Could Digital Signage Network Monitoring Be SpotCheck’d

November 16, 2012 by Dave Haynes

When a digital signage network is properly designed, and the budget and infrastructure are all there, a lot of the worries about what’s happening in the field go away. With good connectivity and full remote management of all the devices, the people operating the network know what’s going on and have tools and processes to get things remedied.

However, an awful lot of the installed base out there doesn’t have overly good remote monitoring and management. We are working with a client right now with 1,000s of locations that don’t have any screen controls and only a tenuous grip on what’s happening with the media players.

Another one had so little in place, and was getting so little help from local managers, they had to get on planes to fly to locations and reboot boxes.

There’s no magic device that can change all that, but a mobile app given some profile this week in Advertising Age has some interesting implications for network operators that have a large installed base but something less than an iron grip on what’s going in the field.

The big problem with many in-store campaigns is getting stores to actually carry them out, then knowing which among the tens of thousands of stores nationwide actually have done so.

The app is called GoSpotCheck, and it allows users to take photos and do a site audit/report on things like merchandising compliance levels for a brand or retailer.

Reports Ad Age:

The app, which enables users take photos and answer simple questions, has been adopted by a top-50 consumer-packaged-goods company and a top-15 quick-service restaurant chain, said GoSpotCheck CEO Matt Talbot.

It also seemingly has the potential to disintermediate the in-store auditing forces of big brokerage firms such as Acosta, Crossmark and Advantage Sales and Marketing. Executives of those firms either declined to comment or didn’t return calls and e-mails for comment by deadline.

The company has the backing of Sergio Zyman, a former Coca-Cola Co. chief marketing officer and longtime marketing consultant and author.

While GoSpotCheck is starting with employees, “we’re eventually going to recruit consumers to do this in a mass way,” Mr. Zyman said.

What would make fans or shoppers want to do that? Rewards — either in the form of discounts or merchandise, Mr. Zyman said. As it stands, mystery shoppers work for as little as $12 a month, plus free merchandise in some cases, according to some bloggers. And for brands, many of which have millions of Facebook fans seeking deals, finding enough to cover just about any store in the U.S. shouldn’t be that hard.

Data security may be a concern, Mr. Talbot said, but GoSpotCheck gets around that by not storing any data on phones and uploading it instantly.

“The thought is that these bigger brands have incredibly large numbers of people in the field, and if they can have the tools to verify that perishable promotions like the big Fourth of July event for Coke are really happening, then you can remove that extra layer of having someone do an audit,” Mr. Talbot said. “You have GPS-verified data and photos to prove it was done in minutes, rather than weeks.”

One customer in beta test already used the tool to get an additional 5 million in-store impressions from convenience stores due to lack of compliance with a promotion, Mr. Talbot said, and he expects the data could eventually work their way broadly into pay-for-performance deals with retailers.

“You spend six or eight months trying to develop a promotion or a new-product launch, decide where you’re going to place it on the shelf, then you launch and hope the retailer or the fast-food franchisee are actually going to put it in front of the consumer when the advertising is on,” Mr. Zyman said. “But you don’t know.”

This app and system were clearly designed for merchandising and I completely doubt anyone has given a lick of thought to how this might be applied to in-store digital. But the app has design tools that let users develop the questions ans requirements. Users build their mission for the field crews, so instead of it asking (or in addition to) whether the corrugate display is in the right place or stocks or low, it could be asking if the screen is on and stable, if content is indeed playing, and even if a particular marketing message is running.

There are alerts and results that show on a dashboard.

So … a large retailer that has a network but no real grip on what’s really happening once files get sent could equip people charged with visiting stores regularly with the app, and incent them to provide reports or just make it part of their tasks.

It ain’t perfect – perfect has an RS-232 cable installed and really good device management software – but it would be something.

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