Tips to Measure Digital Signage ROI

EPISODE 19 | Guest: Ellyce Kelly, client relationship manager for Visix

What’s the point of your communications? What are you trying to say, and what should people do or know once they see your message? Each reason for communicating will have its own goal and method of measuring success. How can you tell if your messages are successful if you don’t first define what success is? In this episode, we delve into how to measure digital signage ROI.

A message without something for the audience to do can’t be measured. You’ll have no idea if it worked or not. Maybe they saw it, maybe they liked it, maybe they didn’t. Every message needs a goal, a baseline and a call to action. To measure success, you can use URL visits, surveys, interactivity and more.

ROI needs to be a long-term, continuous process. Consistent measurement allows you to finetune your communications, your designs and your calls to action; and to engage more people to get the results you’re after.

  • Understand why ROI matters for digital signage deployments
  • Know how to formulate measurement goals and create a baseline
  • Get tips on turning Return on Investment into Return on Involvement
  • Find out why a good, measurable call to action is essential
  • Learn how to measure ROI using surveys, QR codes, smartphone snaps and more

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Learn more about this topic in our Masterclass Guide 1: Digital Signage Systems Overview


Derek DeWitt: What’s the point of your communications? What are you trying to say? What should people do or what should they know once they see your message? How can you tell if your screens, and what you’re doing on there, is successful if first you don’t define what is success? A message without something for the audience to do is… it just can’t really be measured, or you really don’t have an idea if it works or if it doesn’t work. I mean, maybe they saw it, maybe they liked it, maybe not.

So really every message needs some kind of a prompt, so you can have a tangible action that can be measured. ROI, return on investment, which is normally a financial term but can be applied to things like this as well. It’s a long-term continuous process, and it allows you to tweak and finetune what you’re doing to get better and better results over time until you’re really just going gangbusters.

I’m here with Ellyce Kelly, client relationship manager for Visix. Hi Ellyce.

Ellyce Kelly: Hi Derek.

Derek DeWitt: We’re going to talk about ROI in general, and how it applies directly to digital signage. I’d like to thank Ellyce for joining me, and I’d like to thank all of you for listening.

Derek DeWitt: Okay, so I understand in terms of, say, money investments, why ROI (Return on Investment) matters. Why does it matter in a non-financial context?

Ellyce Kelly: Well, so imagine if your CEO, or say the president of your university, comes up to you (you’re the one responsible for the digital signage) and says, “So what is the ROI for this digital signage that I bought?”

Derek DeWitt: Right! “What are you spending my money on?”

Ellyce Kelly: Right. And your answer is, “That’s a great question…”

Derek DeWitt: “…Joe…”

Ellyce Kelly: “…Let me find out.” It’d be great if you could immediately start rattling off some numbers, why it’s doing such a great job for your organization or for your campus.

Derek DeWitt: You need to be able to show that it’s worth all the time and the money that’s being spent on it.

Ellyce Kelly: You do. So there’s a few ways that you can measure. There are some main components of measurement. So one of those is a definable goal. Seems obvious, right?

Derek DeWitt: Sure.

Ellyce Kelly: An accurate view of “before”.

Derek DeWitt: Meaning before the measurement.

Ellyce Kelly: Before the measurement, and an accurate view of after the measurement. So, if you have some data from some previous campaigns or processes that you can use as some sort of a benchmark (you know, to contrast your current measurements with), but if you don’t, then you run a campaign, you measure the results along the way, and then you have a benchmark. There’s a huge advantage, though, in understanding your starting place.

So, however you choose to measure the ROI (which we’re going to talk about, some of those ways), you want to make it long term, you want to make it a continuous process, so that you can finetune (and believe me, you will have to finetune unless you’re just like the greatest ROI campaign person on the planet)…

Derek DeWitt: Just a born ROIer.

Ellyce Kelly: There’s always room for improvement. So, you are going to have to make some tweaks, but you’ll become better at reaching people and getting the results that you want.

Derek DeWitt: So, you’re talking about doing really a continuous assessment system. So, what do we do first? You said you’ve got to have a goal. So what does mean?

Ellyce Kelly: You do. We care about what we measure. So, we get to figure out what we want to know before we decide on our measurement methodology. We’ve got some categories of goals. We’re going to go over those real quick.

To compel — so, charity drives, student organizations, activities, benefits enrollment.

Derek DeWitt: So, you’re trying to get people to participate in something?

