How Smart Is The Walmart Smart Network?

Dylan Jones, Jones Digital Media

Apparently it’s smart enough to lift sales, smart enough to launch your new product, smart enough to know if your creative is working or not, and smart enough to allow advertisers access to the data they need to track and optimize their in-store campaigns.

So, an all-round smarty-pants network it seems? Well at least this was the party line from Walmart, DSIQ and Coca Cola as they presented the results of a year’s worth of advertising on the Smart Network.

The numbers are impressive: –

  • 23% sales lift for new product launches
  • 25% sales lift on seasonal products
  • 7% lift on rollbacks
  • and a whopping 64% sales lift for products on end-cap, display TV screens

These are the kinds of numbers the in-home TV network sales execs would no doubt sell their grandmothers for and the kind of numbers that also bring a much welcome level of accountability and credibility to the digital out of home industry – good for all of us.

Andy McMillan from Coca Cola explained how they used the network around the holidays as an extension of their at home campaign. He teased us about the great results without revealing actual data, but did hint that they were very close to the general numbers – that brought the  Joy of the Holidays home for the Coke marketing machine I’m sure.

Andy Johnson, Executive Creative Director for the Smart Network, navigated us through an engaging presentation on how they build an ad for the network. He talked about platforms, objectives and a concept he called micro-seasons.

Now, living in the Bay Area, I’m familiar with micro-climates, but it turns out micro-seasons have nothing to do with weather but are those small but significant times in a customer’s life that are ignored by most other retailers.

For example, homecoming, holiday travel, graduation, preparing your home for the cold mid-western winters (winterizing, as they call it around these parts) all which matter a great deal to the Walmart customer and as Andy pointed out, they’re all perfect opportunities for advertising on the Smart Network and as we all know, Walmart didn’t get where they are today by ignoring an opportunity when it comes calling!

Dave DeBusk from DSIQ closed the session with some hints at the network’s present and future capabilities. In this play for performance model, advertisers can see the full results of their campaign by logging onto a secure web portal about six weeks after their creative airs – 6 weeks, Ed?

Day of week will be offered, but only as part of a four week minimum buy across all the days and I’m guessing increased frequency for certain days if advertisers are willing to pay for it.

They’ll also offer message optimization, where the network plays the optimum creative execution designed to  lift your sales. Dave called it “value maximizing decisions” – a favorite new phrase of mine which I’ll try back at home and see how well it plays out (“Sweetheart, is that new dress you bought really a value maximizing decision?”)

So, does this all mean there has been a rush of advertisers to the Smart Network?

The figures would imply that they should but sales–lift is a mighty carrot to dangle in the face of advertisers. I’m sure when everything is in perfect alignment: the right products, the right context, the right season (or micro-season) the right creative – you’re going to have a spike in sales.

I don’t doubt the numbers, I just question the ability to pull this off with these kinds of numbers when they’re producing over a hundred pieces of unique media every month, for twelve months a year.

Bottom line, when you’re selling a network based on sales-lift be careful what you promise  because ultimately you will have to deliver.

5 Responses to “How Smart Is The Walmart Smart Network?”

  1. Arleen Geller Says:

    Love your last line, it takes a very dedicated client with lots of $ to get this type of results.

  2. Phil Tait Says:

    ..and it takes a very brave supplier to Walmart, not to say so! I have seen multiple examples of the network and I’m sceptical

  3. Conrad Gregoire Says:

    I agree with Dylan’s last comment regarding what to promise. No one can predict the future – even when you have something that everyone is awe struck by when they see it (or touch it). We have the capability of networking “1” to “an infinite number” of kiosks (all with touch screen & on-line capabilities) and yet no matter how you put it, or what you say, people are still hesitant in their belief in any promise of an increase.
    But sales-lifts are possible and even probable, so hang in there!

  4. Scott Sharon Says:

    If these numbers are correct it is amazing based on where the screens are mounted and how few people even see them. I’ve been in Walmart stores checking out the digital signage screens several times. Because most of the screens are mounted so high and the screens are of such poor quality I don’t think most people don’t even see them. All the time I’ve been there I’ve yet to see anyone look at them.

    I can believe the results on end cap screens with content about the product near the screen but the other screens don’t seem to be effective at all.

  5. Back To The Future - Rise Vision Blog Says:

    […] for the consumer’s behavior. We have come close. Walmart has done tremendous work with putting screens on endcaps that certainly generate awareness. However, endcaps generate greater awareness than any other location in a store anyway, so the […]

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