By Chris Heap, Managing Director of the Imperative Group
The old adage of “know your audience” is as true to developing digital signage networks as it is for any communications method.
Whether you are developing a digital signage network for a client or on your own behalf, there really is only one person that takes precedence above all others.
That is – of course — the person you want to engage, the viewer.
For several years, the stressed term of the moment was “content is king”; today, it’s been proven time and time again that in fact relevance is king, and that without relevance, people (viewers) will see little value in any form of communication presented to them and will turn the page, flip the channel or — in the case of digital signage, simply look away.
To ensure the best chance of success with digital signage, there are five fundamental points worth considering before developing a digital signage network:
1. Understand Your Audience
Do you research on who shops or visits a particular venue, and when and how often they visit. Does the type of audience change throughout the day or week, and how frequently do they visit? If possible, use your client’s customer data to build up a profile of who your viewers are likely to be. These profiles will guide you when you’re deciding what type of content is required at what times or in which parts of the venue, enabling you and/or your client to precisely target viewers with specific, relevant messages.
2. Know the Viewing Environment
It is imperative to conduct an audit of the physical environment where your digital signage network will be installed in relation to how it influences the manner in which people move through the physical space. This has a direct bearing on any potential design of the network (screens and screen placement) and the content (form and function). Ask simple questions such as whether the venue lends itself to different types of zones to cater for different audience habits. For example, there may be areas within a venue that enable a viewer to watch a screen for a longer period of time (i.e., in a waiting area) than perhaps the entry or exit space of a venue. There is a direct relationship between the screen and the viewer in any physical space that relates to ability to see versus proximity (and clarity).
3. Design Relevant, Timely and Appropriate Content
Knowing who your viewers will be, what their interests and needs are, and how often they may watch your network will help develop the approach you or your client takes regarding content. The flexible, dynamic nature of digital signage mediums means that, unlike posters and other venue-based communications, digital signage can be highly reactive to a company’s needs or change according to the audience, which is why time is an additional and valuable component to the marketing opportunity.
For example, if you are promoting retail products and services, can you use the screen network to feature particular offers based on the time of day, the day of the week or the season that makes the promotion relevant to the viewer (i.e., if it’s raining outside, push umbrellas)?
Taking the concept of time one stage further, if you were on your lunch break and saw an offer on an in-store screen that said “buy me within the next 10 minutes and save 25 percent,” would you? If the same message then said “if you don’t buy me in 10 minutes, you can buy me in the following 30 minutes but with only 10 percent off,” would you be more tempted to buy the product in the first 10 minutes, the following 30 or not at all? Time can offer significant viewer value and be used as an enticing call to action.
In addition, the digital signage network should always provide helpful and useful information to the viewer to assist him or her in making better decisions. Inform viewers about the history of a brand, the venue or the products, or provide them with “coming soon” information to ensure they visit your client’s location rather than a competitor’s. A digital signage network also can help viewers understand that your client is an expert on the subject matter.
Entertain viewers where and when it is appropriate to do so. Digital signage networks have a commercial role to play but just like commercial television, if the content isn’t interesting, informative and fun, viewers won’t view it, so find ways to inject humor either in the content itself or in the way it is presented. It also is important to know when to keep content or how it’s presented serious.
Make sure that what a viewer sees is always correct and up-to-date information. There is no excuse for a lack of compliance in digital signage networks when it is possible to upload new content within a matter of hours and remove content almost immediately. There are significant commercial benefits to doing this but from a customer’s point of view, if it’s on the screen it must be available.
Match the frequency of the content repetition to that of the viewer visiting the store. If 90 percent of viewers visit the venue once a week, program the content to refresh weekly to ensure viewers see fresh content each time they visit. Repetition is not what viewers want and certainly not something a staff wants, so avoid it as best you can.
If you need to use audio, match its levels to the ambient noise in the environment — but don’t compete with it. If you do choose to use audio, make sure a viewer can clearly hear it, that it is complementary to the visual content and that it helps the viewer understand the visual message.
4. Make It Easy for Viewers to View
For digital signage to work at its most basic level, as many viewers as possible must be able to see the digital screens and the content on those screens without making any effort whatsoever. The more effort that’s required for the viewer to see the screens and/or content, the harder your network has to try to engage them, and the more likely you are to lose viewers.
The best outcome for any physical deployment is to ensure that all screens and the content displayed can be clearly seen without hindrance 100 percent of the time, specifically:
- 100 percent direct line of sight from maximum to minimum viewing distance
- 100 percent at eye-level (level relative to distance; does not involve “head turning”)
- High clarity of screen image (no pixelation nor reflection)
- Correct color settings (e.g., to enable a “true-life” presentation)
Do not forget that the physical size of a screen used should be based on a mix of the above points balanced against budget.
Consider choosing a screen that offers the right level of image quality for its use. Screens closer to the shoppers’ field of vision may require higher-quality screens than those placed further away. Image quality is relative to the viewing opportunity and the intrinsic limitation of human eyesight (Do you really need a high-definition screen if viewers are 20m+ away from it?).
However, high-definition screens may be necessary to show high-quality content if the quality is part of the overall proposition — e.g., selling high-definition televisions/monitors — so choose the format most appropriate to the needs of the viewer or the customer.
5. Delivering a Measurable Return for the Viewer
Viewers are phenomenally media savvy. They are active users of digital communications and trade digitally every day (They create Web sites, they blog, they text, they email, they use PVRs, they create their own DVDs, etc.), and consequently the growing trend is for the audience to be more critical of what is presented to them.
There are many different ways networks measure commercial return, be that increasing viewer spend, increasing the time viewers spend in the venue, facilitating repeat visits or engaging enough viewers to attract advertising spend — to name a few. This is all of course pointless if the network does not provide tangible, qualitative reasons for the viewer to view, namely:
- “Don’t make it hard for me to watch you”
- “When I do watch you, show me something relevant to me”
- “Save me money”
- “Save me time, and don’t waste my time”
- “Help me make better decisions”
- “Tell me something new, innovative and interesting”
- “Give me ideas”