Monday, October 30, 2006

RetailWire asks: What do consumers want from in-store media?

All too often, we wonder what do retailers, or advertisers, or CPGs, or media buyers, or a whole host of other groups, want from in-store media. However, as Adrian Weidmann asks in a recent RetailWire BrainTrust Query, what's in it for the consumers? More specifically, he asks:

In today's media cacophony, what the consumer wants is helpful and enlightening filtration. Surprise and delight them and you'll begin to gain their trust! Digital media networks are inherently multi-channel (in both marketing and technical terms) but must first be architected in environmental context and implemented to help the consumer (and retail associates). Upon that foundation, trust is built one brick, click and clip at a time. Having established this ecosystem, the consumer will then allow commerce on their terms.
As usual, the responses, from a wide range of media professionals, are excellent and demonstrates multiple distinct points of view. Here's the interesting challenge with asking (and answering) this question, though. As noted, everybody who answered works in advertising or marketing. Sure, we're all consumers, but in the context of such a discussion, we're marketers first. Compounding this problem is the fact that whenever we do a survey or a questionnaire or a customer intercept, we don't get genuinely useful data. Sure, somebody might do an intercept outside of a Wal-Mart and ask, "what did you think of the in-store TVs?" If the person answers that he didn't like the system, that's something valuable. The media registered enough to cause a genuine reaction. But most people, due to simple human nature, will offer some kind of noncommittal response which doesn't help the marketer improve things at all.

And forget about asking people what they'd like to see. A marketing firm can't expect the average consumer to spend enough time really thinking about what kind of ephemeral in-store technologies might improve the shopping experience, at least not where in-store media is concerned. If it doesn't impact pricing or the speed at which a shopper can navigate the store, most shoppers are going to have a very hard time offering any useful suggestions about the retail media landscape.

Tags: retail media, in-store TV, in-store radio, retail tv, retail television, digital signage, store media

First-generation RFID tags not secure enough

At least, that was the general takeaway from this report from a group calling themselves the RFID Consortium for Security and Privacy Group. As Evan at StorefrontBacktalk notes,

The group tested about 20 samples from various contactless credit cards and concluded that "the cardholder's name and often credit card number and expiration are leaked in plaintext to unauthenticated readers" and "our homemade device costing around $150 effectively clones one type of skimmed cards." Perhaps of greatest concern is the report's conclusion that "RFID-enabled credit cards are susceptible in various degrees to a range of other traditional RFID attacks such as skimming and relaying."
Of coruse the most immediate implication is that a nearby data thief could simply use such a radio device to steal credit card information that could then be used to make online purchases (where you don't need an ID, physical card, etc.). However, Evan also notes that identity thieves could utilize name data from RFID tags even if the credit card number was encrypted (which is how things are heading).

I don't think I'd ever want my name to be broadcast in plain text for anybody with an RFID reader to see. Creepy scenes from Minority Report keep coming to mind, though admittedly wrapping my contactless payment cards in some kind of RFID-proof material is a lot easier (and less painful) than having my eyeballs plucked out.

Past articles on RFID include:
Bookseller uses item-level RFID and kiosks to lower costs, boost sales
Using RFID to improve the customer experience

Tags: RFID, encryption, security, retail media, contactless payment

Friday, October 27, 2006

Shoppercentric and The Screen to work together on an in-store media report

According to this press release, retail research and behavior firm Shoppercentric announced that it is releasing the results of its next major survey on retail digital media networks with the The Screen, the UK's leading research and trade organization for the industry. The survey is due to be completed later this year, and according to the release will provide, "authoritative comment on how consumers relate to digital signage and how stores can best implement screen media networks." Here's the interesting part of the blurb:

The agreement to release the results of the survey in partnership with The Screen Association follows Shoppercentric’s well-received presentation at the trade body’s 2nd annual conference, on the 10th October. At the conference, Shoppercentric provided strong research and experiential evidence that, while the potential benefits of digital signage in retail is large and growing, retailers have yet to fully understand how it can be best used to meet the needs of shoppers. Only by aligning shopper needs with business targets, claimed Danielle Pinnington of Shoppercentric, will the full potential of screen media be fully realised. The company’s conclusions were based on its own original research, as well as extensive shopper behaviour experience gained through work with a large client base, which includes Cadbury Trebor Bassett, Coca Cola Enterprises, Currys Digital, Homebase, Mothercare and Somerfield.
Credible research is still wanting in our industry, so the more the merrier. We'll keep our eyes peeled to see when the summary/synopsis becomes available. The Screen was recently in the news, heralding their findings that UK digital signage networks are mostly brand-oriented and infrequently updated.

