Managing Expectations for Metrics at the Local Level
How do you manage expectations when the customer starts talking metrics around your local retail network?
We have often explored the issue of metrics for atretail digital signage in this column. In most cases, all agree that qualifying the advertising opportunity for in-store screens must follow TV or web principles, as they are what large brands and media buyers understand. And if you are selling a retailbased digital signage system, understanding the reach, frequency, and demographic make-up of the audience is mandatory.
A lot of the focus on metrics for instore screens really is about national rollouts — those that involve multiple store locations across many states and many locations. But if your digital signage system is more locally based, being called on the carpet by the customer to prove “metrics” may not be in the cards — most local rollouts will succeed based on fairly immediate results, not numbercrunching before or after the rollout.
So, what do you do?
Local digital signage, like the kind at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, warrant a different kind of “metric” accountability than do national rollouts.
Start by changing the focus of your pitch
So often, we pitch the value of the media as it stands alone. As digital has become more central to how we live our lives, this devalues the impact of combining a smart toolkit of media buys to support an ultimate sale.
Jeff Dickey, founder of Vizual Networks and former co-founder of SeeSaw Networks and Doubleclick, feels strongly about this point.
“You’ve got to understand the environment that you’re in. What all networks, including smaller local networks, need to understand is that the playing field has shifted dramatically over the past couple of years,” he shares. “Digital signage doesn’t stand alone; it needs to be integrated with media that reaches consumers in motion, including mobile, iPads, etc. Consumers can now access product information, comparative pricing, and socialized commentary in real time. Small networks and local advertisers need to embrace this change technologically, creatively, and socially to maximize ROO and ROI. It’s the ‘new normal’ for outdoor.”
The point is strong. Local advertisers are looking for new and repeat business… they are about reminding people who they are and to follow through on a purchase. They’ve historically relied on billboards, yellow pages, and radio to get their message across — all advertising vehicles dying a slow death of sorts.
Hone in on this point with your local selling strategy. Speak to the indisputable fact that people are harder to reach traditionally and, when in shopping mode within stores, they are much more receptive to see and act on a message. That’s why POP has always thrived! But you have to help them understand that it’s not just the message — it’s what the viewer does after they see it. Any advertiser needs to think about the power of a killer call-to-action to close the deal. It must interesting, novel, and have at least some kind of performance metric — using RFID, Bluetooth, 2D, mobile coupon, or even a ‘mention this code word.’ Having it will create a metric for proof-of-performance that even the smallest of networks can lean on to back up the value of their network’s advertising.
Lyle Bunn, dynamic place-based media advisor and educator, agrees. “Smaller networks and installations have the inherent ROI challenge of having all the costs of ad sales, content creation, playlist updating, etc., with much smaller viewer numbers. Each location-based dynamic display must deliver increased sales, including shopper conversion at the point-of-selection, and through up-sell and cross-selling. Other tangible measures include increased inquiry about or active engagement with products and services being promoted.”
“This engagement,” adds Bunn, “can be measured as opt-in to programs and contests, visits to a web site, or mobile interaction.”
Bill Gerba, CEO of digital signage software firm WireSpring, takes that point one step further. “We tell our small retail network clients that if they’re called on to describe or defend viewership numbers, they’ve already lost the argument. In fact, we advise anyone with fewer than a couple hundred venues to ignore viewer metrics altogether and only focus on goals metrics. For retail networks, that means product or program activation — either measured directly via register receipts, or via some proxy like digitally distributed coupons or opt-ins for contests and promotions.”
Rob Gorrie, president/founder of ADCENTRICITY, agrees as well. “In-store location-based metrics are often thought about in the context of reach, frequency, opportunity to see (OTS), and similar above the line media metrics. It’s simply the wrong direction to be going. While it fits in with existing media models and needs to look like the same apple for some buyers, the brands and retailers themselves look at in-store digital networks in a below the line capacity — less GRPs and more ‘yes please.’ This means case sales and CRM acquisition and retention programs. If you ain’t moving cases or product or can’t demonstrate an action or a lift in some capacity, you aren’t going to be around for long. Below the Line digital media screams accountability, and you need to be able to prove it, optimize it, and improve it — even if it’s simply showing you sold two extra lattes today compared to yesterday or helped a store add three more Facebook fans.”
Get real about what you can feasibly measure…
Large retail networks have the luxury of large resource teams to help crack the metrics nut. Even with their manpower and technology, it’s still not easy. Small retail networks don’t have this luxury, so they have to focus on both the direct and indirect benefits that their network can bring to the local buyer. They also have to be more rudimentary in their measurement approach.
“Small networks and stand-alone displays usually have less tangible intentions,” Bunn shares. “When dynamic media brings ambiance, vitality, energy, and excitement to the environment, increased store traffic and dwell time can be measured with quantitative and qualitative approaches such as people counters or shopper interviews.”
But even small teams have to actively do something with whatever metrics are gleaned.
Adrian Weidmann, founder and managing partner of StoreStream Metrics, weighs in. “The willingness of the organization to react and respond to what the metrics are saying is critical. There are invaluable insights and trends that can dramatically enhance the efficacy and optimize the business objectives in the numbers if they choose to respond to what they are telling you — even locally. The metrics may be telling you that your content is not engaging your intended viewer, your displays are in the wrong location or too small, your content strategy is off target, or your message is not relevant to your audience. Listen, observe, and react to those numbers! It will take work, experimentation, and time, but the results will definitely make it worthwhile.”
Take advantage of the latest measurement tools
Some exciting new developments are in the works for our industry, one of them being the streamlined automation of gaze, eye tracking, and analytic tools with digital signage ad serving. As they evolve, we are sure to see some of these plays become accessible SAS options for even the smallest of networks. They just have to be utilized strategically.
“Small networks or stand-alone displays typically have minimal budgeting and time for analytics,” Lyle Bunn shares. “It is most valuable to do measurement at the earliest stage of installation — not so much to review performance, but to optimize the play loop and content approach. Anonymous video analytics installed with the display provides useful, low cost viewer metrics, (while respecting shopper privacy) for content planning and optimization. If viewers are not looking at the display, the messaging will not deliver tangible results. Content may be king, but measurement is queen — and it is she who must be obeyed!”
On this point Gerba disagrees, taking a 180-degree position from Lyle’s. Over the past few years he has published a number of articles on straightforward and affordable approaches to content optimization, so his approach focuses heavily on the inherent strengths of network operators and content creators. “Most small networks will never have the time or budget to make a convincing case about viewer numbers,” he explains. “In the few rare cases where they do have the data, they often lack the expertise to explain how (potentially low) viewer numbers translate into a success or failure at the network level. Instead we encourage network operators to be ruthlessly and myopically focused on measuring their goals and optimizing their content accordingly.”
The beauty of local is that it lends itself to localized sponsorships, promotions, content, and combinations of all of the above. The local network owner needs to understand their audience and take lessons from the media that has owned this same audience for decades, including local newspapers, radio, cinema and yellow pages. The more that the content and messaging reflects the needs and characteristics of the local population, the more likely it is to succeed.
Laura Davis-Taylor is Senior Vice President, Managing Director, BBDO ShopWork.