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Examining Metrics, Part 2

Examining Metrics, Part 2

Marketing Results, not Hardware and Software

Even though digital signage in the retail space is not a mature market, we’ve already seen the establishment of some assumptions among end users. One is that “metrics” —some combination of proof of play, sales lift results, demographic targeting — are required to prove the ROI of a network before, during, or after the rollout.

In Part I or this article, in the last issue, we reexamined the suppositions, discussing that most digital signage rollouts in retail are not tied to such metrics. Rather, they are often part of a multichannel strategy where no one channel — in store, web, print, etc. — has to singularly justify its existence and strategic contribution. Now, we’ll turn our attention to the new metric tools available in 2011 that might help change this.

Here’s the scenario: A major beverage CPG’s shopper marketing team is sitting down for a reporting meeting with one of their major supermarket customers. The focus this week is around the instore digital signage results for a new beverage product called “Squeeze” that launched at the beginning of the month.

“What do we have?” says the beverage team.

“Well, we are definitely seeing that Spot 1 is outperforming Spot 2 by miles,” the supermarket says. “When we ran them against each other in the same stores, Spot 1 had an average ‘attention capture’ of 22 percent on the in-store digital network — that’s 15 percent better than our overall average! Spot 2 was only at 3 percent.”

“What’s your hypothesis for why?” beverage team inquires.

“We discussed it internally and think it’s because our seasonal signage is blanketing the store in Spring Green. Spot 2 is focusing in on the lime essence of your beverage with a green background. Spot 1 is yellow…and we think it’s standing out like a beacon against everything else in the store.”

“Hmm,” beverage teams says. “Great learning. We need to make sure our creatives are looking at the color palette of the planned store signage when we place our buys. We also need to do some neuroscience testing on the impact of the color yellow versus green to see if we learn anything on the emotional effect one has over the other. Okay, what else?”

“Of the people who paid attention to Spot 1, 22 percent moved to the nearby display and 72 percent purchased. When we compare that against the ‘dark’ periods when your spot didn’t run to promote Squeeze, we are proving a 122 percent increase in sales.”

“Excellent,” beverage team says. “Pull Spot 2 for the rest of this month’s buy and we’re going to increase our spend with Spot 1. But we’re going to throw another version into rotation with that yellow background…we want to test a mobile coupon. We’ll get that to you at the end of the week and in our next meeting we want you to report on how many cashed in on the mobile coupon and how it affected sales against the other spot. Thanks!”

When the beverage team regroups later, they compare the results they saw against those from the supermarket’s major competitor and see that Spot 2 with the green background performed quite well in the competitive stores. Feeling confident that the issue was the surrounding green signage, they take the learning to the merchandising teams to consider for their planning efforts regarding product packaging and store signage. Obviously, they need to be sure that all of their in-store marketing is in high contrast to the colors surrounding both their product and their messaging elements.

They then do the math and note that the cost per sale (CPS) on the digital signage investment for that store’s Squeeze launch was 9 cents. Compared to the mobile CPS of 16 cents, online at 22 cents, and TV of $3, it was a steal.

This is not an implausible scenario. In fact, the data that makes it possible is available — right now. It’s just not stitched together quite as eloquently. But it could be.

Here are the tools we now have:

  • Path tracking via cameras installed into ceiling and security cameras as well as location-based mobile ‘opt in.’
  • Gaze tracking at the shelf, some even tracking the movement of the eye.
  • Motion detection at and around the display.
  • Mobile response via SMS coupons or 2D scans.
  • Digital signage software that time stamps spots for marrying into the above data.
  • POS systems that also time stamp sales for marrying into the above data.
  • Sophisticated data analytics engines that crunch results flowing in online, mobile, and TV.

So what’s the problem? Why is our digital signage reporting not happening this way yet?

Well, it’s not that easy.

First off, some of these tracking devices have potentially inflammatory privacy issues that haven’t been ironed out yet. I have personally dealt with client legal departments that have zero appetite for being the first brand to get publicly crucified for tracking shoppers in store without their permission. For this reason, a group of us on the POPAI Digital Signage Advocacy Group worked with the top privacy organizations to create guidelines for reference. Called “Best Practices: Recommended Code of Conduct for Consumer Tracking Research,” it’s available free for download on their site (http://www.popai.com/docs/DS/2010dscc.pdf).

The second big issue is that knitting all of this data together is just plain hard. The data streams need to reside in open source systems that can hook into others and be assimilated into a holistic reporting system. To do this, someone has to invest in the reporting system and everyone involved has to be willing to share their data and work diligently to make it all hum together. I’ve seen plenty of desire over the years to make this real and feel strongly that someone will finally realize the vision this year. We’d love your feedback if you know of one already!

Finally, there is the issue that stores have not historically been open to full data sharing with their CPG brands. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to be accountable for lackluster results. Other times it’s because they are competing with many of their vendor brands with their own private label items and don’t want to lose an internal edge on these high margin items. But in many cases they just like to hold the power. My feeling is that this situation will improve as robust, holistic data sharing starts happening, as everyone will reap the benefits of proactively managing ROI by better engaging shoppers and turning more of them into buyers.

One of the most important points here is that, as an industry, we have to understand that advertiser budgets are divvied up and spent sometimes a year in advance. When “emerging media” opportunities such as a new in-store digital signage network appear, the internal teams have to first pitch to their bosses why they should invest in it. They then fight over what already allocated funds should cover the cost (shopper marketing, digital media, store merchandising, mobile, etc).

As noted in Part 1 last month, marketing today is all about measurement, and without the hard data outlined above, it is a tough sell. Here’s hoping that 2011 proves to be the year that this issue goes away and we start selling and tracking digital signage like sophisticated marketers rather than hardware and software vendors.

Laura Davis-Taylor is VP of global retail strategy for Creative Realities, a global experiential branding and marketing firm that specializes in creating wow environments and customer experiences. Laura is a yearly co-chair of the Digital Signage Expo, Chair of the POPAI Digital Signage Advocacy Committee, Board member of The Digital Signage Experts Group, and an “expert resource” lecturer and workshop teacher. In 2007, she co-authored the first industry field book, Lighting up the Aisle: Principles and Practices for In-store Digital Media (http://www.lightinguptheaisle.com).