The Digital Signage Insider

Does measuring in-store media help with behavioral analysis?

Published on: 2008-07-17

I know, I know, you're all as sick and tired of this topic as I am. I mean, it's been years since we started talking about how to measure in-store media, and whether it's even worthwhile to do so. But here I go again, asking the same questions and getting the same less-than-satisfying answers. Why bother revisiting this topic after I already decided that much of the current enthusiasm about granular retail media measurement is misplaced? Well, I had the opportunity to speak with a very savvy group of people at the POPAI University Masters Program earlier this week. During that discussion, they mentioned some things that left me scratching my head and wondering if I've been too harsh on the measurement folks.

It all started with a comment from Debbie Raymundo, the Retail Marketing and POS Manager at Motorola. She was talking about a relatively recent innovation for tethered displays -- those retractable wires glued on to cell phones, iPods and other small gadgets that let you handle the product, but not walk off with it. Apparently, new display systems will actually keep track of every time you pick up a particular item, figure out how long you handle it, determine whether you also pick up other items, and so on. At the end of the day, this data can be reconciled with sales data to determine whether a certain product gets handled a lot but not purchased, for instance. Raymundo mentioned an example where shoppers might pick up a Motorola phone much more frequently than a Nokia, but the Nokia outsells it. This could indicate that the Nokia is being promoted more effectively or the sales staff has a bias towards it (or perhaps they get additional compensation from the manufacturer). Without this "interaction" data, it's hard to tell if the problem stems from the product itself or arises from other factors like marketing and promotion. With the data, at least the manufacturer has a place to begin. In the previous example, Motorola knows they're doing a good job getting customers to pick up the phone and try it out, so the brand recognition is there, and initial product design is appealing, but something else is making people abandon the product after that initial interaction.

Granted, this kind of information has been available for a while, but manufacturers and retailers had to collect it manually. Paco Underhill's company Envirosell still deploys legions of retail field workers (think anthropology, not picking fruit) to observe shopper behaviors and studiously record these actions using codes and shorthand. The company often monitors between several hundred and several thousand customer visits this way, and then combines this data with video footage to put together a comprehensive analysis of shopper habits. Both this method and the more automated one above have advantages and disadvantages. For example, the tethered display system will track every single time a product is handled, along with the exact product make and model. Since it's automated, it can be deployed to every store in a chain at a fairly reasonable cost. However, the information is one-dimensional, and even thoughtful analysis might produce incorrect conclusions simply because there's no corroborating data. (For example, what questions did the customer ask the sales clerk while handling the item?) On the other hand, the retail anthropology technique yields a much more complete picture of individual shopper behaviors and can illustrate complex decision making processes that might otherwise not be obvious. But this method takes a lot of time and manpower, and is more expensive to scale.

The Engagement Funnel? So behavioral measurement and analysis is a good thing. We knew that. The question is: can we make this data even more valuable by measuring the store's media components? We can't pretend that watching a spot on a digital sign is equivalent to actually handling the product, can we? But what about the shopper that requests an infomercial-style spot from a kiosk? Does one of these actions signify engagement, while the other does not? From what I've read and heard, people seem to use the engagement term as a sort of dividing line. In other words, people who aren't engaged stand on one side of the line, those who are engaged stand on the other, and nobody straddles the line. This is clearly wrong -- there are so many different ways that a customer might discover, contemplate and interact with a product that we'd need something more like the marketing funnel diagram from our digital signage ROI series to describe it. As you can see on the left, I've taken a stab at what this might look like if we focused on the engagement side of things.

Ultimately, I stand by my original conclusion that the best measurement technique is running well-controlled A-B split tests and correlating the results with register receipts. But people are clearly excited about gaze tracking, traffic pattern analysis, and the like. So my question for all of you savvy, experienced and brilliant people out there is this:

What value does behavioral measurement (whether gaze tracking or otherwise) bring to the retail environment? Is it simply easier than running controlled experiments, or does it provide some additional insight that translates into improved sales?

Leave a comment below and let me know your opinion. If you're reading this article via email or you're using a program like Bloglines or Google Reader, click the link below to access the comment form.


