Our clients regularly move forward with a pilot to prove that digital signage can help them achieve their goals, but not all customers make it past the pilot to implementation. As an integrator, I step back to scratch my head for a minute and ask what happened. Why did this customer spend the money to get started, but fail to roll their installation out system-wide? What could have happened to dampen their passion and allow the project to fail to roll out?
The most important thing is defining success. If you don't know what constitutes a successful pilot, then how can you justify going any further when the pilot phase is over? Success can be defined many ways, but the best way is to choose your metrics purposefully. What metrics are important to you? Alert: You don't want to just track one metric because you may see gains in more than one area. You may be tracking the number of “sale” jeans that sold today, or you may want to see how many shoppers were attracted to and came into your store based on the signage in your window. These types of metrics are important.
For example, you could create an ad for screens in select locations featuring the jeans that are on sale. Now you compare how many of those jeans you sold in those retail locations versus the locations that were not part of the test. With the right content, you should start to see sales lift. It is reasonable, when the message is compelling, to see anywhere from 7 percent to 28 percent sales lift, according to several articles on sales lift, including ones from Walmart.
- Perhaps one of your goals for the pilot is to collect data to provide a basis for better marketing strategies or ad placement. A hypothetical cell phone retailer example might take advantage of an off-the-shelf software package that measures contact closures to determine how many times a cell phone product was lifted from its display. In this instance, the metrics would provide data to help you better understand your customers’ browsing patterns and purchase decisions in-store. There are so many ways you can go with this, but you must define what success means.
Setting Proper Expectations is Key
As an integrator, your customer has to know that an investment in time and money is required for content creation and content strategy for a pilot to succeed. They must have a clear understanding of what to expect in this regard. These systems are content monsters that you have to feed quite often with the right content. The content should align with the goals you are trying to meet and the metrics that you are tracking. For example, you don't just want to show a bunch of commercials shot for TV that your vendors are giving you to play on the screens. You would be throwing away your money.
If one of your goals was to track how many customers bought a specific jacket, then run a specific piece of content on the signage asking the user to fill out an online form in exchange for an emailed coupon code to receive an additional percentage off that jacket. Now you can track who was in your store that day and how many people responded to the offer; you will also capture the customer information for follow up.
Another very important expectation to set is someone must have “Skin in the Game.” This means the customer needs to put one person in charge of the pilot and tie their performance reviews to how well that pilot and it's content is managed over those 6 months or however long the pilot is.
A side benefit of a pilot is customer validation and confidence to move to implementation. Many customers are leery to sign the check to do a large system all at once, but after you have proven a project’s merits, it is much easier for them to commit. You have in essence debugged your installation and worked out the kinks before going further. This is important because you may find one component in your set up that doesn't work consistently. It could be a screen, a software package or even the player that doesn’t perform as expected. Now that you have found the obstacle, you can correct it and be much more confident in your rollout.
Finally, it is time to evaluate and define whether it was successful based on your original metrics. If the project exceeded the defined metrics, then that will be your best reason for the customer to move past the pilot. If it didn't, then you need to help your customer re-evaluate why it failed. Remember, if you do get past the pilot, don't stop setting goals and defining metrics because without them, it is hard to justify any solution.
Author Robert White will be co-presenting Seminar 23 entitled, "Getting Past the Pilot,” at Digital Signage Expo 2015 on Thursday, March 12 from 9:00-10:00am at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information about DSE or to register for this or any other educational seminar or workshop and learn about digital signage go to www.dse2015.com.
Robert White, manager of convergent technologies at Multi-Media Solutions, focuses on where audiovisual and IT meet. With Multi-Media Solutions since March of 2006, White specializes in digital signage solutions, having been to the highest level of training for many of the top enterprise level digital signage packages available, and he oversees all of Multi-Media Solutions’ largest digital signage deployments, both domestic and international. He also oversees all of the internal IT support decisions. White contributes back to the industry by leading the Digital Signage Special Interest Group within the USAV Group, and he has been a panel speaker at InfoComm on the Digital Signage Application Showcase Stage. He has also served on DSE's educational committees, recommending topics and reviewing proposals for the annual DSE conference.