EPISODE 99| Guest: Trey Hicks, COO & CSO of Visix, Inc.
A powerful tool for any communications efforts is digital signage analytics, which can not only give you an overview of how successful your messaging is but can also help drill down to something as granular as individual contributors.
In this episode, Trey Hicks from Visix discusses why analytics matters, what to look at and how to use that data to help achieve your digital signage objectives.
- Learn what makes analytics data meaningful
- Discover data tools that may be already built into your system
- Understand the power of reports
- Explore how power users can help others in the organization
- Hear how to share analytics results effectively
See our blog on analytics: The Value of Communications Analytics
Derek DeWitt: We’ve talked a lot on here about measuring success for your communications, you know, adding calls to action in messages, conducting surveys, doing walkthrough audits, things like this. But there is another tool that you might not be using, or maybe you’re using it but not correctly, and that is analytics. So, to analyze analytics with me today, I am joined by Trey Hicks, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Sales Officer for Visix. Hi, Trey.
Trey Hicks: Hey, Derek. How are you?
Derek DeWitt: Excellent, Excellent. That’s, that’s a lot of work. You got a lot of stuff going on.
Trey Hicks: Keeps me busy.
Derek DeWitt: Yes, indeed. All right. I’d like to thank Trey for joining me today and, of course, everybody out there for listening. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to this podcast, and you can also follow along with a full transcript on the Visix website. Just go to Visix.com/Resources/Podcasts.
Okay. So, let’s qualify by what we mean when we say analytics, in general. What is that?
Trey Hicks: Yeah. So Derek, Wikipedia says, analytics is the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data. And the key thing there is “meaningful”.
Derek DeWitt: Yeah, I was gonna say, that’s the important thing.
Trey Hicks: Yep. And if you’re managing communications for your organization, you wanna look for meaningful data and also meaningful patterns that you can act on.
Derek DeWitt: Sure, that makes sense. I assume a lot of communications and, like, marketing professionals especially, they’re already familiar with analytics to a certain extent. I know a lot of people have to deal with websites use Google Analytics. That’s kind of the standard for anybody using a website, ’cause you want to, you know, sort of figure out how to get highly ranked on Google.
Trey Hicks: Yeah, that’s right. And I just think that a lot of people, you know, while they hear about Google Analytics and analytics used in analyzing business performance and, you know, different things like that (you know, I’m thinking of KPIs). You know, people just don’t think about using analytics to judge the performance of their visual communication platform. And you know, it really can seem pretty technical and overwhelming at first.
Derek DeWitt: Right, exactly. You start thinking spreadsheets and graphs and like, I don’t know, I’m not an accountant, you know. I mean, basically you’re asking creative people to crunch a bunch of numbers, which they would say, hey, that’s not what I do, man.
Trey Hicks: Yep. But it’s worth it. And you know, at the end of the day, most good platforms, you’re not having to dig through thousands of lines of numbers, you know, in a giant spreadsheet. You’re looking at reporting, which is pretty cool. You know, the reports will put you on the right path. And it can help you answer questions like, are we communicating often enough? Are we connecting with the right audiences? Are we messaging at the right time, with the right medium? Are we reinforcing our mission and other important goals? Are we working efficiently? And last, but certainly not least, are our messages received and understood?
Derek DeWitt: Ah, yeah, that last one, I mean, that’s really the thing, ’cause you just kind of throw it out there and go, well, I hope, you know. I don’t even know how many times we’ve said you care about what you measure, but it’s true. So, you need to measure somehow. Otherwise, you just really don’t know if what you’re doing is working and if it’s time and money well spent.
Trey Hicks: Yeah. The supporting evidence of how well your communication efforts are going is there for the taking. You just have to be willing to spend time with the analytics to get familiar with what can be revealed from that information. And you know, for most of our clients, once they get into it, they’re surprised how straightforward a lot of the data is.
Derek DeWitt: If you’re measuring, like, ROI for sales or employee satisfaction or for your website or something else, why wouldn’t you use analytics to measure ROI for the entire system and communications initiative, right?
