The Digital Signage Insider

Is Wal-Mart's in-store TV network really more effective than TV?

Published on: 2005-12-09

Industry heavyweight PRN had been fairly quiet ever since the retail media network was acquired by Thomson earlier this year, but that changed when they released some new research results from their flagship network, Wal-Mart TV.  While playback measurement and confirmation is one of the primary advantages of a networked digital signage system, it's often difficult to integrate all of that playback data with the host location's sales data to come up with an accurate picture of how the digital screens really lift sales of advertised products.  So, it can be useful (especially with very large networks) to incorporate an extra layer of research and analytics to help provide an accurate idea of what's going on.  This is precisely what PRN did.

Here are their initial conclusions (culled from this press release):
The results from [marketing research partner] TNS's 2005 study, conducted with over 5,500 Wal-Mart shoppers, highlight that customers who have viewed advertising for specific brands on Wal-Mart TV are significantly more likely to:
  • Agree with positive statements about those brands (61% agreement) vs. customers who did not see those same advertisements (40% agreement).
  • Purchase the advertised product "today" (15% vs. 4%)
  • Plan on purchasing the product "in the future" (85% vs. 62%).
The study also demonstrated that advertising on Wal-Mart TV drives significantly higher motivation levels than advertising for similar brands on in-home TV.
An 11 percentage point gain in people who purchased the advertised products today?  A 23 percentage point rise in those who intend to purchase some time in the future?  If accurate, these numbers are extremely impressive, and offer additional reasons for retailers to consider using an in-store media network to help drive sales.  But I don't think it's that cut and dried.  As Kristin Sidorak over at MediaPost notes in her analysis, this study is based on consumer perceptions and intent, not their actual recorded behavior.  Thus, we have to muck about in the human psyche to figure out how accurate these statistics are, instead of tallying a spreadsheet of sales numbers against PRN's playback logs.  For example, how many people would have said that they noticed the digital signs just because they happened to catch a glimpse of one of the screens while walking into or out of the store?  Likewise, it's hard to determine if there was a cause-and-effect relationship.  Perhaps picking up a bottle of Tide and seeing it in my shopping cart primes my brain to pick up other, similar images - like those in a Tide ad running periodically on the in-store TV network.

On the other hand, the study did feature a very large sample size (over 5,000 respondents), was conducted in three disparate sweeps, and probably utilized a host of other tricks and techniques for normalizing as many variables as possible.  After all, TNS is the world's largest custom research company, so they have a little bit of experience in this area :)

So does digital signage really work better than regular TV commercials?  Long-time readers will recognize this as a common question surrounding the industry, and in fact I wrote about it a while back in "digital sign recall versus other media."  While the ability to influence customers as they are actively shopping has always been an alluring option for advertisers, we've all seen cases where bland content and poor placement and merchandising decisions have prevented a signage network from reaching its full potential.  More frequently, we see digital signage content that utilizes components of TV commercials to reinforce an existing brand message, and thus still relies (at least in part) on the TV commercials to establish some baseline familiarity and relevance.  Thankfully, Mark Mitchell, PRN's executive VP of ad sales, seems to think that product manufacturers and advertisers are finally starting to get it. As he says (in the aforementioned MediaPost article):
One possible reason for the higher purchase intent scores [from the survey results above] is that marketers have begun to learn how to utilize the new medium more effectively, adapting customized commercials developed specifically for the "in-store space."

Unilever, for instance, runs ads for its Dove brand on the network, and has begun running spots featuring an older Wal-Mart employee who thinks it's beautiful to sport gray hair and wrinkles.

Mitchell says other Wal-Mart TV spots have been modified to target consumers at their "highest motivational level--when they are shopping," zoning ads based on store locations, and even based on the location of individual TV screens within each store.  
Considering the significant cost of deploying a digital sign network, this type of planning and tweaking can be a worthwhile investment that pays great dividends for the network operator, retailer, and brand advertisers alike.


Comments   

0 Oriostar 2009-02-16 22:38
Does this include those TVs above shoppers heads that people only glance at for a couple of seconds, if so, this is just alot of wasted .
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0 Bill Gerba 2009-02-18 15:27
The older generation of Walmart TV did use those ceiling-mounted displays pretty much exclusively, though the new "Smart Network" they began introducing in 2008 uses many more endcap and shelf-level displays. Interestingly, while you might think that the ceiling mounted displays were wasted money, Walmart apparently found enough value in them to fund the massive internal expansion of the channel themselves. So I guess it's doing something for them :)
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0 chris koegler 2009-05-01 16:50
I MUST SAY WALMART NEEDS AND I MEAN NEEDS TO CHANGE THAT GOD AWFUL WHISTLING COMMERICAL FROM TRAC PHONE ITS VERY IRRITATING TO HAVE TO LISTEN TO THAT FOR WHAT NOW 2 YEARS ITS TIME TO CHANGE I HATE TO EVEN SHOP THERE ANYMORE BECAUSE I CANT STAND TO HEAR THAT ANYMORE TALK ABOUT BORING IRRITATING NERVE RACKING ITS GOTTA GO AND I MEAN NOW IF THIS ISNT THE PLACE TO SEND THIS THEN COULD YOU PASS IT ON TO WALMART I HAVE HEARD OTHERS IN THE STORE SAY THE SAME THING I HAVE ITS TIME TO STOP THE WHISLETING WONT SHOP THERE TILL ITS DONE TO ME ITS VERY BAD BUSINESS CUSTOMERS ARE NOT HAPPY TO HEAR THIS EVERY DAY AND EVERY DAY ETC.
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0 ralfdog 2009-09-23 17:08
The funny thing about that whistling is that some people don't even hear it. I asked some Walmart employees and they never hear it. I think it is some techno, subliminal conspiracy, a directed sound system that drills into a few random brains.
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0 Bill Gerba 2009-09-25 08:44
If it makes you feel better, in the years since this article was first written Walmartand many others have gotten away from using audio in most of their in-store commercials. Employee fatigue was the number one reason behind this, though customer irritation and the overall (poor) effectiveness of ads that relied on audio were certainly a very close second and third.
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