“Attention is a precious commodity,” says digital analyst and author Brian Solis, and this is especially true when considering digital signage and your audience. People are moving through your facility on their way somewhere, for some purpose other than looking at your digital signs. You have to make them look, get them to slow down and pay attention, care about your message and take an action, all in the space of about seven seconds. No matter how robust your digital signage software is, if you don’t understand engagement, you’re wasting your efforts. Here are a few tips and tricks to help with digital signage engagement:
Make ‘Em Look
The first step is attracting attention. If your viewers don’t look at the screens, you’ve missed an opportunity to engage them. Use attractors to make sure your audience is always interested in what’s on your screens.
Show something new. We all walk by that poster from six months ago without noticing it, and it’s no different with digital signs. People will look for new information, and if they don’t see it each time they tune in, they’ll eventually tune out, possibly permanently.
Change layouts frequently. Moving things around on screen is a great way to catch the eye of passers-by. This is especially important if you have a standard playlist of messages that stays up for a day or two. Even though the content isn’t changing, moving it around on screen can “trick” viewers into believing they’re seeing something new so they pay attention.
Include visual hooks. Help your audience by giving them timely, relevant data on screens that they care about. As they become more reliant on your digital signs for this information, they’ll tune in more frequently to see these items, so they’ll see your other announcements as well:
- Current time
- Day and date
- Weather (current and forecast)
- News headlines
- Social media feeds
Use auto-updating content. These are messages or tickers that, after a one-time set up, update all on their own. This is great for your communications team, because it alleviates the burden of having to create these messages one-at-a-time every day. It’s engaging for viewers, because they always get the most current information on screens:
- Event schedules
- Excel and XML data
- RSS feeds
- Curated content subscriptions
- All items in the “visual hooks” list above
Make ‘Em Think
Like all advertising, communications is about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. Also like advertising, a series of consistent communications works better than one-off messages. You need to think about who, how and where you want to engage your audience:
Launch campaigns. If you use a single message design to communicate something – no matter how few times you show it – it will become stale and viewers will tune out. Also, different people are attracted to different designs, so you want to use campaigns (the same message delivered in different forms) over a sustained period of time for message saturation.
Think long-tail. Long-tail theory says that around half your audience will respond quickly, but the other half will need more time to get around to taking your call to action. So, you need to start messaging early and use long-tail campaigns. Use teasers to peak interest before you launch your campaign, and try to tell a story to engage viewers, so they’ll want to see what comes next.
If you’re advertising an event, start at least two weeks before the event to give people time to see the message, decide to attend and take the next step (get details, purchase tickets, invite friends, etc.). And the same can be said for benefits enrollment, charity drives – anything that has a defined time period.
Deliver on target. Consider the type of audience you’re appealing to, where they are and when they’ll be there. You don’t want to deliver your most important messages during off hours, and you don’t want to show announcements for faculty to students who don’t need them:
- Define audience demographics and interest
- Choose locations (geographical or individual screens)
- Plan around traffic flows
Reinforce your message. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll use only digital signage for communications. You’ll want to coordinate your campaigns across all channels – screens, websites, intranets, social media and print – to be sure you’re consistent. This also helps with message saturation – people will see your communications in different places, which is reinforcing.
Make ‘Em Linger
The best-planned campaign can be ruined by poor design. Good content means attractive, clear messages that grab attention, are easily understood and motivate people to do something.
Remember – this is not print! You can’t use the same methods for screens that you do for newsletters or posters.
Start with the screen. You need to consider the aspect ratio and resolution of the design, where it will be on the screen and what else will be on screen with it. Also, will this be on just one screen or a bank of screens? If you have touchscreens, you have a whole set of design options open to you that don’t exist for static screens:
- Horizontal or vertical
- Layout and juxtaposition
- Single display, group of screens or video wall
- Interactive or static design
Think about layouts. Change your layouts several times a day on every screen, so your audiences always see something new. As always, you have to consider your viewers – the faster they pass, the less you want on screen. If you have screens in a hallway, your viewers are on the move and need to be able to get the message at a quick glance. You can show more detailed layouts in waiting areas and lounges where your audience will be hanging around:
- Change layouts throughout the day
- Use both full-screen and multi-zone layouts
- Design layouts that appeal to the target audience
Design clear messages. When you create messages for your screens, you’ll want to use the basic rules for digital design. If you’d like more detail on these, download our white paper – Design Standards for Digital Signage Content.
- Good contrast and legibility
- Don’t overcrowd the message with text
- Don’t use too many images or fonts
- Understand colors and perception
- Use focus techniques through placement of elements
- Preview your designs on a screen from six feet away
Make ‘Em Act
You don’t just want your audience to see your communications, you want them to react to them in some way – sign up for something, attend an event, tune in for the webinar, share the info with a colleague or friend, or just learn more about the subject.
In order to motivate viewers to act, you need to include some clear direction in your messages, so they know how to get more information, take the next step or give feedback. By including a clear call to action in your message, your audience can engage with your communications and become part of the process.
It’s great when your viewers participate, but can you report on just how successful your campaign was? You can if you include measurable ROI triggers. If you can quickly count the number of times an action’s taken, it’s measurable. This lets you see how viewers react to different motivations, so you can tailor future campaigns to meet their preferences. It also gives you great reporting data, so you can look at each campaign’s progress and success measures.
Include message triggers. There are a lot of different measurable calls to action you can include in your message designs. We go into detail for these in our white paper Why You Should Care About ROI, but here’s the quick list:
- QR tags
- SMS response
- Smartphone snaps
- Interactive surveys and polls
- Social media
- Coupons or codes
- Designated URLs
- Bluetooth triggers
If you can capture people’s attention, get them to notice your messages and internalize them, and take whatever action you’re hoping for, then you can confidently say that your digital signage is engaging audiences. And that’s the point of all the time, money and effort you’ve put into it.