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How to get a better ROI from your digital signage


Paul Murphy, operations director Saturn Visual Solutions


The sales of digital signage hardware are increasing year on year, and have been for the last 25 years. As it becomes more affordable, more businesses recognise its potential for improving their marketing efforts and/or operational efficiency. 

However, some of the businesses that invest in it find that it’s not the ‘silver bullet’ they thought it would be and isn’t delivering the return on investment (ROI) that they were hoping for. 

So, how do you avoid paying for an expensive ‘wall ornament’ and ensure that your organisation gets the best possible bang for its bucks that it can out of its investment in digital signage? 

Be generous with screen time

All too often people approach digital signage with a narrow mindset. It’s often used exclusively by one department and only for one task, and subsequently its full potential isn’t explored.

Digital signage creates a vast amount of screen time. If an appropriate content management system (CMS) software is used, different types of content can be shown at different times and on different screens. For example, before business premises are opened to visitors or in staff-only spaces, displays can be used for staff notices or training to reinforce best practice, or to advertise internal job vacancies. 

Put together a team from different areas of your organisation and make a list of all the operational efficiency issues and focuses for improvement – large or small – that you can think of from inside of your own team/department and outside it.  

Once you have a list, consider whether and how digital signage could be used to alleviate issues/make improvements, and (if feasible) what the financial value of a small- medium-sized improvement to each of them might be to your organisation.  

If you can get multiple benefits from your digital signage for multiple teams, you’ll get a better ROI and achieve it faster.  

Track your ROI 

Unlike a lot of modern digital marketing tools, the results achieved using digital signage can be hard to quantify, so it’s important to clarify exactly what success looks like so you’ll know when you’ve achieved it. 

Once you know who’s going to use the digital signage estate and how much their collective problems are worth, you can start to work out how long it’s going to take to pay off the initial and ongoing investment. It’s worth calculating a worst-case and best-case scenario so that you don’t overestimate how long it’ll take to get a payback. 

Consider what direct and indirect effects your digital signage could have and how you can track them so that less obvious positive results aren’t missed. Direct effects could be an increase in sales of a promotion being shown on displays. An indirect effect could be an increase in customer satisfaction scores/return visits because perceived wait time is shorter as they’re distracted by engaging content on displays. 

With a little software development, touchscreen displays can be used to generate lots of useful data about what customers were most/least interested in. This data can then be used to improve the quality and effectiveness of the content you use. 

Expect to make incremental improvements

All too often businesses load their content onto a playlist, publish it, forget about it, and then expect the results to come rolling in. Never assume that the content you’ve created is perfect and never be satisfied with the results you’re getting from it. Always keep striving to get better results than before. 

There aren’t that many digital signage content specialists, so businesses often use graphic designers that are used to designing materials for small screens – eg mobile phones/desktop computers – and assume that their design skills will transfer seamlessly to digital signage content. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case. 

We recommend using creative teams that specialise in or have substantial experience in digital signage content. Failing that, get your content critically reviewed by a specialist for quality control. 

Unlike marketing to people on a mobile or desktop computer, digital signage tends to be used in busy places where there are multiple distractions and people can pass by them quickly or slowly. Your content needs to take account of this. 

Timing is often an issue. Video content designed for social media may be too long for digital signage displays, especially if people are likely to walk past screens within 10-15 seconds or less.  

If content is running at too fast a pace, people may struggle to read it, especially if there are distractions in the area. If content changes too slowly (eg digital menu boards) or is timed badly, people won’t get the information they want when they need it, leaving them frustrated and potentially causing queues. 

Content might not be attention-grabbing enough to compete with other distractions effectively, so people don’t notice it. Or content could be too ‘busy’ with too much happening on screen at once so people struggle to work out what it is they’re supposed to focus on and quickly lose interest.

Get any one of those things wrong and you’re unlikely to get the results you want. If your digital signage isn’t performing well, we’d recommend getting a digital signage content expert to review it to look for improvements you can make. 

Once you’ve nailed your content – and if you’re using a decent CMS – try using all the different features that it has and experiment with how, when and where you display it to get the best possible results. The more you try out new ideas and learn from them, the better ROI you’re likely to get from your digital signage estate. 

Check the fundamentals – what, where and how

We often find that businesses treat buying digital signage like buying any other piece of electrical hardware and don’t get tailored advice on what they should buy, where they should put it, and how they should display content. 

As a digital signage consultancy, we’re constantly speaking to businesses and steering them away from buying inappropriate hardware and/or positioning it incorrectly. If you haven’t had tailored advice from an AV specialist, there’s a chance you may have made an error with what you’ve bought and/or where you’ve put it. 

Businesses often try to cut their purchase costs by buying cheaper hardware without fully considering the implications. A common mistake is to buy domestic TV screens and put them in brightly lit spaces only to find that it’s hard to see the content on screen or that they can’t control their estate remotely. 

Another common issue we see is buying displays that are too small to be seen properly from the most likely viewing distance/positions. A good AV or digital signage consultancy will assess the space you have and the most common viewing distances/positions and then recommend a screen size accordingly. 

If you’ve installed a display at eye level in a space has very high footfall, there’s a good chance that people won’t be able to see it as it will be blocked from view. Another common positioning error is to put a display where there are walls/counters/pillars/shelving units partially blocking a clear view of it, or to put it on a wall where it’s easily missed by a large percentage of the target audience. This is why totem displays are so popular as they can be positioned in exactly the right place for the optimum number of views/visibility. 

Another common issue we see is businesses trying to save money by not using CMS software, and instead manually inserting a flash drive into a screen. As a result, they lose lots of the functionality that will help them get a good ROI – eg software for timing content to appear at different times for different audiences, screen takeovers to create a spectacle. Focusing more on saving money rather than getting a good ROI is more likely to set your business up for failure rather than success. 

Don’t assume success is easy

There’s a very good reason why companies like our own exist. It’s because creating and running a digital signage estate and getting a good ROI from it isn’t easy. It requires specialist knowledge and lots of experience to get things right first time around.

However, if you focus on nailing the fundamentals, getting as much value out of your estate as possible, and constantly testing and learning with content and how/when it’s displayed and to whom, you’ll be giving yourself the best chance of success and getting the ROI you want in the timeframe when you want it.


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