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Mainstreaming Digital Electronic Signage With Metric Optimization Software

Trying to determine when ads are at their most effective point is the golden ring many have been searching for in the advertising through digital electronic signage.

By Sean Scott

In todays rapidly evolving digital signage marketplace, the struggle for the perfect data to prove audiences and correlate its direct impact on sales is the equation that many companies and studies have attempted to market in this arena. Unfortunately, most have fallen short.

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  • While a number of research studies have rationalized and proven that digital signage implementations have caused a lift in sales of featured products, the connection of the dots to determine the placement within stores for maximum effectiveness of ads, the timing of the placements, and the impact of the placements on the cash register have been elusive at best. Trying to determine when ads are at their most effective point is the golden ring many have been searching for.

    Enter a new offering on the market that just may be the missing piece of the puzzle! This is missing link that will finally produce a standards framework for measuring metrics over time, and to determine optimal times and placements through general rules to fashion the most optimized campaign in a given store, cluster of stores or a network.

    Marketing science
    Integrated marketing science is the name we'll put on the puzzle piece for right now. With in-store signage, there are effectively two general schools of implementation: a single-brand in-store network that features the brand throughout the store, and the advertising based, multi-brand model that features numerous different manufacturer’s products across the in-store network.

    The problems with past studies showing that digital signage caused an uplift in sales is that there hasn't been enough detailed correlation to the time of day that the product sold; that is the days that the product sold to solidly determine the actual effectiveness of the digital signage system over time.

    While there is no dispute that digital signage systems do in fact cause a lift in sales for featured products, correlating this fact into metrics that media buyers and product manufacturers can sink their teeth into has been a bit of a gray area worthy of discussion in many forums, conferences and roundtables.

    The equation to tackle to solve this long running debate is a system that deals with the consumer response in a systematic method built from the ground up. The key to this type of implementation of a consistent framework for evaluating metrics over time has been the Achilles heals of many of the one-off studies. The need to accumulate the learned data in a common framework that can carry the learning forward in a neutral fashion allows the pool of knowledge to be carried on over several campaign cycles and to be drawn into broader conclusions over time. Not just to become timed data for the scope of a study and then effectively becomes merely historical static data.

    The concept of a living pool of data allows learned trends to be continually evolved and optimized perpetually to determine the most effective use of the digital sign system and produce the greatest lift in sales according to learned trends in a given store or network.

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    How does this work?
    A company called DS-IQ, a privately held company in Bellevue, Washington, has quietly developed a software service that automatically measures and optimizes in-store digital media ad campaigns to deliver product sales, brand value, consumer insight and media accountability in real time. With leading consumer package brands, and retailers as current customers working with the system, plus digital signage software vendors and networks also already on board, their stealthy entrance over the last three years already has some significant traction in the narrowcasting space.

    Electronic Digital Signage Optimization Learning Cycle To dig a little deeper, some of the variables that are effectively "shuffled" are: time-of-day, clustering of stores, and different copy treatments, just to name a few. A new variable has been created by the DS-IQ team with the added trackability offered by such a system. Once upon a time a media buyer or creative team had to boil down all the creativity and decide on a single piece to run. But now, they can run their top choices instead of just one chosen top ad and determine based on the data, which one is the most effective by actions of consumers, and not solely by the choice of a single decision.

    Effectively the creative is sent to the digital signage where it is confirmed that it is played and at what time. The store POS data is linked into the system to determine the sales of featured products during the measured window, then the data is partnered, the campaign is shuffled for optimization, and the cycle is restarted. Over a period of time and numerous shuffles of the playlist, minor changes to underperforming creative produce an optimized delivery of advertising for that environment.

    When playlists are running in stores, the sales are tracked at the Point-of-Sale (POS). Then, by repeatedly shuffling the deck of creative ads playing in the playlist over a period of days and weeks, the variables are shifted and played in different time slots to determine patterns between time of day plays in a venue, the creative displayed, and the number of viewers. All of that information is compared against the final data point, which results in the uplift in sales during the display of each ad running in the playlist for that store.

    The continued learning of detailed and actionable data creates significantly more intelligent decision-making ability over time. More than just simple historical data, the continued manipulation and optimization conveys better timing and placement of ads in key timeframes, versus manually correlating historical trends which are far more time consuming and labor intensive and only vaguely determine the effective uplift of an ad.

    With varied different interests needing to view and learn the information that system collects, there are various windows into the system that cover anything from a single product rep view to see how their product ad performed, to a store view, or an administrator technical under the hood view that shows every facet of the system. So there is a view that is ultra simple and secure, to a no-holds-barred view that has access to everything. All controlled by user access permission in a very well thought out and secure element of the system.

    Now how will this work with all of the many hardware and software deployments in the field today? The system is designed to seamlessly plug into virtually any digital signage network and retail POS system currently on the market. Even with that covered, there are many topologies and connectivity issues that have already been experienced and can easily be worked though to facilitate an implementation rollout to create a solution that is a “fit” for any IT layout or network configuration.

    The intention of any advertising or electronic digital signage system is to bring any one or a combination of the following: awareness of brand, brand features, and ultimately, sales. This is standard phrase and verse of advertising that is often obscured in light of uber-creative concepts. The bottom line is, an ad has to be effective in achieving the goal it was intended to fulfill, otherwise it is simply a buy and it needs to help the brand or sales.

    Whether it is actions or simply awareness, the concept of bringing together all the variables including testing what works and when, are keys that ad agencies have been long saying they are after. So whether it's an advertiser, retailer, advertising network or ad agency, there are numerous positive reasons to start buying into digital signage. Accountability and effectiveness through optimization may just be the spark to finally launch the segment of electronic digital signage into the mainstream.

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