Trey Hicks: Right. Great communication in large organizations is critical to keep people informed and on the same mission, on the same path. You know, and ROI is return on investment. There’s its cousin, which I think is the more important variation as we talk about digital signage and digital signage analytics, and that’s ROO, return on objectives.
Derek DeWitt: Ah!
Trey Hicks: Yeah! And it’s digital signage analytics. I mean, that’s the critical piece to measuring ROO, return on objectives, along with your calls to action. Derek, really it’s when we put those two together that we can tell a lot.
Derek DeWitt: Sure. And you know, it’s interesting, we talk about putting calls to action in messages, but in many ways the analytics itself is a call to action for the communications team or the marketing team or the organization. You know, there’s an article on Forbes that says, at its very core (this is a quote) “at its very core, data tells us what we need to do next.”
Trey Hicks: Yes, for sure. Analytics can quickly provide insights that make your next step more obvious. For example, let’s say you have two departments using your digital signage platform, and one is getting great return on objective, but the other says they’re not. When the data says they’re not posting messages frequently at all, and their content is stale, then immediately we know what they need to do next.
Derek DeWitt: You know, it’s interesting, there’s a guy, Peter Drucker, who once said, “what gets measured gets managed.” So let’s talk about those specifics, about some of those digital signage analytics. How do we better measure and manage these visual communications?
Trey Hicks: Yeah, we’ve talked a lot how you can collect data using calls to action, as you mentioned Derek, so we won’t go into that much here.
Derek DeWitt: Yeah. Really just do a search. Just use the search bar on the Visix website. You’ll see plenty of stuff.
Trey Hicks: Absolutely. Really good stuff. But know that pairing these analytics with calls to action can help you better measure engagement for both your staff and your audiences. We also have a long blog with more general analytics advice and we’ll provide a link to that.
Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’ll be in the transcript.
Trey Hicks: Great. I’ll concentrate on analytics that are available in our CMS our content management software, and also you’ll see that other CMS vendors have similar analytics that people can use, too.
Derek DeWitt: So, what are some of the, like, more frequently asked questions that Visix clients have that these digital signage analytics can answer?
Trey Hicks: Yeah. When people think about analytics for digital signage, I think one of the first things they think about is, you know, wanting to track how many times or how much content has been shown on their screens, and kind of when and where. So, they really kind of wanna know how many times the message played over a certain period of time, what playlists might need more content, and then where’s our digital signage being used the most, based on playlist submissions?
They also want to know who’s contributing. In most departments you have multiple content contributors, and in fact, maybe it’s a system where different departments or business units are managing their own message playlists.
And then you may also have headquarters or, you know, the campus at large, putting messages across campus or across the company as well. And in that case, users want to know, or administrators want to know, who are my power users, based on content submissions, and who might need more training, based on lack of submissions?
Derek DeWitt: Ah, that’s interesting. I mean, your power users can probably help the people who aren’t doing so much. You know, a little peer-to-peer training and knowledge sharing is always a good idea. You know, we often talk about, as well, the importance of sort of having a champion or a cheerleader, somebody who looks at the digital signage and the whole communication strategy as not just a task or series of tasks to be got through, but as something that’s really great and they’re a hundred percent behind it. So, that’s another way that, like, you know, those kinds of people can help the organization as a whole.
Trey Hicks: That’s right. Those people can provide training or content ideas and mentor other contributors, which is really important. Organizations might also have approval processes in place. And, and in fact, you know, a lot of universities have student workers who are submitting content. We have corporate and healthcare customers who have interns who are uploading content every day. But before that content is displayed on screen, someone has to approve it before it goes out, you know, out to our digital signage. And in that case, digital signage analytics can really tell you, are we responding quick enough to content that’s been submitted for approval? And is most of the content getting approved instead of disapproved?
Derek DeWitt: Right. That’s an interesting point. Like, God, have we not trained people into how to format this stuff or what kind of stuff they should put up, you know?
Trey Hicks: Yeah, exactly.
