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Without a well-defined strategy, digital signage won’t have an impact on a store’s success. In fact, it will have a high probability of failure and will likely be de-installed within two years.

A bold statement, but one that in our experience is bound to come true. Technology is not a strategy; it’s a means to an end. Without a well-thought-out plan, even great technology gets pretty boring over time. Where would Apple be if it hadn’t moved from the iPod to the iPhone to the Apple Watch?  And yes, now even the Apple Watch is becoming boring.

Strategy comes first in a successful digital signage deployment in retail stores. As digital signage industry consultant-analyst Dave Haynes said in his recent InfoComm keynote presentation, “Your first question on a job shouldn’t be how many? It should be why.” That kind of discovery, he says, leads to strategy.

Key questions to answer as you develop the strategy for your digital signage solution include:

Your objectives. What’s the purpose of your solution? What are you trying to accomplish with it? How does it fit into your overall marketing plan? How does it dovetail with your other marketing channels and methods?

Being as specific and concrete as possible about what you want to accomplish will help you develop a better strategy. As Haynes said in his presentation, concepts such as “demonstrating innovation” and “engaging customers” aren’t helpful. Rather, he said, think about whether you want to:

  • Sell more stuff.
  • Communicate more effectively.
  • Make something faster, better or easier.

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Success and what it looks like to your organization. How will you know when your digital signage solution is working? How are you going to measure it? How are you going to report on your results?

Setting benchmarks and goals is critical, and the more tangible they are, the easier it is to define success.  Objectives-based measurement can include point of sale analysis, facial recognition for attention tracking and even something as traditional as a customer survey. Be realistic in setting goals.  Expecting same store sales to increase by 20% isn’t reasonable, but anticipating a major bump in product sales driven by dynamic content at the point of purchase is.

Keep in mind that not every organization looks at sales as the primary measurement. We’ve worked with clients for whom creating a particular experience for customers was more important than immediate increases in sales.

Your audience. Who are they? What kind of experience do they expect? How effectively are you fulfilling the brand promise you’ve established? Answering these questions will help dictate messaging and content strategy that will achieve your objectives.

Matching screen placement to the buyer journey. There’s both an art and a science to identifying the right mix of displays and properly placing them in a store for the most impact. Each screen should have a purpose and, often, a unique function that, when everything is taken together, contributes to the buyer journey and ultimately helps you meet your objectives. Displays first need to attract people into a store, then help them make purchase decisions and promote special offers to drive demand, and need to be planned accordingly.

Just because you established objectives and are basing measurements on them doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get it right the first time. Adjustments are typically made at the content level, so don’t worry, you don’t have to gut the system you just installed.  Evaluate your calls to action, the length of each message, your programming strategy and how each of those contribute to supporting the buyer journey.

Of course, you may well find yourself in the enviable position of having a digital signage solution that is delivering results with no adjustment necessary. That’s proof that careful attention to strategy pays off.

Or, as Haynes says, that just shows why “why” is your friend.

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