Wal-Mart Partially Lifts Data Ban for In-Store Media Study

Discussion
May 21, 2007

By Tom Ryan

Wal-Mart Stores is partially lifting its six-year ban on providing sales data to syndicated market-research firms as part of a new study into the effectiveness of in-store media.

Speaking at Nielsen Co.’s Consumer 360 Conference in Hollywood, Florida last Wednesday, Wal-Mart’s chief marketing officer Stephen Quinn said the retailer would only provide the sales data for use by members of the new Nielsen In-Store syndicate and only for use in that program, not for broader applications. Others among the more than 20 syndicate participants include Unilever, Kraft Foods, General Mills, Miller Brewing, Hewlett Packard, Kroger Co. and Meijer.

Wal-Mart will provide sales data from 1,000 of its over 3,000 U.S. stores to the Nielsen In-Store service, an initiative also backed by Procter & Gamble Co. and media agency, Starcom MediaVest Group. The Nielsen In-Store service, launched two weeks ago on a limited national basis, will roll out nationally in early 2008.

Regarding metrics, the program will count only “unique impressions” at the store level – defined as shoppers who actually walk down a particular aisle and have an opportunity to see the media or promotion in place.

Nielsen plans to be stringent in making sure stores are in ‘compliance’ with a media/promotion program, and is looking at four possible ways to audit compliance. Accurately measuring the effectiveness of in-store media has proved difficult because many stores or vendors don’t put the whole program in place at every store it’s scheduled for.

An initial test of the statistical system last year in 10 Wal-Mart stores, cross checked against in-person audits, showed audience estimates are about 76 percent accurate, which is better than expectations going in. Mr. Quinn said since the initial test, refinements have increased confidence to 85 percent.

Dina Howell, general marketing manager of global operations for P&G, who co-presented with Mr. Quinn, said in-store marketing has become more important as other forms of mass marketing have become more fragmented and less effective.

“Today, the click of the remote can cut the throat of even the best advertising in the world,” she said.

Mr. Quinn added that getting to a generally accepted measurement of in-store audiences can also allow retailers to make substantial strides in the improving the store as a advertising medium.

“A lot of [analytical] tools are developed and can be applied,” said Mr. Quinn, “if only we know people have been exposed to the advertising.”

Discussion Questions: How will having sales data from Wal-Mart help in understanding trends in in-store media? What are some of the ongoing challenges in measuring shopper impressions to in-store media?

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14 Comments on "Wal-Mart Partially Lifts Data Ban for In-Store Media Study"


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James Tenser
Guest
14 years 11 months ago
Shopper impressions data from the Wal-Mart Network are necessary but not nearly sufficient, if we are to attain real understanding of the value delivered by shopper media. Folding in a sampling of product movement data helps, but it’s a modest first step at best. It would be a fallacy to equate in-store opportunities with at-home impressions in the absence of careful consumer research to obtain insights into the experiential impact of shopper media channels. The in-store environment is awash in a sea of brand messages – from product labels, to signs, to floor graphics, to coupon machines, to digital signs, to interactive devices. We have barely a clue yet as to how to evaluate the impact of individual messages within the at-retail advertising and promotion ocean. To carry the metaphor further: We are embarking into uncharted waters here when it comes to understanding the ecology of shopper media. In-store impressions are good; in-store interactions are better; provable sales are better still. But if any of these measures of success come at the expense of a… Read more »
Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 11 months ago

To Don’s point, there would be a trade-off in revenues if in-store media offset the effectiveness of in-store promotion. But I suspect that’s the equation Wal-Mart is hoping they’ll be able to nail with this study, and I think you’ll see those banners if there’s a positive number on the other side of the equal sign.

Douglas Robinson
Guest
Douglas Robinson
14 years 11 months ago
This is a big step toward quantifying in-store advertising value. Wal-Mart lifting its ban was no big surprise. Wal-Mart has a significant ax to grind, since they operate one of the nation’s largest in-store advertising networks. CPGs are really pushing in-store marketing, and for better measurement tools. Obviously, Wal-Mart is listening, or at least they see the dollar signs. Our company is fortunate that our ad-screen platforms are interfaced to the grocery store’s POS system and have access to units moved data, as well as purchase histories of shoppers. We track units-moved for 90 days prior to an ad running, during, and 90 days after it stops. We can reasonably quantify the effectiveness of the ads as well as residual effects, and we post reports on a secure website for our advertisers. Since the stores share ad-revenue, we have experienced little resistance. We’ve found this to be an effective measurement tool, but still rely on CPM as a basis for pricing. We have found that good data can be a double-edged sword. Ad effectiveness can… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 11 months ago
Certainly having data from Wal-Mart as well as the other companies involved in the study is valuable. Measurement is a huge issue. Identifying the number of people who walk down the aisle is like measuring the number of people driving by a billboard. That count is the number of people who have the potential of seeing the in-store media or billboard because of proximity. It does not identify how many people looked at the media, noticed the message, and/or were affected by the message. In one study I conducted, observers watched individuals as they walked through the store noting how often they looked at the screen and for how long. Surveys conducted as people exited the store obtained their impressions of whether they noticed the in-store media and whether it had any affect on their purchases. In general people who looked at the screen watched for 10-15 seconds. We also found that where the screens were placed made a big difference in their impact. Unless there are observers watching whether people look at the in-store… Read more »
Gregory Belkin
Guest
Gregory Belkin
14 years 11 months ago

I agree–having this data from Wal-Mart will be incredibly effective in measuring the effectiveness of in-store media. Given the sheer size of the retailer, in conjunction with stringent compliance rules, the study should provide excellent insight as to how a large demographic group responds to certain specific media.

