LAS VEGAS — Last year Wal-Mart Stores shelved its 19-year-old ubiquitous slogan “Always Low Prices” in favor of a more expansive concept, “Save Money, Live Better,” and now the retail giant is trying to reflect that change in its massive digital communications network.
“We refocused the company and our key message is ‘unbeatable prices, quality products and easy shopping,’” said Mike Hiatt, director of advertising and marketing for Wal-Mart Internal Networks, a division of the Bentonville, Ark.-based business. “If our digital signs don't support at least one of these things, we'll take them out. We have an opportunity in this new environment to define our brand like never before.”
Hiatt discussed how Wal-Mart now approaches its digital network late last month at the Digital Signage Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Wal-Mart's network, supported by Premier Retail Networks (PRN), San Francisco, encompasses 3,150 stores. All of the stores have “TV Walls” in home electronics departments, and about 3,000 stores use plasma screens in key departments such as grocery, health and beauty, and lifestyle departments. A checkout channel is used in about 600 stores.
Last year, Wal-Mart began a three-year, chainwide rollout of 15-inch flat-panel “display TV” screens at endcaps.
Most of the department screens run 20 advertising spots per hour, with each spot lasting 15 seconds. New items are featured in 30-second and 15-second spots. In 2008, Wal-Mart is introducing “branded” content containing advertising and “infotainment.” Most items featured in the network are new, seasonal or related to a larger promotion.
PRN estimated last year that of the 400 million shoppers who visit Wal-Mart each month, 150 million watch the network.
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 in 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 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, 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, 2,400 customer intercepts and 45 products over a 12-week period, Wal-Mart discovered that “the closer the messaging is to the product, the better the sales lift,” he said. He 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 study also revealed that some customers objected to monitors that are hard to see, audio volume that is too low, and visuals that are old-style, and some found the network distracting or annoying.
The Wal-Mart network is “always a collaborative process between us and our supplier partners,” Hiatt said. “But ultimately, it's all about the shoppers' experience and helping them.”