What Big Data means to Digital Signage

Lyle Bunn


Digital Media Strategy Architect, BUNN
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator providing digital place-based signage expertise to end users in the planning, design, sourcing and optimization of their initiatives. He has published more than 300 articles, whitepapers and “how to” guides and helped to train over 10,000 end user and supply professionals. See www.LyleBunn.com.

The cliché, catch all phrase “big data” has confounding marketers who ask, “where do I start” and “what do I do with it”. Everyone in the marketing supply chain should be aware of the value that they bring to this dilemma and opportunity.

For digital signage providers and end users, the digital-ness of digital place-based media offers some immediate and high value answers when systems are organized to capture and apply insights.

Insights are the result of using data in all its levels of abstraction from data to statistics to information to knowledge to wisdom.

As will be presented in a July webinar hosted by BUNN, each level of data can contribute to the communications goal supporting both capture and exploitation.

Data results from transactions. An inherent value of digital signage is that it is always working to be causal in transaction generation in the form of purchase requests and enquiries and in leading the consumer down the path to purchase.

The “muscles” of digital signage are flexed further toward intended outcomes when cause and effect are the basis of message presentation.

Think of a quick serve restaurant (QSR) drive-thru in which the digital order confirmation board is used to suggest menu options. Order data related to time of day, weather conditions, number in the drive-thru party or a revisiting patron provide data per transaction which when reflecting multiple transaction are statistics and provide information that can be used to predict probable future transactions.

In that same drive-thru, the suggestions of different menu items that can augment the patron order offer additional insights, which when applied in future can change the transaction pattern.

This allows the QSR to move from message presentation to applying a prescription of suggested items relative to the order, and then to a predictive model of menu suggestion. The result in each case is higher revenue and margin per transaction.

“I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts,” notes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Author of Sherlock Holmes stories. Dr. Holmes knew about the application of data.

Facts have a transformative influence on business. Truth, as reflected and supported by fact, are the basis of modern commerce.

This transformation in business began in the “management by objectives (MBO)” movement of the 60’s, and computational power that began on the 70’s led rapidly to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) which sought to align resources with priorities. Operational efficiencies in back office functions such as improved inventory awareness, point of sale and supply chain management spawned automated management based on business rules with attention paid to exceptions.

Most enterprises now have adequate back office systems. The insights model of data levels of abstraction has transformed business operations.

Through this, marketing has shifted slowly from being primarily a creative exercise into the rule-base science of revenue and profit-delivering efficiency.

Marketers believe intrinsically that they are creating a new reality for their product, service or enterprise. This creativity is manifested in jingles, tag lines and icons drummed into consumers with huge advertising budgets. It was the age of Mad Men.

Every marketer, C-Suite and investor begged duplication of the past branding successes of “a little dab’ll do ya”, Kodak-moments and the Rice Crispie Kids. Madison avenue asks for, and get, the money.

As the internet of the 90’s began to transform marketing through increased access to information and the e-commerce and mobile commerce, and social media that have followed, agencies have simply added these arrows to their quiver of billable services.

Through this, brands and retailers have focused on gaining return on bricks and mortar investment, most recently adding “owned” media, such as place-based digital signage to “paid” media investment.

Now, digital signage has become essential to activating revenues. The traffic that is delivered to the premises by “paid” media is activated by the on-site digital signage that is “owned” by the enterprise.

Analytics associated with on-location digital signage use, are the transformative influence on the modern and growing business.


The DNA of Award-Winning Signage

Lyle Bunn


Digital Media Strategy Architect, BUNN
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator providing digital place-based signage expertise to end users in the planning, design, sourcing and optimization of their initiatives. He has published more than 300 articles, whitepapers and “how to” guides and helped to train over 10,000 end user and supply professionals. See www.LyleBunn.com.


Awards commend innovation and best-practices. They recognize intelligent investment and allow everyone to celebrate in advancements. They make us wonder who contributed and who benefited. But what is in the DNA of an award-winning application of digital signage.

While the medium serves a rapidly growing number of firms across every sector of the economy for patron, shopper, traveller, staff and student communications, it is most fully embraced by the “needy and the greedy,” those whose survival is most dependent on cost-effective communications, and those at the other end of the scale that have a veracious appetite for greater productivity of place, processes and people.

