Ways to Measure Digital Signage Return on Investment

Posted by on Jul 2, 2011 in Advertising, DOOH

I feel safe in quoting Lyle Bunn when he made a sad, but truthful comment at the beginning of his lecture on metrics at the Digital Signage Show a back in March: “metrics is boring.” That said, I hope you’re not asleep by the next paragraph…However boring metrics may be, their importance can never be discounted in giving this industry general acceptance by numerical data.

Consequently, I have decided to coalesce some ideas regarding metrics and information outlining why metrics are important, how we measure them, what data we seek and what we can successfully do with the data once it is in our possession.

Why Measure ROI?

This may seem like a stupid and ignorantly rhetorical question, but its answer is essential for giving us motivation to measure metrics, especially in the wake of the “boredom” factor. In short, establishing a need for ROI measurement is must before we begin to analyze it. Otherwise we’re just blowing smoke.

In any business opportunity we must ensure that when we input dough that we have that and more returning. This may seem redundant, but oftentimes ROO is not even considered much less ROI. Although soft metrics can be used as an arguable reason to deploy, I’m not betting my business on “soft” and “feel-good economics.” Cotton candy business practices are as dangerous and haphazard as using wooden nails to hold up the Golden Gate Bridge: it may work in the short-term, with the exception of the arrival of an economic storm. We’ve all seen the failure of smaller advertising networks whose models were based on watered-down management principles.

Another aspect inextricably tied to ROI and our overall budding success as an industry is convincing media buyers and planners that digital signage is a viable outlet for advertising asset investment. Getting the media Titanic moved means the captain and crew are all on the same page. Then we’ve still to wait for them to push together. Until then, metric improvement and measurement must continually be moving in a forward fashion.

How to Glean Metrics

When gleaning metrics, we must realize that perhaps the best methodologies for procuring the data is by integration of preexisting technologies. Mobile, Internet, and Point-of-Sale technology are already inextricable tied to metrics. In addition, integrating these technologies with digital signage has and will continue to be essential for tracking return on investment.

The combination of technologies allows measurement in the following way: we can track—even in the weakest way—a response from individuals who may be affected by content on a digital display. When we have the ability to measure the resulting reponse rates, we can then use the data to increase revenue from sources looking to push brands on consumers.

What to Measure

What are we looking for when we seek an ROI measurement? We may be simply seeking numbers relating to vehicle audience, or we may want more opinion-based response info. In one of his lectures, Lyle Bunn expressed the need to follow the “4 Domains of Metrics.” In doing so, we intend to seek the following:

  1. Number of Viewers
  2. Opinion of Viewers
  3. Interaction of the Audience
  4. Calls to Action

The question which remains is how do we glean this information from the limited sources available to us? The following information will help us recognize how to solidify and improve our metrics measurement.

1: The World Wide Web

Narrowcasting is often pigeonholed. This occurs every time persons look at where it has been and not where it could be. When we fail to look outside the digital sign box, we fail to see the potential of existing technology resources in aiding our quest for better metrics measurement. One specific, and still underutilized methodologies, is the Internet.

There are two essential modes of measurement via the web when integrating it with digital signage. First, we can simply display a specific URL on a digital sign. This URL becomes a place where we can measure hits. A dedicated URL works best for this purpose. Whenever a hit to the website comes through the specific dedicated URL, it can be safely assumed that visitor was driven to the site via a digital advertisement. Measuring this traffic is a simple way to measure ROI as well ROO.

The second mode of utilizing the Internet for digital out-of-home metrics measurement is via interactivity. When we utilize touch screen technology with signs, we increase our ability to see where folks are visiting, what they want, and where their dollars are going. eCast has done a great job doing this with their touch screen, wayfinding digital signage. It’s like having mode one for Internet measurement right at the customers fingertips—a powerful way to view whether your digital sign is making its desired impact.

2: Mobile Marketing

Similar to interactivity through website integration on touch screen signage is the ability to interact with the signage via a cellular, PDA, or other mobile device, This is not the first time I have written on the integration of mobile marketing as it relates to digital signage metrics measurement.

In some cases mobile marketing, digital signage, and social networking have been brought together in a unique way—bringing audiences what they want and network operators the numbers they seek. It’s a win-win on both sides of the fence.

3: Point-of-Sale

When a customer interacts at the point-of-sale information is collected. In most cases, collected info can be used later to determine the effectiveness of the signage in the region. Because point-of-sale units are morphing together with digital signs in many different ways the future of the POS will be dramatically changed forever. The benefit of measuring ROI via POS is that a POS machine can output number of viewers and the response changes of the viewers based on the content displayed. It makes the medium’s metrics measurement more memorable (I know, I know, too much alliteration).

4: Audience Measurement Devices

Measurement device prices are still falling—reportedly to $100 or less currently. Such devices generally only allow for the measurement of Bunn’s first Domain of Metrics: “number of viewers.” The measurement add-ons are able to tell how many persons came in proximity to the screen and how many of said individuals actually saw the content being displayed. In some cases the devices will also report back generalized demographic information of the crowd it’d been reading.

There can certainly never be too much measurement. When the industry runs out of a need for measurement, there will be many companies who may need to close up their doors to make things happen. Can you think of any other ways we can improve audience measurement and tracking? If so, please let us know.

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