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University of Western Ontario: Enjoying Real ROI

When it comes to making investment decisions, in today’s tough economy, financial considerations are more than ever at the fore. At the University of Western Ontario, Western Retail Services (WRS), the university-owned organization that runs the campus book store along with a computer store and graphic design services business, wanted to find a way to better communicate with students and faculty. In order to deliver up-to-date information using a cost-effective method, they turned to university digital signage from Visix. The impressive ROI they registered in less than a year after purchasing AxisTV suggests they made the right choice.

According to Carolyn Young, communications manager at WRS, AxisTV addressed two of the organization’s primary needs: the ability to deliver fresh information on a continual basis and do it in an economical way. “We were using a lot of print signage, but there are real limits to that in an environment where information is changing quickly,” said Young. While there is an obvious up-front cost to acquiring digital signage, Young explained that constantly having to print, update and post traditional signs involves significant expenditures of both time and money, too.

By offering their vendors the possibility of advertising on the AxisTV system, WRS has been able to see a real return on investment. In the less than 12 months, they were able to recoup more than half of their total investment, according to Young. “Our vendors have responded quite enthusiastically to the opportunity to advertise on the screens, and that, to me, signifies that people respect the effectiveness of digital signage when it comes to getting the word out,” she said.

WRS did not take the decision to invest in digital signage lightly. Young said the organization spent several years investigating various options before settling on AxisTV digital signage software. Presentations by a number of competitors left them unconvinced of the advantages of such a system. After an information-filled meeting with Visix representatives, however, WRS was impressed with the many demonstrable long-term relationships Visix had established with other campuses and universities in North America. That, along with the fact that the Athletics Department at Western had also decided to go with Visix, sealed the deal.

The positive initial meeting was just the beginning, however. There were concerns over issues of support and training on the part of WRS, but Young said the Visix follow-up on those fronts was “very good,” too. “Once we made the decision, there was good training that we were able to do online,” said Young. With the user-friendly AxisTV system, the best kind of training was being able to “learn by doing,” she added, and that was possible with the support provided by Visix.

Today, WRS is using four strategically placed Sharp LCD screens to deliver its messages to the campus’s 34,000 students and 3,500 faculty and staff. The screens are placed in high traffic locations at WRS operations, including outside the campus bookstore and at the computer store. The most successful placement is at the campus Tim Hortons coffee and donut Mecca that students flock to non-stop. “We’ve got a large screen beside Tim Hortons which has been great, as this is one of the most high-traffic places on the campus,” said Young.

Populating the screens with a variety of content ranging from PowerPoint slides to bulletins to video, WRS promotes everything from campus events and initiatives to new faculty-authored publications to their own services. As just one example, Young pointed to a recent series of slides created by their graphic designers to promote the fact that WRS’s graphic services unit had made the switch to environmentally friendly Forest Stewardship Council-approved paper, in line with the university’s larger environment initiative. WRS also makes the AxisTV system available to the university itself to advertise on its screens at no charge. That may include things like promoting the current Western Award of Excellence for staff members or worthwhile charity organizations such as the United Way.

With both the impressive ROI and the effectiveness the system has shown in getting a fresh message out, WRS is very satisfied with its decision to go with AxisTV. “We use a combination of ways to communicate to campus, but the AxisTV system is at the top of the list,” said Young. “There’s a lot of potential for us to do more with the system, and we find that idea quite exciting,” she added. “It has delivered more than we ever expected.”