How to measure the effectiveness of your instore communications


It has long been common practice for instore media to be implemented as basic entertainment. Something to amuse the customers. Nowadays, instore media form a crucial part of the overall formula of any retail enterprise. Choices are made based upon explorations of behavioral psychology rather than gut feeling. But even if you have designed your audio, visuals or scent with minute attention to detail and based upon scientific data. How do you know whether your utterances are effective?

‘Effective’ is a broad concept here. There are three criteria we can distinguish;

1. Are your expressions in line with your brand?
2. Are they technically optimal?
3. Do they have the intended effect on perception and/or behavior?

So let’s take it from the top:

1. Are your expressions in line with your brand?
Whether it is background music, digital signage, printed signage, interactive media or aroma marketing, creating a good fit between these media and your brand is crucial. There are exceptions, but usually you are going to want to have these media express the same values as your brand does.

One way to ensure that they do, is by having your formula manager(s) work closely with the instore media provider or agency. They might produce your media, but you will be in charge of the relevant artistic choices.

But then still, your people can only build upon their own opinions and ideas. How can you be sure your media fit your brand?

The cheapest and easiest way is to work with a test panel and let them analyze your brand first. Create a list of the core values of your brand, and a bunch of values you would not associate with your brand yourself. Let the respondents rate your brand on all of these values. Use questions like “To what degree would you describe brand X as fresh?” for instance. Let them answer on a five point scale.

Next, repeat the test with several different demos of the production you are working on. With background music, for instance, try a couple different genres you feel might work. Let the panel rate those options with the same value scales.

The result should be a crude brand blueprint. You can now compare your options and see which fits your brand best. This is a crude way of measuring brand fit, but it will deliver some much needed support to your gut feeling.

2. Are they technically optimal?
Once you have created your media production, you will have to check whether it functions optimally. For instance, when you design a poster to point out a new product to your customers, you are going to want to know if it draws attention to the right elements in the design. So how can you be sure?

The best solution is to use eye tracking. Show the poster to a group of respondents and track their eyes while they are looking at it. What parts are getting the most focus? Do they actually look at the right elements to be sure the message comes across? Eye tracking is offered by many agencies and research bureaus. If you do regular productions it might be worth setting up your own testing facility. You will be amazed how often the impact of a production can be multiplied by simply moving some design elements around.

When you are dealing with moving images, it is important to maximize stopping power and convey your message as quickly and clearly as possible. People don’t typically take a lot of time to watch videos while shopping, so you will need to trigger them instantly.

This can be done with facial coding. Your video can be shown to a group of respondents and the micro emotions showing on their faces will be monitored by a computer. This will give you a very detailed insight into how people react to your production. This can expose the tiniest drops in interest, allowing you to fine tune your production afterwards. Facial coding is now an optional service of most high end production agencies as well.

If you are interested in this technical and creative honing of your productions I can strongly recommend Dan Hill’s brilliant book “About face”.

3. Do they have the intended effect on perception and/or behavior?
It is very likely that you had a specific goal in mind when deciding to implement an instore medium. If the sole purpose of your medium is to boost your brand experience, criteria one and two might suffice. If, on the other hand, you have a specific goal such as lengthening visitor stay or triggering impulse purchases, you are going to want tot proceed to testing criterium three.

Testing such practical performance is no easy feat. There are simply too many variables at work in a retail environment. How does the wheather influence your customers? Or the time of the day? Or the mood of your employees? It is nigh on impossible to keep those variables exactly the same throughout your tests. So accept this. You will not be delivering scientific evidence. You will be getting a rough idea of the functioning of your new media. At best.

There are great systems for tracking people these days. These systems will tell you how many people are in your shop at any given time. It can also tell you how long people are staying, where they are stopping, which routes they are taking etc. Such systems give great insight into the influence your actions have on consumer behavior.

If your goal is more perception related than behavior related, you might have to interview your clients. The trick is to avoid questions like “How did you feel about the music?”. These questions are a surefire way to get useless biased results. Work around the matter by trying to monitor the overall experience your customers had. See if you can draw conclusions from that. It will give you a much more neutral view on the matter.

I could probably write about forty more test methods that would fall under criterium three. Which would be your preferred method, however, depends entirely on your particular goals. So if you feel you need some help here, feel free to get in touch!

Thomas van Straaten
Instore media consultant

Leave a reply


  1. Paul 19 mei, 2014 at 17:15 Beantwoorden

    Interesting post Thomas. We’ve worked a lot with eye tracking with regards to in-store display vehicles and produce some good results. It’s interesting to see fixation points and understand the ‘eye flow’, but we also find it instructive to debrief test-subjects to see what they were thinking. Sometimes people can fixate on things for negative reasons. Never used facial expression coding though, that sounds like it would be interesting.

    Agree wholeheartedly that the smallest of design changes can have big impacts. We see this a lot with color choices and contrast on copy, and copy placement on displays. We work mainly with pop displays, not full in-store content experiences, but it’s interesting to see the same types of measurement challenges!

    Keep up the good blogging!

  2. Thomas van Straaten 20 mei, 2014 at 07:46 Beantwoorden

    Thank you for your compliment Paul!

    Good to hear you spend time doing research and finding out what is actually happening at PoP. Interesting stuff! If you would like to learn more about facial coding in the process, you might want to give Dan Hill’s book “About face” a try. Gave me some exciting new insights.

    Keep up the good blogging right back at you! 😉

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Gut feeling risk

For a long time instore media have been surrounded by a cloud of mystery. Instore media suppliers liked to keep their business vague and intangible. ...

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