Improve Your Digital Signage with a Walkthrough Audit and Surveys

You need to find out how effective what you’re doing is. And you can figure that out by conducting a digital signage audit and by surveying your audience, so you know what works and what doesn’t, and which improvements to make. Signage that’s ignored or not effective actually hurts your communications efforts and can even damage your brand (internally and externally).

You’ve spent all this time, money and resources on a comprehensive digital signage solution for your organization, but that doesn’t mean all that’s left to do is create and schedule messages. Digital signage is dynamic, and what you offer can always be adjusted and improved. A project is something that needs a lot of planning and work at the front end and then gets finished, while a product is something that you offer your target audience and then constantly improve to get a bigger and bigger market share. Think of your digital signage as a product.

When was the last time you walked around your facility with the sole aim of assessing your signage? Probably not since you first got your digital signage system in place. There’s a thing in retail known as store blindness – employees working in a particular location become accustomed to their environment and no longer really notice what’s around them. Is this happening with your audience? You can only know this if you look at your screens from your audience’s perspectives. Get out there and find out.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes
At least part of your digital signage strategy is probably internal communications. So get a couple of employees, preferably from different departments and different backgrounds, to go on a tour of the facility with you. Try to get into the right mindset for this – have one person imagine they’re new to the organization and are seeing everything for this first time, have someone else be a distracted, busy employee with lots of things on their mind, and you take the middle ground.

Now enter the facility from the entrance most commonly used by employees and walk around. Take notes on what you notice. What’s the first thing you see when you come in? Which screens stand out and draw your eye? Is that because of where they are, the content on the screen or both? Does the space feel cohesive? Do the screens show information that’s relevant and interesting or useful? Take good detailed notes as to what you were naturally drawn to. Think about the screens themselves as well as the content they display. What is it that catches your eye – movement, color, a stunning picture, or attractors like weather and news feeds?

Now switch roles and do it again, going on the tour a little slower and more methodically, this time looking for problems – not just whether there are pixels out on a certain screen (which is also a problem), but which screens you didn’t notice before and why not (too high, too busy an area, etc.). Are the messages being displayed still current and relevant, or are they out of date and need to be removed from the playlist? If you have wayfinding as part of your digital signage, does it actually save you time or is the process too clunky? If you have interactive touchscreens or kiosks, are they working properly? Is there enough information available for you audience? Is there too much?

So, after two tours your team should have six detailed lists – three of positives (things you noticed immediately), and three of issues to be dealt with. Sit down together and combine your lists into two, one for each category. Then brainstorm some ideas as to how the issues can be improved. Are some screens more effective than others? If so, why?

If part of your target audience is the general public, students, etc., then do another tour from their perspectives.

If you have multiple buildings that use digital signage, you might want to focus on just one building at first, and then expand you audit to others using lessons learned form the first one to speed the process along.

This is the first step – to put yourself into the same position as your viewers and see how the digital signs affect you. However, there’s always the possibility of not being able to see the forest for the trees – you need some outside confirmation that the positives you listed really are positives and the issues are really issues. To do that, you need to watch your real audience in action.

Explore the Natural Habitat
Almost like one of the many television programs about animals in the wild, you now should go out and observe your audience as they move through your facility and interact with your digital signs. Use a few people in different locations, some stationary in high traffic areas, others roaming around seeing what people look at and do. Take good notes and vary the times of the day so you can see what happens in certain areas when it’s busy and when it’s quieter.

Do people look at the screens as they pass by? Do they stop? Do they use the touchscreens? If they are with someone else, do they start to talk about what’s on the screen? Don’t interact with them – you are only observing at this stage. Just see what they do and don’t do.

Gather your team and compare notes. What similarities did they all see? Are there any noticeable differences? Now compare what you all observed with your first lists from your own walkthrough. Note the similarities and differences. The similarities can all now go into a new list, but the differences still pose questions – why were your own perspectives on the tour different from what you observed people actually doing?

From the Horses’ Mouths
Now it’s time to get feedback from your audience by creating a short questionnaire or longer survey.  The questions you ask will be at least partly determined by the unknowns remaining after the walkthrough and observation stages.

Promote your questionnaire or survey on your digital signs (especially on screens you noticed get lots of attention). You can have an online version, accessible directly from the message using a short URL or QR tag, or you can have a table near the screen, so people can fill in the questions on a physical copy right then and there (just make sure to also include pens and a box to put the completed forms in, and send people around periodically to make sure everything is well-stocked).  Even better – do both.

It’s best to make your questionnaires or surveys anonymous, with an option to fill in personal contact information if people so choose. You can find ways to incentivize people to answer your questions by gamifying the offering with raffle prizes or discounts of some sort. Make sure you only have this feedback stage for a clearly advertised limited time – this will create a sense of urgency and more people will be likely to answer your questions.

Putting it All Together
You should now have an awful lot of information at your disposal – your own impressions of your digital signage’s effectiveness, your observations of how people are really using it, and your audience’s own comments. Using all this data, you can craft ways to improve what needs improving, and use what’s already working in more and more. You should also have some ideas of what your audience likes and doesn’t like, and can plan future messages, layouts and longtail campaigns based on that information.

You should also review your digital signage playlists, making sure that each message has some sort of call to action, and think of ways to build in ROI to each message or campaign.

The more information you have, the better you can align what you offer with what your audience wants. You can do all this once a year, once every half year, or even every quarter, if you think that’s warranted and would be helpful. But you don’t want to make the survey stage a permanent feature – people will get “store blindness” and no longer notice it, and you will get very little useful feedback. Make it seem like something a bit special, so people really want to take advantage of the opportunity.

You may be surprised at what this whole process will reveal. Things you hadn’t even considered might suddenly become incredibly important. You’ll have a clearer picture of what your digital signs are actually accomplishing, and you’ll have some very clear ideas if you decide to expand your digital signage system to more areas and buildings. And you’ll let your audience know that you’re paying attention and value their input – that the digital signage they see every day is for them, and what they have to say on the subject matters and helps inform improvements.

Digital signage is dynamic, and that means it needs to constantly change and adapt. It’s a very powerful communications tool that is also quite flexible. By conducting a walkthrough audit and surveys, you’ll be better equipped to make sure changes you make are on track with your audience’s needs.