Derek DeWitt: You know, it occurs to me, I mean, the dream someday in the future is, you know, right out of the film “Minority Report”, where we can actually track how many eyeballs have actually looked at a screen and seen a particular message. That’s the ultimate dream, I think. That’ll give you exactly the analytics you want, but we’re just not there yet. So, what exactly does Visix’s AxisTV Signage Suite software have available for analytics now, today?
Trey Hicks: Yeah, so there’s at least five different areas that we can provide reporting on. And in fact, before we talk through those, I wanna mention two things.
One is that the Signage Suite analytics work no matter if the deployment is in the cloud or on premise. And really, I’m referring to your CMS, your content management system, whether that’s hosted in the cloud by Visix or it’s on-premise, you know, your IT group is taking care of that. You have analytics either way. And the really cool thing is, analytics are just built into the platform, your CMS, your playback engine, it’s there. There’s no additional cost or licensing required for that.
So, let’s talk about the five different reports and tracking that you can do. So first I wanna focus on three reports that can help you track your content and your messaging. And the first one, really tracking message playback, that’s the one that most people think about. Most of our clients are focused on visual communication. They’re leveraging their digital signage platform to communicate better with their larger audience. And with message playback, you can track any of the content you’re uploading and that you’re scheduling to be played back across your enterprise. You can track any of that just with a click per message, okay?
And what we’re gonna get there is, we run a report, we’re gonna see where that message played, how many times it was played back on screen, you know, who submitted it, what playlist it was a part of. You even get information on the cumulative time that content was on screen.
Derek DeWitt: Ah, right. So like, hey, this, you know, whatever, it’s up for seven seconds, and it was, I don’t know, it was shown a hundred times today; that’s 700 seconds.
Trey Hicks: Yeah!
Derek DeWitt: And I assume it also shows you what time of the day and things like this in case people have dayparted.
Trey Hicks: Yeah, exactly. If HR needs to communicate something really important to their thousands of employees and, you know, it’s a really important message, and they’d like to document what they did on digital signage as part of their overall communication plan. You know, after they run their campaign, they can go back to analytics, run a report just for that one piece of content, and be able to show and to make record of that they showed that important HR-related information a thousand times over the course of three weeks, Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 5:00 PM, every day.
Derek DeWitt: Right, right. Then it allows you to change things on the fly, which is quite useful.
Trey Hicks: Yeah, absolutely. So you can really take that report, and what’s really cool about the reporting in Signage Suite is, it’s a live report. So, without having to export to Excel (which you can do) and without having to, you know, to go into a spreadsheet, manipulate columns and sorting and all that stuff, right when you’re looking at the report in Signage Suite, you’re able to sort, filter, organize the reporting so that it’s meaningful to you right there through the web interface.
The next report that you can run is related to message approval. We mentioned before that, you know, we have lots of organizations who are using student workers or interns to post content across their platform. And using the analytics here, we can see how quickly we are approving content or how slow we’re being, you know, to approve content, so that it can actually make it out to screens. And if we’re seeing that a lot of content is getting disapproved instead approved, then we can focus back on our content policies and our communication of those policies to get everybody, you know, our content contributors, back on the right track for the type of content they should be submitting for our digital signage platform.
And the next report is related to playlist activity. This was a great one. And this is one of those that, as soon as you start looking at the data, I mean it’s kind of pretty obvious what’s happening here. You immediately start to see which playlists are most popular, what media players they’re playing back on, and you also see the inverse. You know, which playlists are not getting many content submittals at all, and aren’t really being used at all. So, you’ve got a really good evidence of activity on your digital signage platform just by looking at playlist activity.
And on top of that, there are at least two other reports that you can jump into. You know, one is related around content submission. And here we can take a look at how many content items have been submitted by a user. And you can also sort this information, what we call a sub-organization. And sub-organization can be for different clients, different business units, different departments. So, now we’re looking at, you know, activity and how many content items have been submitted by user and by sub-organization. Which again, along with your playlist activity information, really tells you utilization across your platform on two different levels.
