Measuring the Effectiveness of Digital Signage Designs

EPISODE 24 | Guest: Jill Perardi, creative services manager for Visix

You’ve spent a lot of time and energy creating what you think are wonderful, eye-catching messages. But how do you know whether your digital signage designs are actually achieving your communication aims? Do people look at them? Do they remember them? Are they responding to your calls to action?

If you don’t have a way to measure how effective your message designs are, how can you evaluate, adjust and improve over time? The answer is you can’t.

Engagement is the goal of a digital signage system, and like any other business function, you have to gauge successes and trends to know if it’s working. This podcast will give you some guidelines for judging the effectiveness of your digital signage designs.

  • Find out how to ensure your designs further your communication objectives
  • Learn how to judge message designs on their technical and aesthetic merits
  • Explore different types of calls to action and A/B testing
  • Understand how to balance between too much and too little
  • Get tips on long-term planning, monitoring and measurement

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Learn more about this topic in our Masterclass 4: Digital Signage Design Guide


Derek DeWitt: So, you’ve spent all this time and energy designing, planning out your digital signage system, creating these great designs. How do you know that they’re working? How do you know?

Very often I’ll hear people say, “Well, I don’t know. I guess more people are attending the events”, but that’s not really measurement, you know? You wouldn’t really try and run a company without measuring performance against goals. And I think the same has to go for any kind of comprehensive communications strategy like this.

You created each message or campaign for a specific reason. Is it achieving that reason? And if it isn’t, what changes do you need to make in order to make that work? So, we’re here today with Jill Perardi, creative services manager for Visix. Hello Jill.

Jill Perardi: Hello, Derek.

Derek DeWitt: We’re going to talk about some ideas on why we have to do this and how we can do this, and decide how we can improve our digital signage communications. Thank you, Jill, for coming. And thank you everybody for listening.

Derek DeWitt: Quite some time ago, I wrote a bunch of case studies for Visix, and a lot of… I’d say, “So how are you measuring ROI?” And a lot of people would say, “Yeah, we should do that.”

Jill Perardi: So, the answer is “We’re not.”

Derek DeWitt: The short answer was, “Well, we’re not doing it.” And I think if they, if people understood why it’s so important, they maybe would make sure to include that as part of their plan. So why is this so important?

Jill Perardi: Well, I mean, you wouldn’t run an advertising campaign, and pay for that, without knowing if it increased sales. Why have digital signage without knowing how it’s impacting the behavior of your audience? Whether that be increasing an event attendance by a certain percentage, getting a different audience at that event. You know, direct feedback. You know, “I took a picture because it told me to on the sign. I saw it, then I took it here and I showed it.”

You need feedback because if you aren’t getting that ROI, how do you know that your design is even working? How do you know that your event even matters? Why pay for this event if you’re only going to promote it on your signage, and you’re not going to have some call to action to get people to act upon it?

Derek DeWitt: Five people and crickets.

Jill Perardi: Yeah. Yeah.

Derek DeWitt: How do we do this? I mean obviously, I think a lot of this requires you to have come up with some kind of goals or objectives before you put the stuff up there on the digital signage. So, you already have to have a communications plan in place, which again, I’m going to guess some organizations skip that part. They just throw stuff up there and hope for the best.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. If you think about whatever it is you’re promoting or trying to get people to do, it doesn’t have to be some big elaborate communications plan. Right? Because that could be, the thought of that could be scary or overwhelming. You just don’t have the time for that. But you know you need to force people or get people to do X.

Just at least come up with your objective. “We need people to do this, and this is how we want to measure the success of it.” When you come up with that objective, think about the audience, too. Is this audience the right group for how we’re trying to get them to do this? So, we could actually measure that as well.

Derek DeWitt: If you’re using multiple communications methods, so like maybe you’re using the digital signage to, let’s just say it’s to promote a guest speaker. A guest speaker who the company paid for (paid his fee or her fee) to come in and you want to make sure that auditorium is filled up. So you’re trying to drive people there. That’s a very easy way – count the people, right?

But if you’re using email, digital signage, you’ve left a poster up in each department, in the break rooms, you’ve got flyers around, you’ve instructed managers to kind of mention it to people over and over – and then people come. You have no way of knowing which of these was effective and which of them was not.

