The Digital Signage Insider

Measuring the impact of dynamic digital signs and interactive kiosks

Published on: 2005-08-09

Lately I've been spending a lot of time thinking about ways to accurately measure the overall impact of digital retailing technologies. The first thing that I stumble over is the definition of "impact". Does it mean relating viewership/user base to improved sales? Improved customer satisfaction? Increased floor traffic? And once we've picked a definition, what is the best way to measure it and then interpret results? Once you've come up with a measurement, how should it affect your business model and pricing strategies?

I know that I'm not the only one thinking about such things, and in fact the question of how to measure media consumption is one that has drawn the attention of marketing and advertising firms for over a century now. In the past year or so, UK-based MediaWeek (quickly becoming one of my favorite websites) has written a number of articles on the subject, and the latest in the series (from August 2nd) highlights our need to find and use a standard metric in order to avoid industry fragmentation. They categorize three "units" of measurement: footfall (the gross number of visits of people who walk past each digital sign or interactive kiosk), reach (footfall, counting each viewer or user only once), and impacts (the net audience of people proven to have viewed or used the system). The first two correspond nicely with the notions of impressions and CPM from my "Calculating Digital Signage ROI: 3 Metrics that Matter" article. The notion of "impacts" is a more generic way of encapsulating what I call "immediate feedback response", or IFR. What I like about the term is that it can be used as a blanket term for the number of people guaranteed to have seen an ad or used an application, regardless of how this guarantee was obtained. What I don't like is that there still isn't a great way to secure this guarantee.

According to MediaWeek, possible ways of auditing digital retailing networks include relying on retailer information (like footfall traffic, etc.) and using a qualified auditing firm (think Arbitron or ACNielsen). Of course, neither of these take advantage of some of the benefits of digital retailing media. For example, with interactive kiosks one can log the events that take place on each device and use that as a very well-qualified means of recording traffic. Likewise, monitoring technologies can be used to supplement manual store audits, however these are still fairly immature technologies and are prone to errors (like this idea to basically put RFID chips into everything and track where they go).

How to charge?

The #1 question that I've been asked lately is how much to charge for a "slice" of time on a digital sign, or similarly, for a single customer interaction event (such as an application the customer submitted) on a self-service kiosk. The MediaWeek guys got a great quote from Hyperspace's James Davies (the digital division at poster specialist Posterscope), who notes that "[y]ou have big screens, little screens, screens with or without editorial, high frequency, long play. How you consume in the back of a cab is very different to how you consume walking down the aisle of a supermarket." Further, "a common trading currency does not equate to a shared pricing structure. The rate cards for both Vogue and weekly real-life title Pick Me Up are based on circulation, but an ad in the glossy monthly will be relatively more expensive because of the value of the audience and the worth of being in a lush environment with a longer lifespan." Relating the different kinds of digital advertising networks to magazines is a great idea, and immediately helped me to understand all of the pricing issues that surround these kinds of networks. Case in point: I've seen clients draw up invoices for their advertisers totaling anywhere from $125 to $125,000 per month. But in the former case, the price was per-screen, per ad, and the content running on the screen was entirely composed of 30 second commercials, while the latter case was a package price to place a 30 minute infomercial clip on several thousand captive audience displays. Thus, an apples-to-apples price comparison isn't appropriate at all.

So, it doesn't look like we'll be seeing industry-standard pricing for collecting marketing data on a kiosk or showing an ad on a digital sign in the near future. This is a key challenge in the industry, because this "lack of common currency is one of the reasons that digital hasn't established itself as a medium that people can feel confident in.... Anything that gives buyers confidence will allow the media to grow and set a challenge to other media owners to grow," says Chris O'Donnell, the managing director of OneZeroOne (the digital division of outdoor specialist Kinetic). We can only hope that better education of network owners, advertisers and digital signage providers will lead to at least an accepted standard of which success metrics to focus on, along with a better understanding of how these translate to ROI. Until then, it seems like we'll have an ever-growing set of industry terms to deal with.

Some other useful MediaWeek links:

Outdoor media owners debate common currency
The leaky cauldron of media measurement


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