Planning a digital media deployment? First conduct a pilot test

| by Elliot Maras
Planning a digital media deployment? First conduct a pilot test

Once the green light has been given for a kiosk or digital signage deployment, the next order of business is to conduct a pilot test to make sure that the project, once rolled out, will deliver the hoped-for results. The pilot test can determine whether details that could undermine a project's success might have been overlooked in the planning stages.

During the ICX Summit at the Omni Frisco Hotel in Dallas last week, attendees were offered pilot test insights from a pair of digital media veterans: Jordan Fraser is an account executive at Vistar Media, a digital media services provider that uses data-driven technology to detect audience movement patterns; Charlies Ogilvie is head of innovation at J. Walter Thompson, an advertising agency.

Christopher Hall, left, reviews pilot test procedures with
Jordan Fraser and Charles Ogilvie during the ICX Summit.

Fraser and Ogilvie agreed that small-scale site testing of a project has merit.

One example of such a test would be to install a planned digital media system in one to three stores, monitoring the performance, seeking feedback and modifying the project accordingly.

"Feedback early on is so critically valuable," Ogilvie said, based on his experience with kiosks in airports. "That learning is really, really important."

In developing a pilot test, it is important to understand the project's goals, said Christopher Hall, managing director of the ICX Association, who  moderated the session. The pilot test then shows whether the project meets these goals.

Define project goals

Digital media projects usually have one of the following goals: 1) to deliver a return on investment; 2) to be revenue neutral; or 3) to provide added value.

A project that is expected to deliver a return on investment will likely involve advertising, promotional announcements, foot traffic generation or customer engagement, Hall said.

A revenue neutral project will likely involve social media integration, he said, while a value added project might involve employee training and communication.

Added value, for its part, can take various forms. Fraser said he has often found that digital media projects have great value in educating employees. Retail organizations have discovered that digital content helps improve employees' selling abilities which, in turn, improves revenues. In some cases, he said, the project sponsor ends up using the digital media to poll employees regularly. 

Ogilvie agreed with Fraser, and said that he has seen human resource departments tap digital media to help improve employees' product knowledge.

Determine the budget

After examining project goals, the next step is to determine the budget. Hall summarized inherent expenses as hardware, software, content development and management, and services such as dispatch and support. Hidden costs can include on-site disruptions and installation process exceptions.

The pilot test will naturally take into account the hardware, software and content tht will drive the digital network, Hall said. Hardware will include media players, touch-enabled or noninteractive displays, and in some cases, a mounting solution.

The process of procuring the hardware for the test requires the determination of hardware vendors. Ogilvie said it is possible to get vendor recommendations from clients. Fraser added that it is a good idea to contact the clients' preferred vendors first.

Once vendors have been selected, the next step is to negotiate prices based on the budget, secure a warranty, assess equipment durability and, if possible, order extra product, Ogilvie said.

The next consideration is how the equipment is to be delivered. The deployer should order supplies, negotiate rates, insist on insurance and establish a shipping schedule based on installation dates, Fraser said.

Software considerations include compatibility with the operating system, reporting capabilities, scalability and future-proofing.

With regard to content integration, it is important to determine technical limitations, the type of content (motion graphic, video, interactive, data-driven or static) and the content source. 

Ogilvie added that it helps to have "evergreen" content for kiosks or digital signage in case the intended content does not work in a particular situation.

Involve decision-makers

The pilot test must take into account the person or persons who will give final approval for the project, the speakers agreed. A final decision-maker has to be able to authorize project installation, accept  feedback in the test phase, and be willing to modify and update the project as needed

Fraser said he prefers to take a "tiered" approach to approvals. As the project is modified, someone in a position of authority should be in the loop to authorize changes.

It is also important to have an installation schedule, which includes the time allotted for site surveys and the negotiation of installation technician contracts.

Evaluate the results

Once installation is complete, the next step is to make sure that the solution is performing as expected. This involves conducting random checks to make sure the system is functioning, responding immediately to any problems, maintaining reports to track performance and monitoring for measurable results.

In evaluating customer response to displays, it is necessary to observe what the audience focuses on visually and for how long, Ogilvie said. "In the case of a display, is it too complicated?" he asked.

In deployments that involve order processing, it makes sense to measure how long it takes to process an order. In some retail environments, it might be necessary to minimize order time while in others it might make sense to extend it, Ogilvie said.

It is important to remember that each individual project presents unique challenges, Hall said. As an example, he cited Burger King's failure to consider the bandwidth capabilities of its stores when rolling out digital menu boards. Some stores did not have sufficient capacity.

"What if something isn't set to the appropriate information date?" Ogilvie offered as a "for instance" on this point. "You're going to get negative feedback from both customers and employees."

The team should compare test results with the project's goals. Did it deliver a return on investment and added value? Should it be expanded?

"The key is the experience," Fraser said. "The ways to monetize networks today [are] far greater than in the past."


Topics: Full Service / Turnkey Provider, Hardware, ICX Summit, Software



Elliot Maras

Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.


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