No Strategy, No Customers: How to Build a Profitable Digital Signage Strategy

Strategy is everything in digital signage.

Sure, location-based digital signage is cost-effective and better at capturing viewer attention than most other advertising strategies. In fact, research by Arbitron shows that digital video in public venues reaches more Americans (70%) than video ads on the internet or Facebook.

But businesses can’t just put up a screen and expect viewers to care. The technology itself won’t drive return-on-investment unless it is implemented with a specific plan in mind. All digital signage strategies, whether they’re used in commercial settings, school environments, or corporate communications, require coordination and planning before they can produce results.

No Strategy Means No Success

As technology continues to develop and make digital advertising more affordable, digital signage is playing an increasingly significant role in marketing and communication. Rather than thinking of digital signage as an after-the-fact advertising channel, businesses are using it in tandem with their other marketing strategies to completely revamp the customer experience and change the way companies deliver messaging.

This is most apparent in how digital signage supports consumer retail, but can also be seen in the way universities are leveraging it to support education, and hospitals are using it to enhance backend communication for improved patient outcomes. Of course, these benefits don’t appear out of thin air. Like any other marketing initiative, digital signage deployment needs to be informed by the process of careful planning and evaluation:

  • Strategies provide direction: A digital signage strategy offers a clear framework for growth; they’re blueprints that provide visibility into the planning process. This visibility makes it easier for users to delineate achievable benchmarks and also helps determine the optimal way to install signage across location, screen placement, and content style.  
  • Strategies reduce mistakes: With digital signage content having a direct impact on the user experience, un-optimized content can actually do more harm than good—users may get frustrated if they try to follow your ads on mobile or tablet devices only to find that your mobile content is weak. Structured strategies guarantee that each step is thought out and reduces errors across each phase of signage deployment.
  • Strategies support data collection: Digital signage is an agile and adaptable method for testing advertising copy, calls-to-action, and the impact of special offers on consumer behavior. This performance data is valuable for assessing the health of advertising strategies, but without a concrete strategy for testing each of these variables one by one, data collection becomes labor-intensive.

Broadly, digital signage strategies guarantee that the right content is delivered to the right people at the right time. It supports a positive user experience and gives businesses structured ways to communicate with viewers about the value-added services on offer.

Establishing your Digital Signage Strategy

Businesses that haven’t yet begun installation of digital signage infrastructure are in the perfect position to build their strategy from the ground up. But even businesses that have already installed wall mounts and set up their screens needn’t worry—it’s possible to coordinate a strategy without gutting the entire system and starting from scratch.

Businesses must ask themselves the following questions to form the foundation of their digital signage strategies:

  • What is the objective of your signage? Is it to inform consumers about new offerings and bring them into the store? Will it work as a backend employee management tool to improve communication efficiency? Is it intended to serve as a hub of information to aid in consumer decision-making? Before businesses can find success, they must first define what success means to them.
  • How will you track success? After defining the goals of their digital signage, users need to determine how to track progress. Again, this will be unique to the business in question: Retail businesses may track success by tying sales growth to specific advertising campaigns. In settings where employee information is the goal, such as hospitals or corporate organizations, success may be tracked by how many paperwork errors are reduced as a result of new outreach methods or how much patient satisfaction increases over time.
  • How will you integrate it with other marketing channels? Digital signage works by engaging users in different ways, depending on their goals. For consumers, this means what stage they’re at in the buyer journey and what’s preventing them from purchasing—digital signage will need to support the marketing channels already in place to guide them through the purchasing process.

For college students, hotel visitors, or corporate businesses, education is more important than driving action. Integration in this way may involve promoting online social media channels where viewers can learn more, different initiatives they can participate in or other programs that can develop their skills.

Regardless of industry, digital signage must be used to push the benefits most relevant to a target market and drive demand for the services in question.

A word on Screen Placement

Any review of digital signage strategy must include a disclaimer about screen placement: Screen placement is a critical component of your digital signage strategy.

The optimal location for digital signage depends on the industry in question and the goals of each sign. Of course, the site of each sign must be consistent with its surrounding environment. Don’t place screens in a high traffic hallway and then expect users to stop and watch a long video. Conversely, if users are stuck waiting in line at the checkout, at reception desks, or at concierge services, avoid fast-paced and flashy ads that work better at capturing attention than explaining concepts to a captive audience.

Beyond these initial considerations, screen placement can be a significant driver of revenue when deployed with a strategy in mind:

  • Screens near storefronts are ideal for displaying offers and promotions that get users in the door.
  • Screens inside the store can dig deeper into the features and benefits of each product.
  • Screens placed near the register can reduce perceived wait times while in line, and can also drive impulse purchases in those waiting. The above data by Arbitron revealed that nearly one in five respondents (19 percent) who had seen a digital video ad made an unplanned purchase of an on-screen item.

While these benefits are most evident in retail establishments, the principles hold true in corporate, educational, and hotel settings as well. Place screens where people tend to congregate and make sure the length of the content displayed aligns with what viewers are doing at that moment.

Building a Digital Signage Strategy

Digital signage excels at capturing viewer attention, but it can’t do all the work on its own. Business owners need to treat their digital signage deployment with the same care and consideration as any other marketing program worth investing in. Before deployment, each business must assess its goals for digital advertising, the methods by which they will measure success, and how they can use digital signage as a functional complement to their other marketing tools. With these considerations in mind, businesses will be well on their way to developing a digital signage strategy that engages viewers and drives continuous value over time.

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