Smartypants Signs on the Way

fb1c57b6f8835111fd5b8969482d2ae3An interesting article in The Wall Street Journal says that tech giants Intel and Microsoft are teaming up to bring us interactive signs:

Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. are promoting the idea of advanced digital signs in stores that aren’t just for shoppers to look at. These look back.

The article goes on to say that the signs will be capable of registering specific features of individual shoppers (e.g., age, sex, height).*  The content of each sign can then be tailored to those shoppers who are looking at the signs, and coupon offers sent to their cell phones.

The notion of tailoring content to the individual is pretty cool… but I bet the first order effect of the signs will be improvement in messaging overall.  This will occur because the signs introduce the ability to close the loop between the intervention (i.e., message on the sign) and behavior (i.e., purchase using the electronic coupon) — a test and learn approach.

When we embedded this approach in our member communications, we were expecting to be able to get big improvements by tailoring the messaging.  What we found instead was that our overall messaging could be significantly improved regardless of member segment.

Why the big improvement across the board?  Because without the test and learn approach — try different messages, measure the results, refine — we’re really shooting in the dark and relying on intuition alone to craft our messages.  The introduction of a more scientifically sound approach helped us identify how far off we were and which way to go.  Now that we have seen these fundamental improvements, variations at the member level are starting to be revealed.

* If these “advanced digital signs” can estimate both weight and height, they can calculate body mass index (BMI) and therefore whether you’re overweight.  I can only imagine a sign that tells me, “Put down the doughnut and no one will get hurt.”

(Note: this entry originally appeared at

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