High energy Times Square digital signage
December 27, 2019

Why Strategy is Key to Effective Digital Signage Content

Article originally published on AdAge.com. Image credit: Getty.

Digital signage in retail has really changed over the last two decades. Static print signs gave way to digital lightboards, then to bulky CRTs and TV monitors playing taped videos and, in the last 10 years, to thin screens playing digital clips.

Today’s signage boasts ultra-high-definition video, data-driven programming and playlist capabilities and can be used anywhere from retail stores to amusement parks to bus stops. But wherever it’s installed, modern digital signage shouldn’t be used as just a fancy billboard to play your latest commercial spots to passersby.

Before talking digital signage content, however, we should talk about your reasons for using the devices in the first place. If your leadership says, “I think each store needs a screen here,” ask, “What is the point of having a screen there?” Is it to welcome new customers, display current promos or provide an immersive experience in a specific department? 

Once you’ve determined the objectives and placement for each device, you’ll want to make each one as effective as possible in meeting those objectives. That’s where a content strategy for your digital signage comes in.

Every piece of content should have a purpose and clearly defined metrics.

Digital signage is a unique platform, and to be effective, its content requires an equally unique strategy. It’s important to remember that what works on other advertising platforms probably won’t be as effective on your digital screens.

Digital signage content should be more than a rotating set of images or playing commercials shoppers can otherwise see on TV. Effective digital content has a clearly defined objective with well-defined metrics to indicate whether it is achieving that purpose.

Once these are defined, you’ll need to develop a content strategy for your digital signage. Start by answering these questions:

• What is the message, imagery and story you’ll use?

• What is the call to action (CTA)?

• How will you measure the success of the content?

The answers will vary greatly depending on what you are trying to achieve. Regardless, the content you create should be the manifestation of your strategy, and its effectiveness should be measured against the original goal.

For example, let’s say your signage content is to welcome new customers and introduce the brand. The message and imagery could evoke the company’s history and brand essence, and your CTA could ask viewers to sign up for email specials or a rewards program — either of which can be easily measured.

Or if you want to increase sales of promoted items by 15 percent, your messaging can focus on product benefits and promotional content. You can also focus a larger percentage of the playlist toward offers. In this case, the CTA could direct viewers to the merchandise in the store or allow them to reserve it. You can measure this content’s effectiveness simply by comparing the sales numbers before and after the products were promoted.

Have a playlist strategy that matches your objectives.

Is there a strategy to building the perfect content playlist? Absolutely. The strategy you use, though, is 100 percent dependent on your target goals and your customers.

A playlist for amusement park visitors waiting in line for 45 minutes is very different from one for shoppers in a grocery store line. The type of content, length and how often it repeats are different, too. In the former, your objective is to take the visitors’ minds off the protracted wait time, while also promoting concessions and other park offers. However, you don’t want it to feel like one long advertisement, nor do you want the visitor to tune out because the same content repeats every few minutes.

In the grocery store, shoppers are usually in a hurry, so the content playlist can be much shorter and repeat more often. And depending on the sign’s position and objective, the playlist might feature more ads of the weekly specials, food preparation tips near the fresh produce or meat counters, or short clips to amuse shoppers in the checkout line.

The strategy behind a content playlist — its structure, length and mix — is as individual as the organization, its goals and its customers. You’ll need to decide the proper mix of content based on what each piece is meant to achieve. Are you trying to entertain? Inform? Promote? Cross-sell? The relative mix of each type of content in the playlist should correspond to those objectives.

For example, if your two key goals are for shoppers to understand your brand story and to increase sales, the first clip in the playlist could feature your brand’s history, followed by a buy-one-get-one-free offer.

If you repurpose other content, do it strategically.

Despite digital signage being unique, you’ll still see static images, advertisements and traditional video content displayed on these devices. Unfortunately, businesses that do this often make this content even less effective than it might otherwise be.

For example, using a digital screen to display a TV spot that contains narration or talking heads with the sound turned off is not thoughtful repurposing. Or you’ll see landscape-oriented content being played on a portrait-oriented screen. Or content created for a specific resolution that doesn’t properly scale on the digital screen, resulting in pixelation.

If you do repurpose traditional content for digital signage, be strategic about it. Make the adjustments necessary to make your customer’s viewing comfortable.

Today’s digital signage can be so much more effective than the fancy billboards many companies resort to. Realizing their true potential requires understanding that these devices are more than just video monitors. As long as you plan your business goals for digital signage and define a content strategy to meet them, you can make effective content for your screens.