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. And then to inform — new policies, classes and training dates. Maybe wayfinding, weather, news.

Derek DeWitt: So, this is stuff people might want to know. “Hey, here it is. It’s right here.” You don’t have to take your phone out.

Ellyce Kelly: No, I got it right here for you. One of my favorites: to motivate — employee spotlights, stock prices, profit sharing schemes, internal contests.

Derek DeWitt: Gamification.

Ellyce KellyGamification. We’ve talked about that before.

Derek DeWitt: So you get people kind of excited.

Ellyce Kelly: To include — so, welcome messages, new hire, birthdays, community, social activities.

Derek DeWitt: So you’re helping really create a sense of “us”.

Ellyce Kelly: To recognize (another one of my favorites) — group and individual achievements, safety benchmarks, sports team stats.

Derek DeWitt: Right. So, if you’re a university or something. Okay. Again, and gamification ideas also in there.

Ellyce Kelly: And then another one of my favorites (I’ve just got to say it): to warn — so severe weather…

Derek DeWitt: I love warning people!

Ellyce Kelly: Well, I’m telling you, we’ve got a lot of folks that live in parts of the country that, you know…

Derek DeWitt: Tornadoes and so on.

Ellyce Kelly: Tornadoes, you got floods, you’ve got, you know, blizzards; so, severe weather, fire, even hazmat emergencies. Hopefully we don’t have any of those security threats. We just live in a crazy world.

Derek DeWitt: This is alert systems and things like this.

Ellyce KellyThis is alert notifications, and it’s something that you just you have to think about and include.

Derek DeWitt: Choose one of these. I mean, is it always direct, are there indirect ways, or how do you…?

Ellyce Kelly: So, there’s plenty of direct and indirect ways that you can measure how effective a certain type of message is. Some examples would be if the goal of the message is, let’s say, is to simply inform, then you might want to get an idea of how successful it was by listening to breakroom or water cooler chatter. Even using some sort of casual break room poll or survey.

Derek DeWitt: So, we put this information out there; who saw it, who remembers it?

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly.

Derek DeWitt: Okay. That’s an interesting idea – just kind of loiter around, and just hear what people are talking about.

Ellyce Kelly: It’s kind of like when you’ve got digital signage on your screen, and you might have it in a really interesting place, or you’ve got a video wall, if you want to watch people (we encourage people to do this), like go watch, go see what those folks are doing.

Derek DeWitt: Watch what people are doing.

Ellyce Kelly: See what they’re doing it in the atrium. You’ve got interactive wayfinding. Are they touching it or are they afraid?

Derek DeWitt: Are they frowning at the giant video wall or are they astonished?

Ellyce Kelly: Or are they totally ignoring it? So, same type thing. Let’s watch, let’s see what we get.

Derek DeWitt: So even something that informal can be a measurement.

Ellyce Kelly: Very informal, but it’s still a measurement. You just got to take some notes. If you want to increase event attendance, a lot of folks that have done this and do this on a regular basis, you can look at numbers for the most recent meeting or training sessions. You can compare those with the previous (before the messages) numbers. So, before you started promoting, then you can see how many came.

Derek DeWitt: “The monthly optional meeting, normally we have 30% in enrollment or participation, and then we started a campaign to try and get people [to attend] on the digital signs and, hey, it went up to 45%.”

Ellyce Kelly: A long, long time ago. Derek, I had a customer that had a homecoming event (this was forever ago, it’s probably been 13 years). [They] had a homecoming event and put up a message on the digital signs that said, “Hey, come get your homecoming t-shirt at this tent on this date and say you saw it on the digital signage.” The numbers for homecoming were off the charts. The numbers for the t-shirts, they sold out; they had to order more. I mean it was one of the earliest ones that I can remember while being here at Visix.

Derek DeWitt: Simply because they stuck it up on those screens.

Ellyce Kelly: Simply because it went up, and it was just a very simple message, but they were able to measure

Derek DeWitt: And it’s repeated throughout the day, it’s repeated on multiple days, So of course the messaging….I mean, it’s way more effective than, like sending out an email, especially to college-level students who don’t like email, they won’t read it.

Ellyce Kelly: They’re never going to read it.

Derek DeWitt: It’s even more effective than sticking it on a social media feed because social media posts get buried.

Ellyce Kelly: They get buried. Oh, there’s so many, by the time you might look that it might be long gone. So that was a very effective campaign and that was 13 years ago. If you want to motivate, you can look at productivity, absenteeism, turnover numbers — again, how many folks are staying not leaving?

