The Digital Signage Insider

Wal-Mart, Televisa share 7 secrets to digital signage success

Published on: 2007-08-24

After completing the deployment of Wal-Mart Mexico's massive digital signage network in late 2006, Televisa's Axel Vera faced an even more daunting challenge: tracking the network's performance and proving that the multi-million dollar system was actually generating a positive return on investment. Wal-Mart was not only concerned with lifting sales on the advertising-driven network, but also wanted to keep costs low and ensure that their stores remained attractive, clean and easy to navigate. All of this led Axel and his team to develop a new strategy for measuring performance while optimizing their individual content spots to generate the best possible ROI. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Axel about his findings, which the folks at MEDIA Magazine were kind enough to publish in their August edition. While they've asked me not to include the whole article here (they've got magazine subscriptions to sell, after all), you can find the full Media Metrics article on their website (free registration required). To convince you that it's worth reading the whole thing, here's an overview of how Televisa and Wal-Mex have learned to improve their digital signage performance:
  1. Create messages with the understanding that the store has many other visual and audio distractions.
  2. Think billboards, not television. The majority of the shoppers won't stop and stare at the screens, so you need to communicate your message in the "blink of an eye".
  3. The content must be good enough to attract attention to the screen, even if a shopper only glances at it for a second.
  4. Advertising messages must be short and frequent. No more than ten seconds in aisles and fifteen seconds in dwell zones, and they should always have a call to action for the shopper.
  5. The "star" of the message should always be the product, its attributes, and the added value it brings to the consumer over its competitors. In other words, focus your digital signage ads on the things that make the product desirable in the first place.
  6. Consider regionalizing your ads when appropriate, since different communities often use the same product differently.
  7. Keep content fresh to avoid shopper complacency and employee fatigue. The network is a monster... you must feed it with new content!
These deceptively simple points are the result of months of research, analyzing hundreds of surveys and interviews conducted by a 3rd party research group after the network had yielded tens of millions of impressions. The bottom line: when done correctly, content run on digital signage is the most memorable form of in-store POP, with some ad recall rates in excess of 80%. However, while digital signs can be similar to other forms of POP when they're used to promote items found nearby in the store, the old-school tricks don't always work very well. In particular, the researchers found that product promotions -- often a powerful sales booster when delivered in a printed format like coupons -- fared the worst. When shown on digital signs, less than half of shoppers (47.5%) remembered the promotional offers. On the other hand, brand-oriented product advertisements did best with an average recall rate of 71.1%. Perhaps most interestingly, how-to and tip videos were close behind at 66.5%.

Considering how many things can vary from one in-store network to the next, these results probably can't be extended to every digital signage network out there. But I'd be willing to bet that, generally speaking, they'd hold up in virtually any big-box or grocery store environment. This has led me to two conclusions. First, sometimes it does take bona fide research to disprove things that "common-sense" tells you ought to be true. Take the product promotions note from above, for example. I was really surprised to learn that a big animation showing "SALE, 1 DAY ONLY!" (en espaol) was actually less successful at motivating shoppers than a much more involved, instructional piece. Second, the initial 1.5-3 seconds really is all you get to make your impression, and anybody who isn't really impressed by this needs to sit down with a stopwatch and see just how little time that actually is. Then, go read up on the first-moment-of-truth and what it means to in-store marketers.

I'll leave the academic question of whether it's even possible to "tell a story" (as the agency folks like to say) in such a short period of time up to you. But I will say this: Televisa and Wal-Mart Mexico have clearly shown that if you're trying to deliver in-store messages that help grow the bottom line, three seconds can be more than enough.

Subscribe to the Digital Signage Insider RSS feed

Looking for more articles and research? Our newest articles can always be found at Digital Signage Insider, but there are hundreds of additional research articles in our historical articles archive.

You may also be interested in M2M Insider: our blog about M2M and the Internet of Things.