The holidays are over, and as we enter 2017, we’re gearing up for NRF’s Big Show, retail’s largest trade event of the year. That’s fitting, given the amount of time I spent in the mall last month, searching for the perfect gifts for my friends and family.

I hit a bunch of stores, many of which I wouldn’t normally enter, but that gave me the perfect opportunity to check out their retail digital signage. I saw some great examples of it. A couple of stores were using street-facing signage to effectively capture attention and drive store traffic. Others were leveraging video wall displays to deliver a compelling in-store experience.

Unfortunately, though, most of what I saw was less than inspiring, serving more as a reminder of what not to do than as a way to increase store traffic and generate sales. Three of the most glaring mistakes had to do with integration, installation and lack of attention to important details.

Digital signage should be tightly integrated with store design

Retail digital signage

First, I do have to say congratulations to the visual merchandisers and store designers out there. Most of the stores I visited were well-designed: stunning wood and metal fixturing, innovative merchandising strategies and great lighting. Considerable thought clearly went into making sure those components were tightly integrated for a cohesive store experience.

But when digital signage was part of the mix, it often felt like an afterthought. While static signage and light boxes were integrated into the environment and finished with the same care as the rest of the store, digital signs were simply hung on the wall, with no apparent strategy or purpose. Digital signage achieves better results when it’s fully incorporated into the total store experience.

Installation matters

Let’s be clear: not all digital signage installations require the same level of finish. In some environments, it’s totally appropriate to simply mount displays on the wall. However, regardless of whether signs are flanked by wood grain fixturing or hanging from the ceiling, installation matters. I was surprised to see so many installations where cables were visible, and even a video wall with big gaps between its screens. Good, clean installation is important whether you’re a bargain brand or a premium brand. Anything else detracts from a display’s effectiveness.

Details are important, too

Even if your content strategy is on point and installation is perfect, little things can mean the difference between displays that lead to results and those that don’t. I was really surprised at the number of displays that were too dark. One in particular was next to a gorgeous light box display that was floor-to-ceiling and bright white; you could see it from hundreds of feet away. The adjacent display was a bit too small and the brightness was turned down way too far. The large, well-lit display completely overshadowed the small, dark display, rendering it ineffective as anything but a bad example of signage.

We talk a lot about how essential a well-thought-out strategy is when developing a digital signage solution, and it is and always will be the foundation of your program. But you can do so many things right in the planning phase and still have so much go wrong in execution. Once you know the why of your digital signage program, make sure you put an equal amount of thought and effort into the how. That way, your implementation will be as good as your strategy – and good at getting you the results you need, too.

Did you know 40% of shoppers say the in-store experience is one retailers need to improve most? Get our guide to measuring the impact of your retail digital signage to see if your solution is effective.