Derek DeWitt: How many people are suddenly “sick” when the weather turns nice?

Ellyce Kelly: Suddenly “ill”. Well, yeah, that’s a tough one.

Derek DeWitt: Here’s a very interesting statistic. Do you know a company that has an astonishingly low absenteeism rate is Disney? Theme parks, especially. Theme parks, the employees like working there so much that they come in no matter what because they just like it.

Ellyce Kelly: That’s how I feel about Visix.

Derek DeWitt: Right. That’s lovely.

Ellyce Kelly: Well, it’s true. All right, so, if the goal is to include, you want to see if more people are participating in programs, or see how morale is doing…

Derek DeWitt: Like surveys or something?

Ellyce KellyDo surveys. If for alert notifications, like test runs, see if people are following the procedures, see if they’re following the policies that you’ve set out.

Derek DeWitt: See if the procedures are clear. “Gosh, we keep saying ‘meet in parking lot B’ and they are all over the place. Why is that?”

Ellyce Kelly: They’re not even in the parking lot.

Derek DeWitt: I understand. So really, have a goal that makes some kind of sense. All right, so talk about now – how are we doing it for digital signage?

Ellyce Kelly: So for retail digital signage, or retail digital signs, it’s pretty much all about numbers of plays, impressions, and sales. There’s a lot of formulas that you can use to tally up, you know, how well an ad did by looking at the numbers. But for organizational digital signage, it’s a different animal, right? It’s used to entertain and inform people, so they can engage with the organization, understand its values, and stay up to date, and ,very important, motivated. So, there’s some measurable costs to digital signage, right?

Derek DeWitt: Right, it’s not all abstract.

Ellyce Kelly: It’s not all, no. It’s technology, infrastructure, you’ve got training services, subscriptions…

Derek DeWitt: Maybe you’re doing some infotainment or something.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. Plus, there’s paying staff to create and schedule content. Other costs to maintain the whole system.

Derek DeWitt: There is cash outlay for a digital signage system. It’s not just an initial purchase. It even costs money to maintain it.

Ellyce Kelly: But there’s many benefits of digital signage that are intangible. And so, what is the “profit” from brand loyalty or good guest experience or increased morale?

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s true. That’s kind of an apples and oranges argument.

Ellyce Kelly: I mean, can you put a price on that?

Derek DeWitt: Well, I think a lot of people in business would like to put a price on it. So this is, this is kind of what I think you’re trying to get at is, this is this is how you can do that.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. So, let’s focus on specific goals for individual messages or campaigns (several messages linked over time). You’re going to look at qualitative feedback, changes in behavior and/or business outcomes. Rather than “return on investment” (this is one of my favorite things to say) let’s think of it as a “return on involvement”.

Derek DeWitt: Because of benefits are intangibles.

Ellyce Kelly: So, you need data though that tells you if people are quote unquote engaged, if they’re having a good experience, if they’re informed or entertained, and if they’ll continue to use the digital signage system because they feel that it’s valuable.

Derek DeWitt: Right. It has value for me, I look at it every day. It’s just a habit at this point. Just like I always look at my homepage for my web browser; I chose that webpage because that’s the information I want.

Ellyce Kelly: But instead of walking down the hall with your phone in your hand and walking into people…

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. Smack!

Ellyce Kelly: Yeah. Are you perhaps looking at the displays that are mounted at various points, are fully saturated across your corporate or higher ed campus or whatever facility you are in.

Derek DeWitt: I mean, that would be the ultimate. You know, people are on their phones and then the moment they get into your facility, they put their phones away because everything they could possibly want is right there.

Ellyce Kelly: How great would that be?

Derek DeWitt: I know you said in that list of things, you said a call to action is (I know this is harped on a lot at Visix) because you kind of, if you don’t have a call to action, you don’t have anything to measure.

Ellyce Kelly: You don’t, and you know what’s great about a call to action? It basically gives you immediate results. You know, everybody wants everything immediately, right? So let’s get this. So, if people take the action that a message prompts them to, then you’re going to be able to measure that pretty quickly.

Derek DeWitt: If they do it, you were successful.

Ellyce Kelly: You were successful. Exactly. The number of people who take the action gives you a dataset that you can work with. There are seven methods for a measurable call to action. Seven that we’re going to talk about, that I like.

Derek DeWitt: With current technology.

Ellyce Kelly: Right. So, [number] one — QR codes.

