In-Store TV Tries to Build an Audience

Oct 06, 2010

By George Anderson

Based on a RetailWire poll back in January, digital
signage in stores had three key measures it needed to address to prove its
worth. Number one was "quantifying
the customer experience" (42 percent) followed by "advertising sales" (27
percent) and "labor cost savings" (15 percent).

Digital signage, including
sophisticated in-store television networks, have an image problem today because
the past hype has failed to deliver the types of results promised by those
pushing the technology.

Bob Wolinksky, CEO of Automated Media Services (AMS),
said the past is an issue his company and others have to deal with when it
comes to selling in-store television.

"The taint is so devastating that it makes it very difficult to engage
someone in an open conversation," Mr. Wolinsky told Advertising Age.

The most ambitious in-store television program in the last few years has been
the Walmart Smart Network. As Ad Age points out, the retailer brought
in a number of partners, including PRN, DS-IQ and Starcom Mediavest Group,
to address some of the problems of the past.

Initially, the retailer was looking
to have the network operational in all its stores by early 2010, but the rollout
has slowed. Today it continues to be rolled out with installations in roughly
1,200 stores.

A Wal-Mart Stores spokesperson told Ad Age that the retailer
is "encouraged
by increasing advertiser interest" and is looking to refine the content
to make it more effective. Among the changes were creating shorter messages,
shifting the focus to new products, using Spanish language in some locations,
adapting content based on weather conditions and integrating with mobile technology.

Discussion Questions: What do you see as the pros and cons of in-store
television networks? What has the industry learned from early implementations?
Do you think retailers will make more extensive use of the technology once
business picks up?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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11 Comments on "In-Store TV Tries to Build an Audience"

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Dr. Stephen Needel
11 years 7 months ago

We might ask ourselves why we ever thought this would work? Who goes to a store to watch TV? Who wants to stop their shopping to watch TV when their goal is to do their shopping and get out? This is not enhancing the quality of the shopping experience, this does not make it easier for the shopper to shop, and the lack of responsiveness suggests that this is not fulfilling a need (I still like to go back to marketing basics).

There may be a role for in-store TV in some select sections of a store (I can see it in beauty care, showing how to apply a particular form of makeup) but it is unlikely to produce sales increases in almost any area of CPGs. I don’t think it’s an economy question, it’s a forcing of technology into an area where there is little need for it.

Ryan Mathews
11 years 7 months ago

I personally hate in-store television. It distracts and, even worse from a consumer’s point of view, slows down the shopping experience.

Charles P. Walsh
Charles P. Walsh
11 years 7 months ago

I don’t see in store TV ever being effective as either an advertising, labor saving or promotional vehicle.

Our local Walmart store used the Smart Network extensively in the store and it was everywhere from endcaps and checkouts to gas pumps and with the exception of the gas pump, no one paid the slightest bit of attention to them.

It is an expensive capital investment and the only way that retailers are getting advertisers to pony up is in exchange for feature space on endcaps.

As far as their effectiveness in selling product? We all know that the average customer will give about 4 to 5 seconds worth of attention to a product before they make their decision on pass or play. I’ve yet to see an effective in-store TV media that can accomplish delivering messages in that period of time.

Len Lewis
Len Lewis
11 years 7 months ago

I find myself watching it as gas stations when I fill up. It’s something to occupy my mind during an otherwise unrewarding experience.

But do we really need this in-store. Are consumers not bombarded by enough messages during the day? What does this really bring to the in-store customer experience? I would say that it interferes with retailers’ efforts to improve it.

Having said this, I do believe it can have some value at the checkout–which I equate to filling up the gas tank or waiting in line at the DMV. I think it has greater validity in department stores and discounters who might have better success using it to promote fashions.