Tags: digital signage, screen media, narrowcasting, captive audience networks

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Unisys marries magazine, out-of-home advertising in aggressive pitch

We've heard a number of reports about magazines having a hard time selling out their ad space (and at reduced rates), but Unisys is experimenting with a unique plan to combine the targeted appeal of magazine ads with the broad audience of an out-of-home media campaign in an effort to reach 20 -- and exactly 20 -- people. From this WSJ article:

Around 20 high-ranking executives at corporations such as Subaru of America, DHL, Citigroup and Northwest Airlines will get a surprise when Fortune magazine arrives on their desks this week. Each will find his or her own face gracing the cover.

The covers are one-of-a-kind mock-ups wrapping the actual Fortune edition, part of an advertising play conducted by information-technology company Unisys that brings new meaning to the idea of niche marketing. Unisys is sending the magazines to get the attention of executives -- mostly chief information officers -- responsible for making buying decisions about their companies' technology products and services. In other words, the people Unisys most wants to influence.

To make sure that these select few actually pick up a copy of the magazine, Unisys is blanketing the areas where they work, play and shop with out-of-home advertisements like billboards and vehicle wraps, even going so far as to figure out where the execs might stop for breakfast or coffee on their commute to the office.

On the one hand, that's pretty creepy. There's a fine line between avant-garde and invasion-of-privacy, and this campaign does a good job of straddling it. On the other hand, though, combining the reach and depth of these two advertising media gives Unisys a chance to be remarkable, not only for the 20 intended viewers of the personalized pitch, but also for the millions of people who are now talking about the company.

Tags: Unisys, out-of-home advertising, magazine advertising, FORTUNE, Omnicom

Subliminal nude pictures focus attention

Scientific American is running an interesting article on subliminal messaging -- images that are displayed in such a way that you don't consciously perceive them, but still register with you subconsciously. While most common examples of subliminal messaging use a moving frames example -- e.g. of the 24 frames that make up one second of motion in a film, one of those frames would be replaced with a subliminal message (which would be displayed for 1/24th of a second) -- the researchers in this experiment used a different kind of display to take advantage of a quirk in the way we process visual information. From the article:

Cognitive neuroscientist Sheng He of the University of Minnesota and his colleagues gathered groups of heterosexual men, heterosexual women, homosexual men and bisexual women numbering 10 each. Each viewed special images pointed directly at each individual eye. The researchers could cancel out vision of one eye's image by presenting a specific high contrast image to the other eye. Such an image, called a Gabor patch, consists of a series of contrasting lines that form an abstract--and visually arresting--shape. "Normally, the two eyes look at the same image. They don’t have any conflict," he explains. "We create a situation where the two eyes are presented with two images, and then they will have binocular competition. One image is high contrast [and dynamic], the other is static. You basically just see the dynamic image."

Into the canceled out image slot, the researchers slipped an erotic image; for example, a naked woman displayed for a heterosexual man. To ensure that subjects did not consciously detect the invisible image, they were asked to press a specific key if they noticed any difference between the left and right images. Over the course of 32 trials, men were significantly better at detecting the orientation of Gabor patches when they appeared in the slot formerly occupied by an invisible image of a nude woman.
The researchers found that men and women responded differently, as did homosexuals and heterosexuals, but the most interesting finding was that men were significantly better at accurately identifying a symbol after being "primed" with an erotic image that matched their sexual orientation.

Bottom line: sex sells, and while this particular form of subliminal messaging isn't likely to find a home in at-retail advertising any time soon (the rig requires you to focus your eyes on two different images at once), I'm willing to bet that it will rekindle interest in other forms of subliminal advertising. It's also worth noting that while numerous experiments have verified that we can perceive many things without consciously registering them, there have been no verified cases of a successful subliminal advertising campaign (though there have been reported cases of unsuccessful ones).

Tags: subliminal messaging, advertising

Friday, October 20, 2006

Using RFID to improve the customer experience

The Wise Marketer has a short piece on an experimental platform being pitched by NCR. In the system, branch bank customers are identified by an RFID tag as they walk in to the branch (presumably this tag would be embedded into something like a cellphone or PDA that's personally identifiable).

Aside from giving bankers the ability to start a personalized conversation with customers as they walk in, the system also gives managers an alert if the individual was flagged as a "special" customer who might be a prime target for a certain type of loan or other financial product, or a VIP who's eligible for special perks like skipping the teller queue or getting some additional attention.

