Is your digital communications investment simply a replacement for your traditional communications in branch, or is it meant to do more than just replace posters on walls? The answer to that question usually depends on the purpose of your messaging, the value you are trying to deliver and the content you are developing to support both.

Take a moment and ask yourself — what is the "perceived" value of your in-branch digital communications system? Now ask what is the "actual" value of that system? If you can answer one, but not the other, then there is a good chance there is room to improve your delivery. If you could easily answer both questions, then you should be feeling pretty good about your investment right now. However, if you couldn't answer either question, there is a real need to take a hard look at improving your delivery.

Defining Value

Perceived value is generally formed by the opinion of the members (or viewers) and by the benefit that the business expects to receive. The results are usually tied to qualitative measures. The expected goals related to the perceived value may be outcomes such as improved brand recognition, improved member experience, a perceived reduction in wait times, or even a perceived view that the brand is modern, progressive or technology advanced. These outcomes are very valuable to most organizations, and while the results may not speak directly to the bottom line, they are important nonetheless. These are also the primary reasons that prompt most organizations to invest in digital communications. Digital signage is becoming near table stakes for credit unions today because there is a high perceived value.

Actual value is typically quantitative and directly related to goals that affect the bottom line. Outcomes can be associated with sales lift, generating inquiries, and product/service consideration through promotions or offers. The value is captured in the business that is driven through the branch and attributed to the digital communications activity. This is an area that usually starts to develop later as the digital maturity level increases in the organization and generates a better understanding of the relationship between digital communications and business development. When an organization reaches that point, the focus moves from generating awareness, at the beginning of the purchase funnel, to starting at deeper levels in the funnel. The goal is to be able to place them at different points along the funnel and still be able to move them to purchase — because realizing actual value is the ability to generate conversion.

Make no mistake, you are running a digital communications system in your branches If you are running digital signage, or, if you have advertising running on your ATMs, or, if you have a computer screen or a tablet or some other type of digital device sitting in the branch that is viewable by members. If you are running any of these devices that have content on it then you run a digital communications system. No matter whether your intention is to generate revenue or reduce costs, there is always a perceived value and an actual value of that activity. The goal is to create a balance between those two things — and the way to do it is usually through critical thinking around your content strategy.

Not all content is created with the same intention. Whether you are zoning your screens, running full-screen content or even stretching content over multiple screens there are considerations that have to be made before that content goes into production based on what it is intended to do. Perhaps your content is meant to educate, entertain, inspire or convince. The type of content you create plays a big role in determining your return on investment. You need to look at your content from a holistic view as well, because your entire schedule is what creates the experience for the viewer. By mapping out your message types by intent and value (perceived versus actual) you can determine whether or not you are delivering on your goals for your digital communications investment. You may need to revisit your content strategy, the types of content you are creating and how it plays into the schedule you are running to see the full picture.

Once you have identified the types of content, and the intent of that content you can take a look at the goals and objectives. What is the final result you are hoping to achieve? All content, in some way or another, is intended to land the member somewhere on the purchase funnel with the aim of moving them down the funnel through the engagement.

Education and Entertainment

Content with a higher perceived value that is intended to educate or entertain often lands within the areas of awareness and familiarity to reinforce the brand image, with the intention of moving the member to consideration. Content with a high actual value that is intended to inspire or convince usually falls within the areas of interest and preference. These are sales messages with the intention of moving the member to purchase.

Prioritizing your content and focusing on a content strategy that defines the types of content in relation to the value is one way to ensure you are getting a bigger return on your digital communications investment. By being able to better understand the types of content you are running, and the goals and objectives of that content, you can also place measures or key performance indicators around that content.

The final step in realizing a bigger return on your investment is to use that newly developed content strategy to find other areas of improvement and to continue to grow the maturity of your delivery. You can start to look at data integration and conditional content display, day parting or more complex scheduling, and other techniques that can help to deliver a better experience to your members.

Matthew Brown is the manager of digital experience at Servus CU, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He will be facilitating a seminar at the Digital Signage Expo in March. For more info: www.dse2015.com.