Derek DeWitt: Which are finally taking off in the US.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. I’ve got a lot of customers using those, that I’ve noticed, recently, whereas a few years ago, not so much.

Derek DeWitt: I think partly because they’re small, so they don’t take up a lot of real estate on the screen. They aren’t obtrusive because it’s not a bunch of words. And a lot of people now have QR readers, apps, already pre-installed on their tablets or phones.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes. I think they come standard now. I believe you even told me that.

SMS response, is another way we can do that.

Derek DeWitt: Texts.

Ellyce Kelly: Texts, yep. Here’s one of my favorites — smartphones snaps. So, I’ve got a message that’s playing, take a picture of this.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, of the message or part of it….

Ellyce Kelly: Of the message. And that is a great way to measure results that can play into a number of things. Surveys and polls. Social media. Certain hashtags that you can incorporate.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Are people using them?

Ellyce Kelly: Those are great for campaigns.

Derek DeWitt: How many views you’re getting, how many likes you’re getting.

Ellyce Kelly: Also, another thing, coupons or codes. And then designated URLs.

Derek DeWitt: So, like vanity URLs or landing pages or something.

Ellyce Kelly: It just depends on what you’re trying to get across and who your audience is.

Derek DeWitt: But what are your favorite ones?

Ellyce Kelly: Okay. Well, so I love the smartphone snaps. The surveys and the polls and social media, to me, are some of the best ways that you can measure whether or not your audience is engaged. So (I won’t say who it is), we have a customer that incorporated all of the ones I just mentioned into a multi-phase campaign for an event that was happening, and they wanted to increase the number of social media followers that they had, and they wanted to get more people to this event. We’ll call it like a “state of the union”, even though it was not. So, they were able to measure (and they had prizes, and they had prizes at different levels, and they had all of the design elements were incorporated that we want everybody to do, you know, where they’re changing up their layouts)…

Derek DeWitt: So, they were doing it right. They were best practices across the board.

Ellyce Kelly: They were best practices all the way. And by the end of it they were able to measure effectively and have results for the person who wanted to do it (who was basically over this entire group). They said, “Hey, we’ve got hard results for you.” They had an increased number of Twitter followers, an increased number of Instagram (or Facebook, I can’t remember which one it was now off the top of my head). But they had hard numbers to show.

Derek DeWitt: Because if you’re an admin on those, you can see immediately, from this day to this day, you had this jump.

Ellyce Kelly: Because they had special hashtags that they were using for the event itself. That’s just a great use. And again, immediate results. So, as these ads are coming out on their digital signage, in these phases, they are immediately seeing which ones had more impact and which ones were really…. And there were, in those phases that they had [in] the campaign, there were definitely higher spikes and numbers, where in some phases they were a little bit lower.

Derek DeWitt: And then you say, “Wow, okay, let’s duplicate the good ones and let’s not waste anybody’s time with the ones that didn’t do so well.” I suppose when you have that kind of, especially something like that where you say, “Ooh, these ones performed well, these ones didn’t.” I mean this is A/B testing really, right? Check it out, see how it’s doing. Try it again. And this [is] the scientific method. Don’t just say, “Hey, it worked once.” Is it replicable? We do it again. “Yep. It looks like we’ve got a similar result.” Okay. Then you try and figure out what elements made that successful, and you try and duplicate those, and you just keep feeding it. It’s a constant feedback going, going, going, going, going.

Ellyce Kelly: It never ends, really.

Derek DeWitt: And surveys and polls, you said, is another way you like to do this.

Ellyce Kelly: Yep. So, surveys and polls can be kind of fun and especially if you have an interactive screen, right? You can immediately get some feedback there. But also, even after the call to action, you can do surveys and polls to figure out who saw what and how many people were interested. And do they remember? You know, “Did I see it here?” Or “Do I remember seeing this on social media?” or “Do I remember seeing this on the digital signage?”

Derek DeWitt: Not only do they have the information in their head after the communication push, but do they remember where they saw it?

Ellyce Kelly: And call to actions, too. Certainly, encouraging them with maybe a little reward.

So, you should be assessing your overall system once or twice a year, doing a walkthrough audit and watching how people react to your digital signage. And I mentioned this earlier. It’s that, you’ve got to do that. I mean, I know it takes time.

Derek DeWitt: It doesn’t take that much time.

Ellyce Kelly: It doesn’t take that long.

Derek DeWitt: Ten minutes a day.

