TV ratings giant Nielsen is branching out beyond television and into grocery and retail stores, installing high-tech cameras and sensors in hundreds of U.S. stores to see (anonymously) if all those fancy product displays actually persuade people to buy differently.
Here's how Nielsen's system works. The company installs digital sensors throughout the store that precisely measure a person's height, noting that one 5-foot 3-inch person with a 3-foot 2-inch companion went right to the produce section then the cereal aisle before checking out.
Infrared sensors on carts track their path down specific aisles, and note how long shoppers stay there.
Nielsen also has hired 1,500 people nationwide to walk aisles of hundreds of stores counting customers and mapping how products are displayed. So far, Nielsen has more than 50 percent of the grocery and retail companies in the nation on board with the project. Publix and Sweetbay have not yet signed up, but Nielsen hopes they will.
Nielsen then compares stores with different layouts or promotions: One Target store with lavish displays of Coca-Cola and basic displays of Cheerios.
We've known that Nielsen has been working on the PRISM initiative for a while now, and they've promised us a bunch of data come the end of this year (they already released some initial findings earlier this year). Why would we want to know if the program is effective? Well, consider this: "In a recent test, Nielsen saw sales of some groceries jump 126 percent
when stores stacked them next to the produce section, but sales jumped
520 percent if the store put that same stack between the main aisles
and the refrigerated meat section by the back of the store." It's hard to argue for those kinds of numbers, and even harder to not want to find out a) how accurate they are, and b) what they are for your specific promotion/layout. If reproducible and verifiable, Nielsen will vault to the front of the store media measurement class.