+1 # Franois Reeves 2008-07-17 22:45
For one thing, Nielsen is coming up with a system this summer that will measure OOH. This must include digital signage as a subset since it fits into Out of Home advertising. There are tons of other systems out there for customers willing to pay to get the efficiency of their ads tested. As I said before, I find it amazing that we have to justify this terrific media with metrics and science while television got away with ambiguous estimates for years. I guess ad agencies have to join the bandwagon. For now here is an extensive list of companies assessing this "new" media: Edison Research, Arbitron, Peoplecount, Quividi, MRI, TruMedia and Knowledge Networks. Nielsen
+1 # Bill Gerba 2008-07-18 01:41
Hi Franois, Sure, there are plenty of technological "solutions" out there, but my question is, what's the value of what they're measuring? Why might I want to know who glanced at my Tide commercial when I could just as easily find out what kind of sales lift there was (if any) when I played it?
+1 # Franois Reeves 2008-07-18 07:01
Hi Bill, Because as an advertiser, you're using a placement strategy with weighted media. Almost certainly, your sales will go up when you advertise, but you want to know how the media mix has influenced your sales. There is no way of knowing without having metrics reports. Also, you could be doing a brand awareness campaign. Then, you must have feedback as to how many people saw your ads. You did a focus group or a survey before the campaign and you hope to see results soon after the campaign. Again, you most likely used a mix of media and you need metrics to assess its effectiveness. OOH is a percentage of an overall media strategy. Within OOH digital signage is another percentage of your total budget. Without measurements you cannot check your agency's work--- you're simply wasting the company's money...
+1 # John Ryckman 2008-07-18 18:08
Hi Bill I think that the key to this is not just sales lift. We need to know how effective the content is at engaging the consumer. If we run hard edits with bright colours do more people look? If we Run entertainment content that is "relevant" to the customer do they spend more time looking at the screen? If we mix entertainment and advertising in an environment that has many regular customers like a restaurant do they look for the content when they come in and create more opportunities to see the advertising? If we don't have entertainment do the regulars start ignoring the screen after a period of time? The advertising sales will come as we prove that people are engaging with the content but without metricTMs how do we tune the content so that it is most effective.
-1 # Bill Gerba 2008-07-18 18:33
Franois and John: My argument is that all of those other techniques and metrics (e.g. OTS) exist *only* because it's hard to correlate exposure with sales lift for traditional ad media. For example, your TV at home is quite far away from the cash register at your grocery store, and there's no way of telling what you did between viewing an ad on TV and ultimately making a purchase at the store. Thus, it has been necessary for the ad industry to create all of these intermediate steps to measure, because until now they simply had **no way** of measuring the exact cause-and-effect relationship. However, with advertising at the point of purchase, you can make the argument that exposure (or whatever) has a direct impact, and thus measure it directly. In this case, I argue, those intermediate steps just get in the way of trying to measure the real thing. Unless you're talking about branding, and that showing ads on retail signage might be better at building long-term brand awareness or something, rather than trying to drive incremental sales. That's certainly possible, but it still doesn't suggest that merely looking at a spot counts as being "engaged" with the brand.
0 # Avinash Kaushik 2008-07-20 07:17
Bill: Great article! Quite enjoyable, even for someone such as myself who is not really into the retail side of things. I have to admit that my overall bias is: So what? Or put another way: No matter what the media or delivery mechanism, is there a way to tie it to any outcome for the company. If there isn't then it is simply a "faith based initiative". I put most of TV in that category (a sentiment that Franois mentions above). For any advertising it is possible to measure outcome. Sometimes it means being willing to try new ways of measurement. So for "view throughs" (what you call digital sign) perhaps there is a Researcher outside the store asking people for unaided recall of anything they might have seen. Measurement in the digital age is not a one tool does all strategy, rather it is a portfolio strategy. We will have a number of different strategies (as in this post for online to offline measurement: to get as close to the holistic view as possible. Oh and I can't stress enough your idea of controlled experiments (be they in stores or on your websites!). -Avinash.
0 # Bill Gerba 2008-07-22 18:53
Hi Avinash, Thanks very much for your feedback. A lot of us who are immersed in the digital signage industry tend to lose sight of other markets that have already encountered -- and often, solved -- the problems we're just now starting to come up against. I like your metaphor of using a "portfolio" of techniques. I get the feeling that a lot of people in my industry are waiting for that magic bullet to come along and give them instant insight, and if past experience in other industries is any judge, that just isn't going to happen :)
0 # C.B. Whittemore 2008-07-25 01:50