Wal-Mart is known by almost all for their tough privacy and compliance rules. The fact that they are allowing this tells us that there is a high level of perceived value in getting to know customers even better than they already do. This is smart, obviously: the more time they spend learning the reactions, the better position they will be to maintain their already high level of market dominance.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

Wal-Mart is doing Nielsen and Nielsen’s clients a great favor by letting them into their stores. The #1 challenge of every ad medium: effectiveness measurement. That’s why pay-per-click is so profitable for Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Advertisers are tired of broadcasting messages and then wondering if the money was well spent. The comparison to pay-per-click is apt in another way: pay-per-click isn’t intrusive, like pop-ups. Right now, a lot of in-store media has the intrusiveness of pop-ups, not the genuine interest the audience feels for pay-per-click. Would in-store media be more effective with less audience resentment? Let’s see if Nielsen will measure that.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
14 years 11 months ago

As the nation’s dominant national retailer, Wal-Mart and its 3000+ locations offers the most statistically relevant data source for a company like Nielsen to tap into. I would assume that Wal-Mart and Nielsen will take a sample population which will best support Nielsen’s needs for a relevant study and for high quality output that will likely benefit Wal-Mart significantly.

On a side note, I think we may be getting a peek under the blanket as to Mr Quinn’s use of Wal-Mart’s impressive and massive product sales and demographic database. Through targeting specific projects and controlling the data provided and in partnership with companies like Nielsen, he may well have a new tool in helping Wal-Mart market more effectively. I think we’ll see many more of these “selected” studies in partnership with Nielsen.

Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
14 years 11 months ago

Funny how the opportunity for a new in store revenue stream can lift a long held ban! At the digital signage expo last week I discussed this subject with the folks at DSIQ and they had a pretty good take–capturing these numbers gives a reach and frequency number marketers can understand and apply to media buying.

Personally, though, I still think the metrics are pretty weak. I’d like to see us moving beyond gross impressions of who saw the spot to ways to target relevant messages to truly interested shoppers. Hopefully this is the start of metrics for in store–not the end of it.

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

There is no doubt that the primary benefit for retailers from these measurements will be to quantify the legitimacy of “eye-balls for sale” in-store. And who has more eye-balls to sell than Wal-Mart?

The encouraging potential of this measurement is the second half–tying eye-balls to sales. If that’s done well, then the true value of good in-store creative executions will finally be made clear to all. Of course, there will be some corollary effects in the media markets. You think gas prices went up fast….

David Biernbaum
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

I’m encouraged that Wal-Mart will at least partially lift its data ban for in-store media study and I’m hopeful, even if not necessary optimistic, that the company will one day soon reconsider its complete ban on data sharing across all consumer goods categories and channels, because Wal-Mart is such a mammoth factor in the CPG universe. Without Wal-Mart, any industry data is severely limited in terms of accuracy, functionality, and usefulness. It’s my hope that one day we can drop the “X” from FDM and that we can look at meaningful data that includes such weighty information contained within.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
14 years 11 months ago
I would not jump to the conclusion that Wal-Mart intends to monetize in-store promotions–at least beyond acceptable boundaries. As we all know, end cap allowances, check out allowances and other forms of monetization already exist for valuable real estate in-store. It should be pointed out that the primary and perhaps sole metric of any importance for those forms of monetization is incremental gross margin generated. Eyeballs are inconsequential, it’s strictly a co-op incremental sales play. Measuring reach and frequency is only of value to WM if they truly do intend to allow non-offer specific advertising in-store. And I would be very surprised if that ever occurred. Advertisers would kill to have access to the eyeballs attached to WM’s footsteps. I see this as WM’s method of having someone else measure the effectiveness of their own in-store promotional advertising for them. It’s brilliant. I could be wrong, but I’d be very, very, very surprised to see P&G banners hanging across aisles which were unrelated to specific product offerings within that WM store.
ellis naro
Guest
ellis naro
14 years 11 months ago

I am glad to see that Wal-Mart is changing the way they do business. This new info after 6 years will help small vendors to get a handle on the movement on certain items that they compete with. It’s a small step with only 1000 stores reporting out of 3,500 but it’s a step nonetheless. This will also help Wal-Mart a lot to see the full impact they have with the items they carry.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

Having input from the largest retailer in conjunction with Nielsen will certainly add validity to the information and allow both retailers and manufacturers to develop future strategies and programs based partially on this data.

All entities have struggled with measuring the effectiveness of in-store media and, while I don’t know the exact details of this study, I am confident that the disciplines necessary for better measurement will be in place based on the companies involved. Better understanding of the impact of in-store media will allow both Retailers and CPGs to rework their ad budgets to be more effective, regardless of the findings.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

It’s a baby step in the right direction. A third of Wal-Mart’s stores is not a fully representational study, but it’s a start. Also the Wal-Mart effort is tied to Prism, an initiative that uses in-store infrared sensors to measure traffic and consumer exposure to product displays and other promotional material. The program (which will also place sensors in other channels including c-stores and grocery) won’t be “fully” operational until 2008. That will be a large step forward but still doesn’t give us a full picture since there are high volume stores that aren’t reported by Nielsen. Of course the trick is that once we have a better idea of the “what” we will have to develop much better ways of understanding the “why.”

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