Wal-Mart Invests Heavily in Generation 2.0 of Wal-Mart TV

Guest Contributor, Bill Collins, DecisionPoint Media Insights

Wal-Mart is now investing heavily in Generation 2.0 of Wal-Mart TV and our special guest contributor, Bill Collins of DecisionPoint Media Insights, asks in the post that follows “Will Other U.S. Retailers Follow Suit?”

In our industry who will take the lead in moving in-store digital media up to the next level AND just as importantly, will these Generation 2.0 networks in the USA be financed and created by…

  1. Retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Kroger
  2. Media Companies that are active in retail media such as PRN Corporation, CBS Outernet or the In-Store Broadcasting Network
  3. Leading CPG brands such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Kraft

That last group of folks of course could potentially create their own digital store endcaps, networked kiosks, or perhaps even product-category networks located in specific aisles of big box, electronics, pharmacy or grocery stores!

A recently announced collaboration between Wal-Mart and the In-Store Marketing Institute (ISMI) provides us with some important new insights on these issues.

Wal-Mart and the ISMI have teamed up to plan a three-hour, closed-door symposium later this year on the Wal-Mart’s Gen 2.0 “Wal-Mart Smart Network”

The precise timetable for the rollout of the Gen 2.0 Wal-Mart Smart Network has not yet been announced by Wal-Mart, however, it’s safe to assume that Wal-Mart’s readiness to invite CPG brands and their agencies to a 3-hour closed session in November during the ISMI’s In-Store Marketing Expo is a good indication that the nationwide U.S. rollout of the Gen 2.0 network will be well underway by that time.

“Wal-Mart Smart Network Symposium: Best Practices and Key Learning from Wal-Mart’s New Strategic Marketing Platform” – 14 November 2008


You can apply for the right to pay USD 275 to attend the Wal-Mart symposium by telephoning the ISMI at (888) 767-7469 in the USA or +847 675 7400 for callers from outside the USA.

What would a Gen 2.0 network look like?

So, what would be required to “take retail media to the next level” in Gen 2.0?

For starters, a Gen 2.0 digital media network at retail would need to:

  1. Bring screens down to eye level
  2. Build screens into endcaps, fixtures and shelving
  3. Abandon the 2001-2002 “hang and bang” model where flat screens are hung nilly-willy around the store, mostly in locations that are difficult for shoppers to see
  4. Control audio so that the soundtrack of these networks is welcomed by shoppers and store employees alike
  5. Pack merchandise around the screens and speakers, so that the sound-and-motion media serves a useful purpose for both marketing and merchandising just as conventional Point-of-Purchase displays do

Earlier this year, Mike Hiatt, director of internal media networks at Wal-Mart, confirmed that this new type of in-store media network had been rolled out to 40 Wal-Mart stores in the USA.

During Hiatt’s February 2008 keynote presentation at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas, he reported that the new “Wal-Mart Smart Network” which will be financed and owned by Wal-Mart and underwritten by selling advertising to CPG brands, is being developed to replace the existing Gen 1.0 “Wal-Mart TV” network in at least some of Wal-Mart’s U.S. Stores.

The Gen 1.0 Wal-Mart TV network, which is owned by the media company PRN Corporation, was installed in Wal-Mart stores by PRN starting about ten years ago.

In an article published in the 17 March 2008 edition of Supermarket News, Bobbie Katz reported on Mike Hiatt’s presentation at the Digital Signage Expo and wrote…

“As Wal-Mart sees it, the five A’s of in-store digital content are appropriate, affordable, adaptable (to different environments, stores and demographics) attractive and assembled quickly,” Hiatt said.

Wal-Mart is especially trying to make the content on the digital network adaptable and thus more relevant to shoppers at a particular location. “In-store advertising has to have the right message at the right time in the right place and with the right product,” he [Hiatt] said. “So we want to start programming to different markets, such as the Hispanic and Jewish markets. The technology must be developed to give content to engage the shopper.”

Last fall [the fall / autumn of 2007] Wal-Mart conducted a pilot study of the network’s effectiveness in growing category sales and improving the shopping experience, Hiatt said. Incorporating 40 test stores, 2400 customer intercepts and 45 products over a 12-week period, Wal-Mart discovered that “the closer the messaging to the product, the better the sales lift,” he said. He [Hiatt] also cited results showing that endcap display TVs represent an effective approach to supplier promotion and offered a real possibility of sustained category lift.

The Wal-Mart network is “always a collaborative process between us and our supplier partners,” Hiatt said. “But ultimately it’s all about the shopper’s experience and helping them.”

Speakers from PRN and DS-IQ will address Wal-Mart’s November forum

It’s not completely clear yet what role PRN will play in this new network and whether the Gen 1.0 model of Wal-Mart TV will continue to operate in some of Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores, but it should be noted that two of PRN’s senior executives will be speaking at Wal-Mart’s 14th November symposium in Las Vegas.

Those two PRN executives – President Richard Fisher and Senior Vice President of Marketing, Michael Quinn– will join two Wal-Mart executives (one of whom is Mike Hiatt) on the symposium’s panel.

Also scheduled to appear on the panel will be David DeBusk, the vice president of sales at DS-IQ, one of Wal-Mart’s software/research partners on the Gen 2.0 network.

In his February 2008 presentation, Wal-Mart’s Mike Hiatt gave repeated plugs to DS-IQ, explaining how DS-IQ’s IT system proved conclusively to Wal-Mart executives that when quality content is screened on the network, sales of the products that are advertised on the network increase in real time.

Wal-Mart invests in in-store media while other retailers cut capital spending

Today, during a period of slow retail sales in the USA, it is very significant that Wal-Mart is stepping up to the challenge of creating a Gen 2.0 in-store digital media network.

At a time when most U.S. retailers have scaled back their capital spending, Wal-Mart is investing heavily in in-store digital media for the first time in the company’s history!

The big question is whether Wal-Mart’s investment in the Wal-Mart Smart Network cause other U.S. retailers to copy Wal-Mart and finance their own Gen 2.0 networks?

Four months before Wal-Mart’s scheduled Las Vegas symposium, it is perhaps still too early to tell BUT EVEN NOW – in the middle of a very gloomy time for U.S. retail, we do know that when Wal-Mart talks, other U.S. retailers never fail to listen!

One Response to “Wal-Mart Invests Heavily in Generation 2.0 of Wal-Mart TV”

  1. A Capital Year for Digital Signage • Real Digital Media Says:

    […] underscores both new waves. First, it appears that WalMart’s next generation network includes a change in long-time partner PRN’s role from primary mover to mere vendor. Most observers would assume that WalMart has done the math, and […]

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