This makes me think two things: first, as David Polinchock mentioned at the At-Retail Media Expo, for RFID adoption to really take off, it must offer something of value to the consumer. Right now, all it does is help with inventory tracking and loss prevention, neither of which are particularly interesting to the average shopper. NCR's prototype system, on the other hand, is trying to provide something of value via the technology, which is worth looking at. Second, isn't it peculiar how we need all sorts of new technology to help retailers (or in this case bankers) identify customers by name, figure out who gets special attention, etc.? The Internet has largely obviated the need for me to go to the bank these days, but even just a few years ago when I was going perhaps twice a month, the manager and several of the tellers all knew me by name. It seems like that level of customer service shouldn't require a huge tech infrastructure.

Tags: RFID, NCR, retail banking, retail media, store media

Thursday, October 19, 2006

10-Figure in-store ad deals block competitors for years...

... or so says MediaBuyerPlanner in this short article, but I've read previous articles about P&G's massive in-store media deals before. Apparently, some CPGs have been buying ad rights in retail chains for up to 2 years, with discounted rates in return for making such a long-term (in the retail world, anyway) commitment. Interestingly, as the article notes, "the complete control offered to these marketers means selling space to marketers across multiple four-week cycles whether the marketer intends to use the space during every cycle or not. Even when the space is not in use by the marketer who has contracted for it, competitors can be blocked from using it."

That's an interesting wrinkle, since a long-term media buy could be looked at as a defensive manuever as well as an offensive one (no pun intended :) However, as the article also notes, "P&G allows News America to resell ads during the four-week cycles its brands don't intend to use," though the actual mechanics of this aren't described.

For reference, a 10-figure deal means at least $1,000,000,000. Ouch.

Product Sampling Most Influential In-Store Media

According to new research from BIGresearch, product sampling was found to be the most effective form of in-store media, with efficacy being defined in this case as the number of people who responded "influenced" or "greatly influenced" to the question: "How do each of the following In-Store promotions influence you to buy certain brands or products?" The full results are as follows:

In-Store Media                 % Of 18+
-------------- -------
Product Sample 52.4%
Product Labels 43.2%
Shelf Coupons 39.5%
Special Displays 35.5%
Store Loyalty/Card 33.1%
Coupon on Register Tape 28.4%
In-Store Events/Contests 28.1%
Parking Lot/Sidewalk Events 18.2%
Floor Graphics 12.5%
In-Store TV 10.9%
In-Store Radio 7.5%
With a 10% lead over its nearest rival, product sampling is the clear winner here, which reinforces results that we've seen from numerous studies in the past. There's no clear category for retail fixtures or POP displays, though I suppose that the "special displays" section covers that partially. My only concern there is that the word "special" connotes that the display may have been in conjunction with some other promotional offer, which would make it difficult to determine the influence factor of the display itself.

MediaBuyerPlanner has a writeup on the report as well.

Tags: product sampling, in-store media, retail media, in-store TV, in-store radio, media buying, media planning

Yet another retail media blog

You'd think that with three blogs (technically four, I suppose) already under maintenance, that would be enough. But the truth is, there is so much activity in the retail media space that I decided to start up one more blog (hopefully the last one) to cover news that didn't fit anywhere else. So for now, I expect to break down my blog posts the following way:

WireSpring's Digital Signage & Interactive Kiosks Journal - This will continue to stay much as it is: a (roughly) weekly journal that takes an in-depth look at a particular topic of interest. Most articles cover some aspect of digital signage technology and best practices, interactive kiosk/self-service efficacy, or the dynamics of in-store media. Articles are long, but since they come out only once a week it's easy enough to keep up with them.

Digital Signage News - As the title suggests, focuses on digital signage news. I usually find four or five things to blog on in any given week, though I do try to focus on significant issues, not vanity press releases (since there are an awful lot of those)

Interactive Kiosk News - Much like the Digital Signage News blog, Interactive Kiosk News looks at emerging issues and news in the self-service and kiosk industry. Popular topics include media burning kiosks, financial services devices, self-checkout lanes and electronic voting.

Bill's Retail Media Blog Clips - I use (and LOVE) Bloglines to organize my blogroll, which currently sits at about 80 or so feeds. Since there are plenty of less obsessive-compulsive people who want to stay informed, I clip every interesting blog article that I come across and stick it in this blog for their review. There's typically not much commentary, just the first few sentences of the blog and a title. The more interesting articles eventually find their way into one of the other blogs.

Finally, we're adding the In-Store & Retail Media News blog (which is what you're reading right now). There's so much going on that doesn't fit into one of the above categories, so this is where those articles will land. I expect it to look much more like the Digital Signage News and Interactive Kiosk News blogs, with a few postings each week, looking at interesting news items that pop up around the industry.

So that's it for now. Stay tuned for the first "real" post!