So, you have to find a way, I think, to make sure that you can measure “Oh, these leads”, basically, because this is using sales terminology, these are essentially leads.” These leads, these successful calls to action taken, came from digital signage as opposed to something else.” So, it has to be something unique.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, make all of your marketing mediums, for whatever this is that you’re promoting – if it’s on multiple places or multiple sites or whatever – make sure all your marketing mediums are unique.

You know, in one place they need to call, in one place it’s this URL, in another place it’s a different URL. So you can look at your web traffic or count the number of people that dialed in (or whatever it is) and you know, all right, this phone number was on this printed flyer.

Derek DeWitt: And only this printed flyer.

Jill Perardi: And only this printed flyer. And our digital signage was this basic URL. You can measure it in that way, and you could just kind of see the overall results. But also I would encourage you, if you’re going to promote an event and you’re not sure which medium might work best, or you’re trying to test some mediums for future designs, come up with two different designs for the same campaign with two different yet similar calls to action.

Did a QR tag get more results because people have their phone in their hand and most modern phones now have QR readers built into the camera? Did that get more scans, which opened this webpage and I can track that? Or did just having the URL for this other webpage get higher results? Did the phone call get results? Use A/B testing. So then you might know for future events or future campaigns, and based on audience, you know there were more of this responded to that, more millennials responded to this one, it appears, but more Gen X responded to that one.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. More people in their 60s were more comfortable making a phone call. Whereas people in their 20s didn’t. I mean I personally, if you say, “call this number for more information”, I will never call that number.

Jill Perardi: Same here.

Derek DeWitt: I just won’t do it. Even if it’s just a voicemail, like an automated recording of some sort. I want to be able to do it, in what I imagine is anonymously, at my own time in my own pace, you know?

Jill Perardi: Well, you think about if you sign up or something. I mean, even at my hairdresser, when I started going there as a regular client, they asked “How do you want to be reminded about appointments?”

Derek DeWitt: Oooh, that’s good!

Jill Perardi: “Do you want us to call you? Do you want us to email you? Do you want us to text you?” I want you to text me. And that’s what I get from them.

Derek DeWitt: And they log that preference.

Jill Perardi: And they log that preference. If you have the ability to do something like that for your digital signage campaign…. You know you have a captive audience: “How would you prefer to learn about this?” And carry that through in your campaigns, too, because the majority wanted text or whatever it is. They want to be able to text a code to this number, they text “hello” to 12345, and they get something back in return. Well make that your call to action on your message.

Derek DeWitt: One of the big buzzwords in digital signage communications lately has been creating a more “consumer-like experience”. That is your consumer. That is an experience you had as a consumer. So why as an organization, why do we always have to lag behind? No denigration to hairdressers, but hairdressers, come on, we’re a big multinational company and we’re lagging behind, you know, Flo’s Hairstyle Salon, in the way that we interface with our audience? I mean, it just seems, why not take that as inspiration?

Jill Perardi: Absolutely. Your students, your employees – they’re your consumer.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. And they’re consuming the information that you’re giving them, and you want them to be hungry for more. You’re manager of the creative services team, you guys are all about design. I mean, how do you design in these elements to the messages? I mean, I understand just stick a QR code or something, but I mean, are there other things we can do to integrate measurement into the design itself?

Jill Perardi: Well, first and foremost, it has to be a design that’s going to capture attention. It’s easy to read because you’ve chosen the appropriate font type, the appropriate font size, font weight, color. You’ve got contrast between your image and the background, or your color and design and the background in your text. But don’t bury the lead. You know, promote what it is that you’re there to promote. Make that where the eye is going to go. But your call to action really has to stand out as well. And so maybe do that with two different colors or two different types of font (I’d never go more than two quite frankly.)

But, you know, design to appeal to the audience. Pull at their emotional triggers and then just make it a well-designed, easy-to-see, easy-to-read, eye-catching message. But like I just mentioned, use A/B testing. What a great way to do that if you’re promoting something that has a call to action, have a couple of different designed messages (completely different). Have a couple of different calls to action on them, so they can be measured. And then, you know, going forward, when someone in some other department [who] has nothing to do with digital signage but has something that they need to get a return on, they come to you and they go, “Hey, we have this sale that we need you to promote.” You kind of, already as the designer, who’s really been given zero guidance on what the sale is, other than “We’re selling t-shirts in the student union.”

