Without a tool for counting traffic, it’s traditionally been tough for marketers to judge the effectiveness of their in-store buys. But all that’s about to change, thanks to Nielsen. The metric maven has announced that it’s developing a new service to measure in-store marketing impressions, and the info gleaned should help retailers improve their store layouts and advertisers allocate their dollars with more confidence.
Despite lacking a scientific model for measuring its reach, in-store marketing is the sixth-largest marketing medium in the U.S., accounting for US$18.6 billion in ad spend in 2005. And all the big retail players have been significantly stepping up their efforts to court this kind of business of late. (As just one example, Wal-Mart has spent the past five years steadily growing its in-store broadcast network, Wal-Mart TV, which airs department-specific programming made up of repurposed network content and product advertisements.)
To figure out what kind of data can be successfully mined in the medium, Chicago’s In-Store Marketing Institute conducted a study last year involving a consortium of manufacturers including 3M, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Procter & Gamble and Disney, as well as retailers Albertsons, Kroger, Walgreens and Wal-Mart. Entitled P.R.I.S.M. (Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric), the project involved counting traffic across 63 product categories in 10 stores using infrared sensors positioned in aisles, perimeter locations and entrance/exit areas.
Nielsen In-Store is hooking up with the Institute on a second phase of research this year that will measure more precisely who’s in the store, using info from two additional sources: existing customer-base data compiled by the retailers, and employees from Nielsen’s VNU subsidiary deployed in select stores to personally verify estimates.
According to George Wishart, global managing director of Nielsen In-Store, this follow-up study will include more companies and comprise the foundation of the official service, which should roll out for purchase in 2008. Down the road, Neilsen In-Store is also counting on leveraging the global reach of VNU (which tracks POS sales in 90 countries) to extend the service to the international market.
The P.R.I.S.M. method does have its limitations, a big one being that it can’t produce hard data on whether in-store marketing is influencing purchasing decisions. But the In-Store Marketing Institute maintains that comparing audience reach figures with POS data will give marketers a better gauge for determining how various in-store communications are performing on the front lines.
Wishart’s hope is that the service will create a new currency standard within the industry for buying and selling this type of media real estate. For retailers, he feels the biggest gain will be insight into the effectiveness of strategies revolving around marketing, layout, product positioning, adjacencies and consumer behavior. And manufacturers should benefit from being able to plot campaigns that strike a better balance between retail and traditional advertising.