Gene Detroyer
11 years 7 months ago
Even the question makes the issue too complex. It is much simpler than discussing customer experience, advertising sales and labor cost savings. Simple!!! Does it move more products? If Pepsi is on one week, do they sell more than the week they were not? Do they sell more than the same store without the in-store TV? Many people have tried to make in-store TV something more than it really is. It is no more than a prompt. It is like the kid who goes up and down the aisle yelling “Heinz ketchup.” The result is the store sells more Heinz ketchup and more ketchup all together. Don’t make it more than that. Past research has shown that even shoppers who claimed they didn’t notice the TVs were more likely to buy product featured on it. Does a cardboard POS sign sell more products? So does in-store TV, only better, easier and cheaper. Does a cardboard POS sign sell more product? So does in-store TV, only better, easier and cheaper.
Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 7 months ago

I am in agreement with my fellow advisors. I do not see the return on investment to the stores as it relates to in-store TV. Enough said.

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson
11 years 7 months ago

A number of good posts here. The simple answer is “why the heck would I want to watch TV while shopping? Why would I want to make the time spent in the store ANY longer than it already is. It is not entertaining, not engaging, not fun to shop (especially if you are male and have that as part of your “honey do” list). I do not want to spend more than I have to in the store.

Warren Thayer
11 years 7 months ago

I’ve rarely seen people actually watching the TVs in the stores that have them. And when they’re in checkout lines, you’re less likely to buy candy, magazines and high-margin impulse items.

James Tenser
11 years 7 months ago
At the risk of appearing dogmatic in the extreme, I must once again maintain in this forum that digital shopper media are NOT TV. Merchants, brands and especially network operators: Don’t let the similarity of the glowing screens fool you into believing that an in-store “audience” is somehow comparable to an audience of couch potatoes. So when is an audience not an audience? When it’s on its feet doing something else of vital personal and financial importance, like feeding or clothing the family. For this reason, selling airtime on an in-store network is a largely spurious proposition. Digital shopper media do have a legitimate role to play at retail, however, as purveyors of information and reasons-to-choose. While some early entrants were burning cash in pursuit of rash assumptions about in-store TV, Automated Media Services has patiently developed its network concept to suit the retail context. While I have some reservations about the technical complexity and capital costs of AMS’s 3GTv offering, it may well be the vanguard of the “second wave” of Shopper Media. I… Read more »
Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
11 years 7 months ago

I’ve come to much the same conclusion that others here have, based on a lot of data. The simplest way to say this is that shoppers in a store are NOT AN AUDIENCE. You can spend billions pretending that it is, and it still will not be an audience. I offer as proof a direct comparison of what a TV or online audience sees, compared to what a shopper in the store sees: Incoherent-Instore-Audience.

I refer to the in-store audience as incoherent, meaning that the audience does not “cohere,” that is, it does not stick together, either as a group, or as an individual over any reasonable window of time. This is best seen by comparing it side by side with a TV commercial, in which the audience “coheres,” that is, sticks together and observes the message.

The coherent and incoherent here do not refer to the message being projected, but to the intended recipient(s).

Ignoring these facts and pretending that there is an in-store audience is a stubborn and costly error.

mark schroeder
mark schroeder
11 years 7 months ago
The responses have highlighted the confusion and ignorance around this medium. I agree: this is NOT TV (not in the conventional at-home sense anyway). It’s simply a promotional medium. And as such it has many advantages: A screen can deliver multiple messages unlike a poster, it can be changed more quickly and changes can be centralised, it can be dayparted, it can be localised and you know it’s going to be correctly displayed. Over a period of time it can be cheaper than conventional paper point of sale and more environmentally friendly. It adds energy, colour and dynamism to the shopper experience. In addition to its promotional functions, in certain high-involvement categories it can reasonably be used to deliver value-adding (e.g. instructional) information, entertainment (if dwell times allow e.g. when queuing). Of course nobody goes to a retailer to watch TV any more than they go to gaze at point of sale material! That’s not to say that delivering pertinent and dynamic messages isn’t of value, in fact several large studies (Arbitron, Nielsen) have found… Read more »

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