ROI Of Passers-By

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No tune is getting more play-time today than digital signage. In my conversations with friends at Samsung, LG, NEC, Sharp, Toshiba, Clarity and other display manufacturers it never fails that the subject of digital signage comes up early in the exchange. Their ensuing exposition recounts how each company has ideal displays for this niche, and each has numerous projects to hold forth as proof. Each in their own right brings a lot to the table but this is not the driving factor in digital signage.
Next, I talk to my friends on the software side, and they closely mimic what the displays folks are saying. They have special features or benefits with their transport or transmission systems, management and archival methodologies, and unique GUI. This is still not the driving factor in digital signage.
Finally, we have the content providers. These are the artists and graphic designers under the umbrella of advertising or media agencies that provide the creative ad campaign in an appealing way to entice someone to act in a certain way whether it is making a purchase at a retail store or becoming aware of a new product or program. We are finally getting close to the topic but not quite yet on the money.
Oops! Did I just mention money? Well, this is the topic; not money per se but good old return on investment better known to all of us as ROI. The CFO who really controls all things corporate must be convinced in a manner that they can wrap their arms around that this foray into digital signage is something that is tangible and productive and not just a flight of fancy thought up by an overzealous VP of marketing. All the pretty displays and wonderful graphics and ad campaigns aside, the CFO wants some tangible proof that digital signage pays and does not just cost him or her a bundle.
As with all things corporate in nature you must build the proper case. This begins with a clearly delineated budget with reasonable goals and expectations for the digital signage project. Some specific goals might be to inform the viewer, build a brand image and loyalty, change customer attitudes, and the ever-popular, increase sales overall or for specific products or services. The bottom line is to do your research and preparation homework before the pitch is made to you-know-who. As a caveat, do not overlook case studies that might help support and prove the validity of your position.
In the world of high finance, one of the most overused phrases is: "If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it." Another somewhat humorous axiom in the world of marketing goes something like this: "I know I waste half of my advertising budget, but I cannot tell you which half is which." Herein lies the conflict with our CFOs. They need measurements and some form of proof to give them the risk abatement that they require to sleep well at night.
In the quest for measurements to support ROI, traditional advertising venues are usually examined and most especially broadcast and cable television. Although digital signage and broadcast television are both viewed on a screen, the venues are not as comparable and quantifiable as you might think. Two key things to keep in mind is that the television viewer is somewhat captive, and there is motivation to stay and watch the commercials in order to view the next segment of a program. Secondly and perhaps most importantly is that the television viewer is at home and not in proximity to stores or immediately acting upon the stimulus of most ads. One fact that should not go unnoticed is that there has been a significant decline in the ad budgets for broadcast television over the last few years, and this can add fuel to your digital signage argument.
Some key elements of a quantitative approach might include testing to see what and how much is recalled from an ad, positive or negative responses to the ad, and, most of all, did the ad persuade you or motivate you into an action. If the accumulation of data suggests that a good cross-section of the interviewees recalled a lot of information and were both positively impressed and motivated to action then you have a winner of an ad campaign.
In digital signage there are other stimuli that will affect the survey results. Because the delivery medium is highly different than print, direct mail, telemarketing, etc., the way in which the message is conveyed must be examined. First of all, were the displays noticed? Were they easy to view? Did they have a positive impact on your buying decision or motivate you to action? What kinds of things would you like to see on the screens?
Remember that the experience of digital signage is dynamic in nature and can be changed at the whim of the programmer. It is located at or near the point of purchase, and the message can be more easily transformed from visual impact into an action.

The Benefit Of Years Of Experience
At the ripe old age of 60, I have finally reached the point where I feel compelled and frankly qualified to share with a broader audience what I have learned over a quarter of a century in this wonderful but ever-evolving industry.
After earning a "college degree" running a regional pro AV integration firm for seven years back in the Midwest and then a decade helping a talented group of guys launch the high-brightness and digital cinema revolution at Hughes-JVC, I signed up for my "graduate studies" in a 3-year stint at the Samsung boot camp bringing them into the pro AV market. These experiences have been enhanced by close relationships over the years with the icons of our industry on both the dealer and manufacturer side of things. Add to this mix my decades-long passion for teaching seminars in display technologies, digital signage, and selling design/build at InfoComm and other industry showcases, and you have the foundation for a strong industry advocate impatiently waiting to be heard.
This column will comment on the business, technologies and market trends and conditions that affect our everyday lives. We will tackle the tough topics such as the ever-expanding trend in products becoming commodities, how dealers and manufacturers can differentiate themselves, how to leverage what you know and who you know for win/win relationships. We will also take a look at new technologies and concentrate on the solutions they bring to the table and ultimately how to sell those solutions to your customer base.

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