NOT TV!

SHOPPER MEDIA – digital and not – are one class of tools for shopper marketing. Almost any in-store message, measured in isolation in a controlled test, can deliver a sales lift. In this mode, the message does its magic by “activating” shoppers’ pre-existing propensity to select an item or a brand. Or to put it in crude terms–it helps them to notice the product, then buy it.

Not rocket science. Retailers today can use very simple and low-cost digital display systems to promote their higher-margin store brands this way. They can measure the success of this activity at the POS and prove ROI. It’s a very valid and easily attainable use for digital shopper media.

Walmart’s network provides a channel for brands. With 140 million shoppers per week, it claims network-sized audience numbers. No doubt it sells some incremental product, but it is profitable up front because what it really sells is audience access to advertisers. It’s got impressions by the megaton, which may seem attractive and familiar to advertisers, but not so much to promoters.

For 2009 I foresee a rise in awareness of shopper media for promotional purposes – with applications that will slash technology and content production costs and deliver a higher, clearer return on investment: Small screens, not large. Locations at the point of decision, not in lobbies or power aisles. Store brand focus on par with national brands. And tailored to shopper experience – not an assault on the senses.

The new in-store audience measurement methods are designed to help agency media buyers feel better about spending their client’s ad dollars on a media environment they really don’t understand. “Customization” in this context seems to mean playing different messages in different areas of the store or during different dayparts. I suppose breaking a large store up into virtual “channels” this way holds some validity, but it feels forced to me.

Despite the glowing screens, this is not TV. It’s a mistake to carry the metaphor too far in the retail environment. And there are marvelous opportunities ahead for retailers to deploy shopper media as integral elements of their selling machinery and shopper experience.

© Copyright 2008 James Tenser