Most nominees in digital media award programs such as DIGI, APEX, Customer Experience, POPAI or Infocomm follow a similar script. A problem or opportunity is addressed by the use of digital media. Since this describes virtually all digital signage initiatives, the real merit-worthy differentiation lies in the “how” of planning, investment and the application of the right tools to achieve results.

Award winners live in a digital signage “moneyball” world in which data drives decisions.

  • The magnitude of the problem or opportunity is articulated.
  • Possible outcome scenarios are described as benefits are to be realized.
  • The costs of the sourcing and operating options are quantified.
  • The merit of investment is validated and considered against other priorities.
  • The right people are engaged and actions are taken. (See a previous blog concerning the right digital signage team).

The data and information elements of the options are typically described as a comparison of the costs and benefits of different options. This is itself a challenge given the range of options available and the skills that vendors exhibit in presenting their “solution”.

The sourcing options are then viewed through various “lenses” that allow the end user to define the approach that best suits their culture, overall priorities and capabilities.

The DNA of award-wining signage initiatives clearly demonstrates how the problem was overcome or the opportunity was realized.

Digital signage is knowledge-based industry and projects cause an overlap of the priorities and expertise of different departments.

The best of the best digital media projects are a demonstration of consensus-building and collaboration under strong leadership. The initiative are exciting to the enterprise and express the will to be different and be better.

The solution solves the current need while enabling new approaches to experience, engagement and viewer targeting to be applied. In focusing on “the now,” immediate return on investment is realized, and the future-proofing concern assures that incremental improvements can be sustained, and will not fall prey to debilitating operating costs and “work-around”.

Award winners deliver quantifiable benefits that validate and far out-weigh the costs.

Every digital signage deployment should be undertaken to distinguish itself in the benefits that it will deliver. Plan that your project can be numbered among those that provide “wow” in terms of quantified benefits, extraordinary presence and efficiency in undertaking.

Past award-winners offer the shoulders that every new initiative should stand on and new award-winners define each new level at which the bar is set.

Awards offer recognition to a job well done, and they make it easier to gain funding and resources in future. When you undertake a new initiative or take a current one to new levels – go for the gold!


Building the Right Digital Signage Team

Lyle Bunn


Digital Media Strategy Architect, BUNN
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator providing digital place-based signage expertise to end users in the planning, design, sourcing and optimization of their initiatives. He has published more than 300 articles, whitepapers and “how to” guides and helped to train over 10,000 end user and supply professionals. See www.LyleBunn.com.


The collective strengths of the people involved in a digital signage initiative generally define the project success.

Team leadership usually lies with the department that will gain the greatest benefit toward achieving their goals. Departments bring their expertise and things get done, hopefully.

Digital signage is one of those multi-department projects with touch points across the organization because of its impact on the organization.

Operationally, digital signage contributes to the productivity of places, processes and people. At the tactical level it impacts the success of the engagement of customers, patrons and staff. At the strategic level it impacts brand positioning and equity, along with the creation and leverage of assets.

When digital signage becomes the focus of discussion, each department has its own interests.

  • Everybody wants improved customer experience based on what they do as a contribution to it.
  • Executives want better corporate performance.
  • Procurement wants to minimize capital outlay, and if they are team players, the total cost of ownership.
  • Facilities seek digital signage that will deliver improved performance of the location and a better visitor experience
  • Marketing wants better branding and merchandising at lower ongoing communications cost.
  • Human Resources want to inspire productivity and minimize staff related costs such as absence, hiring and accident claims.
  • Information Technologies want a solution that works and is RAS-able (Reliable, Available, Scalable)
  • The Chief Information Officer wants to leverage data assets to improve productivity and enable new ways of operating.
  • The security department want loss prevention.

When the medium is applied, everyone has something at stake.

The task of aligning those interests, marshaling resources, consensus building and “herding the cats” often calls on subject matter expertise as well as project management skills.

The project sponsor should be the highest-placed executive of the department that realizes that they have the most to gain toward digital signage helping to achieve their goals.

The team leader should be a direct report to that executive with the proven ability to get things done. They will understand the organization and its priorities, and marshal the resources to move the project forward.

The core elements of the team should include the key stakeholders such as marketing, information technologies, procurement, facilities and human resources. Specific groups such as security, merchant/supplier liaison, public affairs or investor relations can be engaged as suitable.

The digital signage team will oversee the design, funding, sourcing, deployment of the project, and it is common that responsibilities for ongoing elements such as network operations and content administration are met by the suitable business division. Optimization of the investment typically resides with the primary beneficiary.

