Update: Wild sales lift numbers have some data behind them

September 2, 2009 by Dave Haynes


UPDATE: I stand by my assertion that very big sales lift numbers cause nothing but raised eyebrows, but to the credit of the software company Isenzo that put out the release, they have now been in touch and provided some data.

Says CEO Peter Robson: “I agree that the percentage increases look a bit wild, however these are measurable results.”

He provided a data table that shows how the testing was done, using month 1 as the control with the 20 products on sale but no screens in place, and then month two and three using the sales data from the retailer. I’m not a researcher (were that no slappingly obvious) but there is at least some discipline here. Much better if there were stores in the test had no signs and research people would want to know about any other variables that might affect things. 

The promoted products are not familiar to me (they sell in the Western Cape of South Africa) but appears to be primarily tablets and supplements. Cytotech CytoTan Capsules 60s went from 17 units old to 139 after one month of testing and sold 185 the next month. Most of the products had lifts that were sustained, or if they dropped off, they were still well up from month 1.

Robson said the “network was rolled-out in just one province (the Western Cape). The group is now considering expanding the network into the rest of the country. There has also been considerable interest independent pharmacies.”

Robson kindly attached some images, like the one above. 

Original post … 

Some of you may have seen an excited news release the other day about a South African retailer getting whopper sales lifts as a direct result of the digital signage system.

And some of you may have been thinking, like me, “Oh, really.”

Well, I asked the CEO of the software company that did the release a few polite questions. Gave him a day. And I got no answers (since changed — see above).

If you missed it:

Results from a new internet-based digital-signage project in more than five dozen pharmacies in South Africa show that sales improved between 20% and 1200% for specific products that were advertised on the in-store network.

Implemented by digital-signage house Purplemoss Media in 65 selected pharmacies in the Western Cape Province, the project delivered a return on investment (ROI) in an absurdly short space of time.

Purplemoss Media CEO Tony Read says: “The improvement in sales after only 30 to 60 days was nothing short of astonishing. In some cases the improvement in sales was so much better than anticipated that pharmacies ran out of stock on certain products”

Remote-controlled Screens:

Purplemoss project technicians installed a 37-inch LCD, Player PC and 3G modem in each of the selected pharmacies. For maximum exposure, they placed each LCD screen above the prescription counter at the back of each pharmacy. From their central offices, Purplemoss Media managed the content on all 65 screens over the 3G wireless connections.

“Not only did we transmit advertisements to all these pharmacies simultaneously, but we updated ads in realtime and scheduled updates to go live automatically on particular dates and times,” says Read.

The software behind it all:

To carry out this feat, Purplemoss Media used the industry-leading Mediacaster package developed by Isenzo, a South African company specializing in digital-signage software.

If you are going to put out a release with these sorts of numbers, you really ought to have some detail to back up the assertions. It would be fantastic to get a 120 per cent lift in sales, and even 20 per cent is above what research suggests is the accepted norm for lifts from in-store digital promotion. So even the worst performer got a 20 per cent spike?

The first red flag are the round numbers. Not 19%. But 20% Not 1184% But 1200%. 

Was it a controlled study? How were the goods promoted? There are a bunch of questions unanswered.

This matters because the industry, as a whole, is working really hard to establish standards and credibility by locking down its audience measurement standards and how it does research in areas like sales performance. Along comes this sort of hyper-excited and vague report, it gets circulated around the industry, some excited sales people build it into their presentations, and the retailers at the other end of the presentation table roll their eyes and think to themselves, “These digital signage people are cowboys.”

There’s a business case to be made with even modest sales lifts in retail. But utterly wild three and four-digit lifts don’t help make the case. They work against it.  

APPENDED COMMENTS: My suspicion is research nerds would still be unimpressed with the validity of the data, but the company should be credited for providing some data, at least. There may be all kinds of variables that would lead to that kind of store sales impact, and there’s no control set of stores without screens to comapre against, but by providing some “for example” data, the percentages that look like whoppers get a little legitimacy. I still think I’d back off the biggest numbers and tell a story that’s impressive, but not give cause for the kind of skepticism that would invariably come up based on what got released.  

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