Derek DeWitt: “Make it cool!”

Jill Perardi: Yeah. “Make it cool. Make it look good.” You have some of your own case studies (really, of sorts) that you’ve put together with your A/B testing in your design. So, you’ve got a photo of the t-shirt, you’ve got it, it’s eye-catching, it’s easy to read, it has a verb. It’s telling you why you want this shirt, what to do. And it’s got a call to on it because you know that works with students in the student union. Because you’ve done that before.

Derek DeWitt: You may even find that, yes, perhaps this design or that design is more effective. You also may find this location (for example a university – multiple buildings on a big campus), this location, this message seemed to be more effective. Or this time of day, this message seemed to be more effective or, gosh, it turns out Friday was actually the best day.

So, I mean there really is, like for a content creator or creation team, this is a full-time job. This whole notion…. There are some organizations out there that have this idea that, I think, “Oh you, you have your normal job, you know, Barbara, and by the way, here’s the digital signage as well. You could just do that in your spare time.” This, I mean this really is, this is a phenomenal amount of measurement going on all the time and it’s just integrated into the whole process.

Jill Perardi: Yeah. If you want to get ROI on your digital signage investment, it is a process.

Derek DeWitt:  And you have to be doing it always.

Jill Perardi: Always. It is testing. It is trying what works. It is making sure you have the right message, making sure you have a well-designed message. Knowing the resolution of your displays, you have to make sure that there is somebody that’s giving you the display resolution in IT.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, yeah.

Jill Perardi: Yeah. So you didn’t spend your time as a content creator creating a little square image only to find out that it’s going on a video wall, and no one told you that, and now you’ve wasted time and money. Just like you don’t want to waste time and money on your campaign by not having call to action to measure ROI on your messaging.

Derek DeWitt: There are so many elements that go into a single message, let alone a whole layout. If you’ve got two or maybe even three content zones. I mean, you could spend forever tweaking and tweaking and tweaking. And the fact is a lot of these messages won’t live that long. They’re going to be valid for two or three weeks. You start off with your best guess as to what will be effective and then make a couple of tweaks throughout. But I mean, because I can see a lot of people listening to this and thinking, “Well, Jesus, that just sounds like I need a team of 45 people.”

Jill Perardi: Right. So, it doesn’t it…. You know, we talk about it being a full-time job; quite frankly, it doesn’t have to be. Your digital signage provider likely has a design team that can at least come up with the really creative, well-designed, overall content to help you get started. And then they’ve created a theme for you. You kind of use that as your template to move along.

So you’re, you know, if you are a designer and you’re coming up with messaging, even if your digital signage provider’s come up with some overall highly-designed theme, you know, you could still contribute to that with your individual messaging. And just remember what you’ve learned in your design courses and what you’ve learned along the way, you know, on different things like contrast and text and image sizing and all of that.

But just remember it as digital, so it’s a little bit different. It’s a lot different than print, but it can be a little bit different. You’ve got a lot of different things and factors (such as lighting and all of that stuff) that you have to take into account, distance from the display. If you’re not a designer and you’re tasked with creating the overall content, again, rely on your provider for that initial look and feel, to come up with a theme, give you some templates so you can continue from there.

But if you don’t even have that, and you’re using PowerPoint or you’re just using a solid color background, that’s totally fine. Its text can help determine your effectiveness of your engagement on your signs as well. So make sure you have a clear message and that’s probably the most important, really everything we’ve talked about, you have to have a clear message because no one’s going to scan that QR code, and no one’s going to go to that event or whatever you’re trying to do to measure the effectiveness if it’s a confusing message to begin with.

Derek DeWitt: Right. If you’re sitting there going, “I don’t… wait…I’m supposed to take a picture of my hand…oh, the message is gone!” ‘Cause there was only up for seven seconds.

Jill Perardi: Yeah. Yeah. And so, it’s not…Yes, it definitely could be a full-time job if you need to measure the effectiveness down to a science. It doesn’t have to be. Make sure you have some clear messaging.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single message. I mean, you remember, over time you’ll start to learn. “Yeah, you know, wow, Fridays really seem to be a good day for this kind of a message, certainly in this area. We’ve had some success there, so I’m going to keep that in mind.”

