Examining Metrics, Part 1

Examining Metrics, Part 1

The Metric RoadMap, 2011

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 demographic targeting, proof of play, shopper engagement, and sales lift results — are required to prove the ROI of a rollout before, during, or after the rollout. But let’s be realistic — are most digital signage rollouts in retail tied to such metrics? Or are most just part of a multichannel strategy where no one channel — in-store, web, print, etc. — has to justify itself on its own individual metric?

Digital Shopper Metrics: Are We There Yet?

In my last column, we explored the hot issues to wrestle with for 2011, and at the top of the list was ‘looks cool, but does it work’?

Once again, truly holistic results for digital signage results do exist, but they aren’t widely shared because of competitive issues. There are also very few black-and-white answers to the question because digital signage always “works” if it is up and running — but whether it works for brand and shoppers is often a totally different story.

Let’s look at this from the brand marketer’s perspective. After years discussing the merit of a “chief experience officer,” that position is finally starting to appear on corporate mastheads so to speak. The job of a chief experience officer? Look at every single place that a brand can interface with a customer, how they are touching them, and if it’s fulfilling the vision for the experience that the retail brand originally had in mind. If it isn’t, why not? And what could be done differently to change the current perception?

As much as our industry acts like we are a world unto ourselves, we are not. Digital signage is one of many, many tools that someone like a chief experience officer or a brand manager might choose to market their brand with. As with any other aperture, if they use it, they want to know as much as possible about how the shopper is or isn’t behaving around it and what ultimately influenced a sale. Only then would they be able to make an empowered decision about what to do with it next.

The challenge is that, other than networks such as the Wal-Mart Smart Network, most digital signage in retail stores is not armed with measurement tools. If they are advanced, they may have a method to accurately count traffic around the screens or perhaps report on sales results — but not via real-time dashboards or at the level of depth that most advertisers would want or expect, which would be a “cost per sale” against their marketing investment. This would allow them to compare/contrast the ROI on a digital signage buy against that of other channels with a common metric.

So what happens? They take what they can get — a pretty decent estimate of the number of people exposed to the screen paid for via a CPM, or the “cost per thousand” metric that most mass media is measured by. They then justify the buy with the notion that it’s just good common sense…having moving, highimpact POP messages where people are wandering the aisles in buy mode is as good or better than a television buy. But do they really know the impact that it had, particularly against the concurrent marketing activities in other channels? Not really.

Marketing IS Measurement

If you haven’t noticed, anyone in the marketing field today isn’t exactly on solid ground. The second that we think that we know what to do something new comes along and rocks the foundation of our plans (hello social media!). To quote one of our clients, one of the largest CPGs in the world, “We now have to be really comfortable being really uncomfortable!”

But if there’s one area that any marketer finds comfort, it’s with metrics. You know why? Because no good marketing today or in the future will happen without it. It helps us understand the people that we are trying to connect with, and reports whether we are or are not successful. If we aren’t, it helps us figure out why and change our plans accordingly. It gives us the breadcrumbs to follow.

In relation to digital signage, all brands are still struggling to figure out what tools they should use for shopper engagement. They are also struggling with how to tell their teams to use them…and where. This is because technology has rocked the very foundation of the shopping path, and today’s shopper is no longer seeing the physical store as the place where their shopping begins and ends.

This is where the topic comes full circle. By reporting on the results of their digital plan, marketers can track detailed metrics for exposure, engagement, and sale for both internet and mobile — but not digital signage. When reporting back to higher ups on what happened as a result of their digital signage buy, they often have to throw up their hands and say “not sure.” While we’re still in a transition from the success of metrics in other media, to a tentative launching of metrics in the digital signage space, this kind of ambiguity can often pass unchallenged, couched as it often is in the marketer’s track record, and/or a convincing sales lift where “a rising tide lifts all boats.” But how long will this be true?

In the next issue, we’ll dig into how to change this, not with promises, but with the tools now available.

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).