Ellyce Kelly: It really does. I mean, it’s interesting to see, though, what people are interacting with and what they’re not. And that allows you to tweak your content (take notes), wayfinding, whatever it is to get people more engaged.

Derek DeWitt: So, that’s a pretty informal way.

Ellyce Kelly: It is. It’s informal, but it’s effective.

Derek DeWitt: What if I wanted to do something a bit more formal, just for whatever reason (because my boss requires it or because we need to enter this stuff into a spreadsheet)?

Ellyce Kelly: And it’s not bad to do both. That’s a great point that you raised. So, survey your audience. Promote the survey on the digital signs themselves. Give a short URL or QR Code, we just talked about those, that takes them to an online survey.

Derek DeWitt: Like SurveyMonkey or something.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, something super quick and easy. Or, you can do this too (and I’ve had many, many customers do this), you can have tables with physical surveys that are right there by the signs. Right by the signs. Just let them fill something out. Just drop it in a little box and you’re good.

Derek DeWitt: And I guess you should probably have pens or pencils or something as well. And yes, are some people gonna take your pencils? Yes, they are. And what is the cost? I mean come on.

Ellyce Kelly: Not much. And if you’ve got, or course, those interactive displays….

Derek DeWitt: If your organization is that close to the bone, then you have other problems besides your digital signage.

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly, yes. That’s true. So, a few things you want to keep in mind when you’re crafting a formal survey. You want to keep it short and sweet. People are usually very happy to spend five minutes, maybe a minute, maybe two minutes (so not a lot). Let’s just say…

Derek DeWitt: I’d say five max.

Ellyce Kelly: Five is the max, right? So that their time filling out the questions (they’ll take the time, but of course you don’t want to make it a chore.)

Derek DeWitt: Like five questions would be ultimate.

Ellyce Kelly: I mean, if you can do five questions, that would be awesome. I’d say definitely less than 10.

Derek DeWitt: Boom, boom. I should think it would be better to do shorter but more frequent surveys then less frequent, longer surveys.

Ellyce Kelly: Yes, absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: Like “Every third week of the month, we do a survey.” And it’s five questions and then next month we ask another five questions. Or if we didn’t get the data, we want for one, we re-ask another question.

Ellyce Kelly: Also, you want to focus on one topic. So, let the questions flow intuitively around the subject matter. If a survey is scattered or confusing, you’re going to get fewer results and less participation.

Derek DeWitt: Well no, that’s true. If the surveys are kind of bouncing all over the place, “You’re like, what are they trying to measure?”

Ellyce Kelly: Exactly. Consider demographics. You’ve got to make sure that you ask questions that segment your audience. So, people in different locations, positions, people that have different exposure to technologies, and different communication needs and expectations.

Derek DeWitt: And make sure your questions make sense for that audience.

Ellyce Kelly: Also, you want to leave a little, little wiggle room. You always want to include comment boxes, so your audience can give freeform feedback; not just on the survey topic as a whole, but allow them to kind of enter their own individual…

Derek DeWitt: Give a couple of sentences or bullet points.

Ellyce Kelly: Yeah. Say, “Is there anything further you would like to add?”, sort of an open. Also put it online, so if you use an online survey, (you mentioned this earlier Derek), that makes the whole process easier. Everybody has done a SurveyMonkey.

Derek DeWitt: And your data collection’s half done for you. It’s very easy for these websites to just grab the information and go, “Boom, here it is.” On a plate.

Ellyce Kelly: And then repeat. And so, repeat again, repeat, repeat, repeat. This is an ongoing thing.

Derek DeWitt: Right. You need to establish a baseline, and then you do a thing, and that’s a comparison. The most recent thing becomes the new baseline. And then, and thing is [that] it allows you to see trends over time. It allows you to see how things shift, this and this.

Ellyce Kelly: And they will shift.

Derek DeWitt: The goal is to have the perfect digital signage deployment. It is an unachievable goal. But you can get closer and closer and closer and closer and closer all the time. Even though the technology may change, this is the basics of how to get any kind of decent feedback.

Ellyce Kelly: I completely agree.

Derek DeWitt: Well, thank you very much, Ellyce Kelly, for talking to us about how to turn the financial concept of ROI into something that we can actually measure, and show our bosses that we’re not just wasting their money and time.

Ellyce Kelly: That’s right. Thank you, Derek. Always a pleasure.

Derek DeWitt: Thank you very much. And thank you, everyone, for listening.