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FAQ: What’s the ROI of Digital Signage?

Dina Townsend | Retail | 2017-10-31

The following article is a part of our blog series, REAL Retail. Real stories from real people in retail. Whether it’s the elephant in the room or a highly relatable story, our authors who have direct, real-life retail experience, like to dive in head first.

I love this REAL Retail series because it’s an opportunity to pull back the curtain a bit and share personal business lessons learned that resonate with readers.

For nearly 25 years I’ve helped companies look at their overall business ecosystem and make smart, rules-based decisions about how best to move information around the enterprise using state-of-the-art software. Today it’s content management, but back then it was electronic document management. 

The motivation for moving information around has changed, the platforms have radically advanced, and the audience and their expectations have changed big time!

Then vs. Now: Understanding Technology

Many years ago (Circa 1995) a VP level Fortune 500 prospect I was presenting to stopped me mid-presentation and apologetically admitted, “We don’t understand any of this technology. We understand peas and carrots. Can you explain this to us in terms of peas and carrots?”

I got what they were saying. They needed me to put technology into terms they could relate to, and so I did … literally thereafter referring to their HR documents as peas and their C-level reports as carrots, and explaining how based on one’s taste and appetite one might move a certain number of peas to one side of the plate and carrots to the other. You get the picture … and so did they. After more discussions, I closed one of the largest deals of my young career. 

Today our clients, as well as their customers, are highly knowledgeable on technology. They not only understand technology, they understand that it’s required to meet the communication expectations of their shoppers.

The Unchanging FAQ

What hasn’t changed though in 20 years is a deep need to understand the ROI of a digital deployment. One constant in my career is being asked what “the” ROI is for digital signage — as though there is a single guaranteed outcome or a reliable algorithm that can be universally applied. The truth is, there is not one fixed answer and there is no formula that fits all deployments, goals or objectives.

We know that if we can capture attention we have a higher chance of changing behaviors and of our target audience retaining our message. And that’s good, right? Maybe. A black screen captures attention and may in fact change impressions and behaviors, but that is not good. Running an out-of-date sale captures attention, but that’s not good either, nor is running licensed media beyond its license term. Customers will remember that, but not in the way we want.

While the ROI on doing digital signage well is significant and extremely positive, it is still very much a managed art form, and it is imperative that the technology powering that tool is reliable, scalable and supportable.

The Truth About ROI

A few years ago, I attended an award presentation and watched several very large retailers accept rather prestigious awards for their digital excellence. My tablemate turned to me and said, “These are not very exciting deployments … ”

But I had a lightbulb moment during that ceremony that has stuck with me. The technology was not getting awarded at that particular event. It was actually the point person, and the impact to the retailer, that was receiving the award. And each award was extremely well deserved in that right. What each retailer had done was to do one thing, do it well, do it at scale, measure the results and demonstrate a positive impact. Some reported 2% returns on high margin items, others reported 33% sales lift and yet others touted a dramatic increase in their loyalty programs after implementing mobile pay.

Quoting an average ROI to close business is not an accurate representation of what is likely for a given retailer. A successful digital program, like anything else, must be well managed, measured and optimized.  

My advice to retailers shopping for digital platforms is do the research to understand what is possible in terms of returns on your investment AND a return on your objective. In the world of customer expectations, ROI is not always the goal, many times it’s ROO. Because as an industry we understand the need for statistical data, there is no shortage of case studies and infographics that show the ROI for various digital signage deployments. Armed with that knowledge, then choose a partner based on their expertise and a platform based on its extensibility and scalability, not just feature set.

Extensibility is important to the enterprise because that in many ways ensures a deeper ROI as new projects surface and the same platform can be leveraged to solve for those evolving needs. We will explore that concept more in another post. Scalability ensures that more locations, more departments and more endpoints can share that benefit without taxing your system.

And then, do one thing, do it well, do it at scale and measure the results. Then, you have your own true and demonstrable ROI. And repeat!

Read our previous article in the REAL Retail series: Replacing vs. Empowering Associates: The Informed Store Ecosystem.


© 2018 RMG Networks Holding Corporation. RMG, RMG Networks are trademarks and/or service marks of RMG Networks Holding Corporation.
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