Wal-Mart TV has a spot for you

Soon you'll be able to speak to consumers as they're trolling the aisles of Wal-Mart. When Canada's first supercentre locations open next month, they will accommodate a new in-store TV network that will broadcast advertising and company information.

On Nov. 8, the already gigantic general merchandise chain is introducing three Supercentre stores – in London, Ancaster and Stouffville, Ont. – and plans to unveil four more in the new year, also in Ontario (Sarnia, Scarborough, Vaughan and Brampton). Measuring between 156,000 to 186,000 square feet, they will house an expanded selection of apparel, electronics, home décor and grocery including, for the first time, fresh products, baked goods and meat.

And the new in-store network that is part and parcel of the new stores is a medium that other advertisers can eventually tap into, according to Mario Pilozzi, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Canada. ‘We do believe the best means of communications is in-store because you [can] communicate directly with your customer,’ he says. It will roll out nationally throughout 2007 and ultimately the plan is to be chain-wide.

The new network involves the installation of LCD screens in high-traffic areas, as well as at cash registers, where consumers will learn about universal store initiatives, as well as get targeted information that is relevant to specific departments and local needs. For instance, communications about Wal-Mart’s everyday low prices, rollbacks, gift cards and other programs will be broadcast nationwide, whereas details about community fundraising events and customized product selection will be advertised on a local basis.

Supported by Toronto-based ‘narrowcasting’ company ShopCast, Wal-Mart ShopCast TV has been four years in development and is modeled in part on a similar network broadcast that launched nine years ago in Wal-Mart stores south of the border. The Mississauga, Ont.-HQ’ed retailer has high hopes for its ability to grab the attention of Canadian shoppers at the first moment of truth.

Initially ShopCast will be operating only a checkout channel at the Supercentre cash desks, with a full-scale rollout planned for Jan. 24 involving 10 Ontario stores and nine individually-programmed channels keyed to departments, such as fashion, pantry, pharma, health and beauty, electronics, etc. It is with the January expansion that ShopCast is offering national advertisers access to buy into the first year of the network (Jan. to Sept.), and to participate in roll-out research. Ultimately, there will be the opportunity to buy by demo or daypart and to geo-target. The checkout channel will have a cost per thousand somewhere between $4-5, and within the store, channels will be priced on a per store, per cycle basis (in two-week cycles). Wal-Mart traffic clocks in at one million shoppers per day.

Certainly, the findings of a comprehensive pilot of the program in Meadowvale, Barrie, Brampton, Oakville, and Etobicoke, Ont. (five stores were compared against five other control stores) look promising. Conducted by Muldoon and Co. in conjunction with Starch Research, the results of 1,000 surveys and multiple focus groups suggest that customers are getting the messages loud and clear. In fact, 57% said it ‘reminded them of products available at Wal-Mart,’ and 35% said it ‘informed them of products they did not know Wal-Mart carried.’

And the additional sounds and sights didn’t seem to bother shoppers either: 90% said Wal-Mart was creating a ‘more pleasant shopping experience’ and 81% said it is ‘a great addition to the store.’


- With files from Mary Maddever