Derek DeWitt: Sure, that makes sense. You can look at that report and go, wow, HR is really, boy, they really ramped it up recently and yet the development team, they never post anything.
Trey Hicks: Yeah. And that likely means their content is stale, so we wanna encourage them. In fact, let’s ask some of our, you know, very experienced content contributors who are using the platform on a weekly basis to help them out and to give them guidance on how they can easily add more content. I mean, the fact is you can drag and drop all kinds of content into the platform – you know, PowerPoint graphics, video clips, Office documents. So, it’s really easy to get information in there, and you can have your technology champions and your power users push them along.
Derek DeWitt: Hmm hmm. And then what’s the fifth report?
Trey Hicks: Yeah, so this one is around user activity. So what you can quickly see here, and this is one that administrators often look for, and that is, they’re looking at their active users in the platform. You know, here, one of the very basic things you can do is identify what user accounts aren’t being used at all. Meanwhile, you’ve got more supporting information on user activity because you’re seeing who has popped into the system just in the last couple days or in the last week compared to people who haven’t logged into the system for, let’s say, a month or two.
Derek DeWitt: Right. So you can say like, wow, I think HR is really cranking out the stuff, but really it’s just Mary. Mary’s the one. She’s on fire!
Trey Hicks: Yeah. Mary’s our power user. And all of these different reports related to analytics, you know, they’re really giving us a snapshot of the utilization of our platform for a certain period of time.
And the cool thing is for any of these reports you can run, you can pick a period of time, you know, maybe when we wanna look back at last quarter, go through these five reports and just see what the data reveals.
Derek DeWitt: Sure, sure. Now all this sounds, I mean, pretty comprehensive. Are these digital signage analytics that Visix offers, are they hard to set up? Are they complicated to use or…?
Trey Hicks: No, they’re actually really easy to enable. Just a checkbox or two, and you’re enabling analytics for your platform.
Derek DeWitt: ‘Cause like you said, it’s already part of the software. It’s nothing extra. It’s already there. It’s a feature.
Trey Hicks: Yeah, that’s right. It’s already there. So, all you’re doing is telling the platform that yes, you want to track your platform utilization. You can set parameters like the number of days that you’re retaining data. And then for any content that you wanna track specifically, it’s just an additional checkbox to say, hey, I want to check how many times this video from IT plays back across our enterprise for the next week. Very easy to get going.
Derek DeWitt: Now, are these reports customizable as well? I assume there’s some level of customization?
Trey Hicks: Yeah, absolutely. So, you can set the date range for any of the analytics that you look at. You choose which columns to show, and you can rearrange them within the reports. And that relates to the live reporting that I mentioned before.
Derek DeWitt: Right. So if you, if you say, hey, you know what, the default is, this column is the fifth one over, but for me, I want it third over.
Trey Hicks: That’s right, yeah. And you can even drag one of the column headers and make that how your data is grouped throughout the report. So, you’ve got tools for sorting, filtering, grouping, and funneling the data to make it more useful to your organization.
Derek DeWitt: Right, right. And does any of that use conditional logic or no?
Trey Hicks: Yeah, yeah. You can use conditional logic in your filtering. And any of the reports can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet, so that you can more easily share that with other departments, with the C-suite.
Derek DeWitt: So, you’ve got it there, kind of live on the fly. You can turn it into a spreadsheet to share. You can turn that spreadsheet into visualizations. I think there’s something in the software also that will, like a widget that pulls data from Excel reports. So, you could share those visualizations, that say you created for the C-suite, with a department or with the organization if you wanted to.
Trey Hicks: Yeah, you sure could. I would recommend that, you know, you create a couple bar charts or, you know, make some graphs that tell the story. But then you could easily share that information across the digital signage platform, so that other people see which departments are using the platform more and, you know, what takeaways were revealed from your look at the analytics.
Derek DeWitt: Right, right. Okay. So, I have all this information. It’s pretty easy to set up. It’s pretty easy to get. It’s pretty easy to manipulate. What am I supposed to do with it? I could see some people saying, okay, it’s, you know, not that hard, but it’s still time. Why should I care? What do I do with it?
