing a content strategy, you need to be sure to test for holistic impact. Consider how the change you are making will impact other communications and sales processes. You are changing an ecosystem, not a POS.
For example, a lot of businesses are interested in using digital signage as a way for customers to fulfill their online orders. In a drive thru context, this would mean that customers order on the mobile app, then use the drive thru as an order confirmation service.
This strategy does not always work as well as you would expect or want, for two reasons. First, there is a technical problem with recognition. We need to consider the time it takes the system to recognize the customer, or design a streamlined solution. Most drive thrus currently require the customer to check in, which is an extra step.
Second, the board loses the opportunity to trade up because the order is already made. If your digital signage is good at upselling and your mobile experience is not, then this system change can lead to a decrease in basket size.
Make sure your content strategy accounts for the broader impact of the change on the ecosystem in your content strategy. But more importantly, track them.
By taking a more holistic approach to digital signage, your organization will set itself up to understand the true impact of signage on sales and measure digital signage ROI accurately. That simple capability defines successful projects over the long term, helping businesses achieve greater and greater value over time.
By Manolo Almagro