So, I think over the course of six months or a year, you would sort of instinctively…. I would also say though, you might, I mean you could write volumes on this, but I would write down, I would keep a record of some of this, too. It’s difficult when you get a person who’s trained up, dah-dah-dah, and they’ve got the training…. And there is usually training. Not always, but very often you’ve got some kind of training package from the company that’s providing your CMS. Utilize that, for sure.

I’m sure at least some companies do design training. At least basic design 101, you know. That person gets, “Oh yeah, they’ve got it!” And then they leave, for whatever reason; because they find a better job or because they’ve graduated. You know, schools especially how this problem, they hand this off to students.

Jill Perardi: Yeah.

Derek DeWitt: Students do a great job and then they graduate, and they’re gone. And now they’re using those skills for some lucky company out there, and you’ve got to train up a whole new group (or that person has to train them). So, keeping some sort of a record of this stuff.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, and pass it on to the next person. Don’t expect that you get your signs up and you’re going to be successful in the first month or two. Because you are going to have to play around a little bit, see what captures attention, what doesn’t, what’s driving people to go do the things that you’re telling them to do on the displays.

But yeah, keep a record of it, pass it on to the next person. But also just for yourself. Maybe you didn’t have to do a certain, put up a certain message that somebody’s asking for in the last six to eight months, and when you did it last time you thought, “Boy, I’m going to do it differently next time.” Well, eight months later it’s finally next time, and you don’t remember what it is.

Derek DeWitt:  Yeah. “What was that?”

Jill Perardi: If you’re a content designer and your displays happen to be near you or where you see them, watch people.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, yeah. See what they do.

Jill Perardi: You know, you get up to go to the break room, go up to grab a Coke or whatever. See if somebody’s looking at it. And if they just go, “Hey, what was up there?” See what they tell you. If they go, “I don’t know. I just saw this image.” Well maybe they didn’t look at it long enough. Maybe you didn’t schedule it long enough. Maybe that’s all they saw, and they didn’t read the text. Just ask.

Derek DeWitt: Or maybe you have this amazing message, but unfortunately, it’s in a three-zone layout with a ticker and an animated clock, and a…. you know what I mean? So, that wonderful message. So that’s another thing to think about as well.

Jill Perardi: There’s too much going on.

Derek DeWitt: Maybe, this message, we should change the layout for when this message displays. You know, my wife and I, first time I went to New York (she’d already been there), we went to Times Square and she did this experiment with me. She said, “All right, look around, look around Times Square. 30 seconds. Now, close your eyes.” She walked me back half a block and she said, “Name me three brands you remember.” And I couldn’t…I could remember Yahoo because I know that they’re there. But actually, I had no memory of any specific brands (n this case, specific messages) because it was just too much.

Jill Perardi: Overwhelming.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah.

Jill Perardi: And you weren’t sitting there looking at it, looking at it, looking at it, taking it in, remembering it. It was just…it was your seven seconds, which is about all you’ve got for a digital signage audience unless you’re in a waiting room.

Derek DeWitt: It was, like, mimicking the experience of this. And the thing is, too, I think when you, like you said, you might not be perfect in those first couple of months of a digital signage deployment, but I do think you have some cover there because, “Hey, there’s this new cool thing, this digital signage,” so people are going to be a lot more forgiving. You know, six months in, they’re like “Oh yeah, that. Well, you know, I’ve seen better messages in bathrooms,” and they start to get more demanding as audience.

So yeah, I think it’s important. It’s important to make sure that you have thought about this stuff from the get-go. That you’re keeping a record of it. Don’t obsess about, “Ooh, should this be 10-point font or 10.5 font,” you know, the general direction’s going to be good enough.

Jill Perardi: I will stop you. Don’t use a font that small on your digital signage unless it’s a small display and someone’s standing right up at it.

Derek DeWitt: 15-point font.

Jill Perardi: ‘Kay.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, okay, yes. Don’t use 10-point font. But make sure that you’ve integrated it into your planning, integrate it into your messages. And even if it’s just a brief amount of time, take a moment (at least) to think about and jot down some notes on that particular message. Was it effective? Was it not?

And if the answer is, “I don’t know”… If you, then later on at the end of the month, look at your notebook and you have a lot of, “I don’t knows”, then it’s really time to come up with some kind of a measurement scheme.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: All right. Thank you very much for talking to us, Jill Perardi, creative services manager for Visix. And thank you, everybody, for listening.