Bill, isn't one answer to all of this that "it depends"? It depends on the category [e.g.,am I buying onions or electronics, a book or carpet], on what you're measuring and why you're measuring it; and then what you intend to do with all that data. When I think about engagement, I can't help but think passive vs. active engagement. The engagement that really matters to me is the active one. It's physical and interactive. It often means that I'm 'trying the idea/product/service on for size.' I'm already imagining life with it. That then means action and purchase decisions. Passive engagement may take place because I'm bored, or irritated [think a video loop in a doctor's office]. It's interrupting me; it's possibly irrelevant although it might entertain. It may be relevant, but because it's interruption-based, I'm not ready to receive the information, so I tune it out. Fascinating discussion! PS: I love the tethered display innovation. However, how does Raymundo take into account kids keeping themselves occupied playing with the phones while their parents purchase phones?
0 # Bill Gerba 2008-07-25 14:35
Hi C.B. Thanks so much for your input. I think the distinction between passive and active engagement is a useful one - maybe I should revise my chart to take it into account. But I wonder... do any media planners today make use of such a concept? Or is engagement one and the same, and it just nets you a higher price for your ad placements? As for your question about the tethered displays... I have no idea how they'd tell something like that, but now I want to find out :)
-1 # Adam Lawrence 2008-07-25 16:14
Hi Bill, interesting discussion here, even if it is outside my field. I approach customer experience from a theatrical point of view, and although we have a lot of tools available to us to measure customer engagement, most of them on my side of the business come down to simple human communication. And applause. In the theater, we don't have technology to tell us how Act II went tonight, or whether we delivered the punchline better or worse than yesterday. We have only our eyes, ears and feelings. If it rocks, it rocks. You won't need to measure it, because you will hear the applause: people will be talking about how it rocks; your frontline staff will be telling you that it rocks; bloggers will be blogging about how much it rocks; there may even be crowds. If those things are not happening, you might have done better spending more money on the concept (or better - by giving your local "performers" more help and more freedom) and worrying less about measurement... Yours provocatively, ;o) Adam WorkPlayExperience
-1 # 3D Floorgraphics 2008-11-24 13:58
Hello Bill, I am with an agency for media buying and planning in the POS advertising and in-store marketing section. I really loved reading your article and the ongoing discussion. This is a rare find. When planning the POS part of an advertising campaign, we focus on media that hits the end-customer right in the moment of a possible purchase. The task is to close the sale by reminding, informing and surprising the customer all at the same time, depending if is already supposed to know e.g. the TV-ad or is confronted with a new brand or product for the very first time. While it sounds easy to put up a banner or sign on top of that shelf inside the supermarket or shopping mall where your customers' product is located, getting your audiences' attention is in fact very hard. The problems we face with different types of instore media : Instore radio: Form our experience, customers don't like to hear anything but music when shopping. They are aware that spoken information via the in-store radio is meant to persuade them to buy yet another product. Banners and classic displays: They work - but they often get overlooked. Using small ads on the inner side of the shopping cart only works for products that are located in the first sections of the supermarket. For products located at the end of the "shopping turn", it turns out to be pointless as the shopping cart gets filled, the ad gets blocked and people forget about it. Classic banners and displays sometimes get overlooked completely because the "clutter of brands" on the shelfs and the walls makes it hard to get an impression. Tools that we use to escape these problems: We are constantly on the lookout for any opportunity to increase our customers' sales. One method we have started to use a while ago is the placement of 3D Floorgraphics. These are specially designed floor advertising foils that give the customer the impression of a product or brand logo rising from the floor. This solves several problems of brand presentation at once and works very well for products in the food & beverage section, as well as for magazines or products for personal hygiene. When we first approached the german company who created these ads on a global basis, we did not know how to convert our campaign graphics for this purpose. Luckily - this is done automatically through their design process and you can focus on your business as a media buyer. This method of advertising was a big surprise and increased the sales for our clients dramatically. How we measure our advertising efforts: We have been working with different approaches for measuring the effectiveness of our campaigns. And to be honest with you ..... we spent way too much time on this. While it is certainly helpful to evaluate different sources of measurement, we have come to focus on the sales that are logged by the cash register. We do get the sales-data for our clients products right from the supermarket on a regular basis and thus can easily make out how well a campaign, e.g. with 3D Floorgraphics went. This method does not only block out all overhead with additional digital techniques but ..... and this was the most surprising fact for us ..... was far enough to satisfy our clients' need for information on the effectiveness of the campaign. There are of course be more precise techniques to measure e.g. a customers' age, gender, hair-color and the length of his toe-nails - but thats not the information we need. We focus on sales and offer our clients the marketing tools to make that sale. cheers, Gabriella Dayton

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