Since “content” will be a primary consideration if the benefits of digital signage are to be fully realized, business units such as marketing, human resources, patron/facility personnel, line of business managers and agencies responsible for “content” on other marketing/communications devises such as TV, cable, billboard, print, internet and mobile should be involved.

Given the ability of digital signage to drive “audience of one” engagement, those involved with internet, mobile and kiosk strategy and operations will be particularly interested in the digital signage initiative from the standpoint of “trans-media” leverage.

Suppliers can be very useful in providing technology and service element expertise. External resources, such as a consultant or suppliers, able to provide objective guidance can also help to assure involvement by applicable business units while minimizing staff time and resources while minimizing time, risk and investment on the project.

“Templates” can be a strong foundation for project advancement. Designs, plans and budgets from similar projects can minimize the effort and time requirement while helping to assure that elements are adequately addressed and risk is minimized.

Digital signage has broad organizational impact, and as such there are many with interest in how the project will go forward and the medium used. The key role is that of project leader, who requires the support of management and input from other stakeholders.


Retail Stores in Crisis

Lyle Bunn


Digital Media Strategy Architect, BUNN
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator providing digital place-based signage expertise to end users in the planning, design, sourcing and optimization of their initiatives. He has published more than 300 articles, whitepapers and “how to” guides and helped to train over 10,000 end user and supply professionals. See www.LyleBunn.com.


Retail has not known its crisis of current proportion since the introduction of department stores, big box or discount retailing. While these brought big changes to the retail landscape, the perfect storm of online, mobile and the Millennials demographic are placing physical retail in a daily fight for survival.

Retailers have reacted to the onslaught of online with multi-channel strategies that quickly morphed into omni channel in order to harmonize the various consumer touch points. Most are now struggling to advance quickly into opti-channel and unified communications.

These macro-strategies are all in the name of flexibility of the consumer’s path to purchase while serving brand interests. The access options available to consumers are the melting pot of commerce that cause a neatly linear path to purchase map into what looks more like a plate of spaghetti. The marketers’ arsenal of inventory visibility, product comparisons, cross-selling, ship to home or store, purchase fulfillment and loyalty achievement and being tested, while technology investment by North American retailers has surpassed $125 billion annually.

“Customer experience” (CX) is the battle cry of retail on the shifting sands of consumer preference as empowered consumers led by Millennials not only vote with their wallet, but amplify or denounce brands based on their perception of value. Boomers, zoomers and savvy seniors are echoing Millennials’ attitudes.

Retail foot traffic has declining sharply. The Wall Street Journal reported ShopperTrak data that the 33 billion store visits in November and December 2010 declined to just over 17 billion for the same 2 months in 2013. A 50% decline in store traffic in just 3 years.

Meanwhile, Statista reports that in August 2015 the top 10 online shopping sites had 667 million monthly visits including 188 million for Amazon and 98 million for second-ranked eBay. Amazon accounted for 24% of all retail revenue growth in 2015.

Retail stores must succeed. They offer discovery and the tactile experiences of product look, feel and fit. Stores offer a social experience and for some, even exercise as patrons fulfill their needs and aspire to a bettered life.

Proven in-store strategies are neutralizing “show-rooming”, born of online options, and can reduce product returns. “Returns” has become the largest “supplier” for many retailers, imposing extraordinary costs on the business and challenging customer satisfaction.

Digital signage is part of the solution. It offers the simultaneously achieved benefits of branding and merchandising while bringing improved ambiance and vitality and reducing perceived dwell times at a location. Digital signage can inspire, focus and support sales associate success and express the business partnership of the retailer and its merchants.

So what is a retailer to do? This 5-point plan will be useful.

  1. Look around. See the digital signage applications in retail, food services, hospitality, transportation, entertainment and other locations that your target customers see and your competitors use.
  2. Ask for input. Often a short telephone call can get you heading in the right direction and focused on elements of high return on time and investment.
  3. Designate a project leader to coordinate actions while creating consensus among departments.
  4. Go for the quick wins while planning for broader benefits.
  5. Allocate resources to your priorities in making store locations a more attractive destination, that attracts, holds and converts consumers to maximize your margin per visit and business value overall.

During the National Retail Federation conference in January 2016, it was declared that “bricks are the new black”. As the bricks welcome the clicks to the customer experience family, the bricks are called to mature yet again in serving consumer needs and wants.