Digital signage is everywhere – from billboards and jumbotrons to casino floors and shopping malls and even to your grocer’s freezer door.

What was once a brighter backlit version of yesterday’s stanchion sign is now a formidable tool that can improve your marketing and advertising programs. Through the power of dynamic visual content, digital signage is an effective way to capture the mind and imagination of your guest…if used effectively.

The first step is to stop thinking of this channel as part of your signage checklist and start thinking about the customer experience and mindset as well as how these signs play into your overall brand strategy. Hardware, content management and even production have come down in costs, and yet we find ourselves at the problematic intersection of power and lack of clear strategy (and sometimes capability).


Know Your Customer and the Programming They Desire

I’ll use the analogy of a cable provider with multiple channels. Like that exemplar cable provider, you also have multiple channels – or screens – on your property. Some channels air primarily pure gaming programs. Your poker room screens might represent those types of channels. Some might be informational. Perhaps these are the signs at your entrances. Consider the times you turn to your local listings channel at home and how that relates to the signage you might have at your entrances. As a cable customer, you use the listings channel to give you short and quick overviews of all of your options. Much in the same way, guests enter your property and need VERY quick information that covers a great number of items.

Your assignment: Take inventory of where your digital signage is and the customers that frequently spend time there (and for how long) as well as those who casually pass through. You should have two to three personas in mind for almost every sign, but ultimately one primary target viewer. You might then find similar channels sharing the same primary persona. Ultimately you will have the ability to determine the type of programming that will appeal to your audiences because you now have a better understanding of the audience and how long they stay on one channel before changing to another. Have a little fun and name your channels just like a network executive!

Ask yourself (or watch and learn).

What are people doing? Are they walking by on their way to a different location?

Are they stopping or lingering because it’s a place where people tend to wait like your buffet line?

How many locations does each persona visit on a typical trip?

After a full examination and development of your ideal channels, you should understand what you need in terms of software (or content management) and creative.


Relevant Programming

Every summer, broadcast networks hear many…many pitches for new televisions programs. First, you pitch a producer in the hopes that they will bring your idea to a studio or network. Then, they pitch the next person up the chain. The process can take weeks because the networks are ultimately looking for programming that will attract their target audience better than their competition can. They look for something that will grab and hold the attention. This is the same goal we have as marketers with the benefit of digital signage in our toolboxes – finding the right programming that will be relevant to our guests at any particular moment in their journey so that we can hold on to them better than our competition.

No one pays attention to something irrelevant. When was the last time you sat through the pre-roll YouTube video without your finger on your mouse ready to click on the Skip Ad button? It’s the same when you’re a guest on your property. Using the same analogy of networks, consider Scripps Networks. All of their brands (or channels) share an appeal to the DIYer in all of us. However, they specifically program their channels. So, you won’t see House Hunters airing on the Food Network. It’s not relevant to the Food Network viewer and could likely turn them off. Scripps considers the specific person and programs relevant content across multiple channels.

Bradley Cooper is the technology editor for DigitalSignageToday.com and we have some things in common. One of them is the frustration we feel when a great tool like digital signage is not being used to its potential. Take that moment when you’re washing your hands in the bathroom and the messaging is the same as it is on the floor (perhaps the sign right outside of the door). And often, it hasn’t even been re-edited to fit the screen much less the environment, just merely sized to fit. #SMH

Your assignment: Create a channel listings chart for your wall. Each channel should identify the main persona and a brief description of the mindset. Then start to program your individual channels. Work with your video production partners to edit and format the proper messages for each channel.


Understand your goals and the role your signage plays.

Got a new machine? Is the goal just to simply let people know the machine is there or is it for them to play it? Adjust your content to spur on the action you want guests to take. If you have upsell opportunities in your buffet, signage in the area is a great tool for stimulating the appetite of the people standing in lines. Dynamic menu boards are consistently used to increase revenue in a multitude of dining outlets.


Understand the power of the technology you have

If you are in the position to upgrade or even create a new digital signage system, carefully consider the pluses and minuses of the technology. Many of us suffered a learning curve and painfully came to understand the differences between plasma and LCD and even the drawbacks of running to the local big box to replace a monitor with an on-sale television. You also need to match the hardware with the creative. “You need to carefully understand your platform’s capabilities and what content will look best on it. For example, if you are using a 4K display, you will want to invest in 4K content creation, otherwise, you’ll have spent all that money for nothing,” says Cooper.


Best Practices

Keep in short! Attention spans continue to decline. According to one study, our attentions spans were a long 12 seconds around the time of the start of the mobile revolution (2000). Although our ability to multitask has improved, the average human attention span has been said to be somewhere around 8 seconds. A goldfish? 9 seconds. Make your content run 8 seconds or shorter if guests are lingering, 5 seconds for high-traffic locations.

Keep it fresh! Most readers are marketing in frequency markets. When thinking about repeating playlists consider letting your visitor see the content seven times, whether this is over the course of a single visit or multiple visits.  If you don’t refresh your content frequently, visitors will eventually stop paying attention. Work out how often your playlists will show to the same audience understanding visitor dwell time or footfall.

Use text like a (proper) billboard. If you’re going to use text, try to limit your copy. (Deep breath as I think about all the words advertisers try to cram into a billboard.) Rather than trying to force a long read, consider splitting the copy over a series of “screens”.

Like your favorite television program, digital signage has given any marketer the opportunity to be captivating. How will you tell your stories?

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