Trey Hicks: So, what we wanna do there is look for patterns, look for holes and ask questions. You know, are there any playlists that need more attention? Is there a campaign that wasn’t successful? Did it get the correct amount of screen time? Which we can easily see from the analytics.
Derek DeWitt: Right. Maybe that was a contributing factor.
Trey Hicks: Yeah, absolutely. You know, another thing that you can quickly see is if you have too much content at one point in time. For instance, you know, it’s really ideal that a playlist has only about 8 to 10 pieces of content in rotation at any point in time. You know, 8, 10, 12.
But if you take a look and there’s 50 items in that playlist, and you’re wondering why that one message, you know, didn’t have an impact, it wasn’t absorbed by your larger audience. Well, that’s why. You’re running way too much content in the playlist at that time. Your one piece of content that was most important? It didn’t stand a chance.
Derek DeWitt: Right. ‘Cause it’s only showing up every 350 seconds.
Trey Hicks: Yeah. Are there users who aren’t participating? Analytics can reveal that for us so that we can, we can get them the help they need.
Derek DeWitt: I think it’s nice too, like you said, you can find out which users aren’t participating. And it’s not to shame them kind of a thing. It’s like, maybe they just don’t want to, or maybe they don’t know how to, and how can we help them out, you know? Which I think is quite nice.
Trey Hicks: Yeah. We can quickly point them to our learning management system, the LMS. Maybe they’re tutorials or videos there that they want to take a look at as a refresher on how to be able to quickly create content and schedule it for display within their department.
Derek DeWitt: Now, I would imagine, let’s say I just got the system, or I just activated analytics, I listened to this podcast and went, oh, I should do that. I would imagine that in the first month or weeks, I wouldn’t have a lot of data. So, you probably need a chunk of time to really get anything useful and actionable.
Trey Hicks: Yes. You’ll need at least a couple weeks of data for it to be relevant. Chances are you’ll start to see patterns in which users are contributing the most, what playlists are being updated the most and other trends within just a couple weeks.
Derek DeWitt: Yeah. I think one of the things people need to keep in mind is this is not a task, it’s a business operation, it’s a process. Not just, oh, I got it done, tick. Like this is an ongoing thing that constantly changes and evolves over time.
You also mentioned that you can share the data with teams. How complicated is it for them to understand it?
Trey Hicks: Yeah, that depends on who you’re sharing it with. Anytime you’re presenting analytics and raw data, it’s good to boil it down, so that people get the point quickly.
Instead of sending a spreadsheet, you know, full of columns and rows, use data visualizations like pie charts and trend lines to better communicate your points.
Summarize the top points in a few sentences. And you’ll need to provide context. Data without context can be very hard to understand.
Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s for sure. It’s like, what does that mean? You know, it’s funny because that advice on how to share it, like take the time to, you know, summarize it very quickly, a couple of bullet points and some visualizations, is very much like creating a digital signage message.
Trey Hicks: Sure, sure. Yeah, and I think what most organizations are gonna find is that when they look at that historical snapshot, they’re gonna see good patterns and then they’re gonna see some things that their organization can work on. Like you and I talked about, there may just be a few playlists that people aren’t contributing enough content to, or some playlists that have too much content, you know. So I think there’s gonna be more action that comes out of the analytics than necessarily information that you feel like you have to report to other groups.
Derek DeWitt: So, people listening, if you wanna make informed decisions about your communications, you really do need to be using analytics. It’s not that difficult. Visix, for example, the Signage Suite software already includes it. I think probably a lot of other platforms out there as well do. And if you wanna know about the efficiency and the impact of your visual messaging, both to your audience and sort of behind the scenes, obviously digital signage analytics is the way to go. That’s what’s gonna help you in that area.
I’ve been speaking with Trey Hicks, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Sales Officer for Visix. Thank you, Trey for talking to me today, and thank you everybody out there for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right.
Trey Hicks: Thanks, Derek. I enjoyed it.