Wal-Mart to Roll Out ‘Smart Network’

NEW YORK Wal-Mart is taking its in-store network digital, launching the Wal-Mart Smart Network.

Rolling out to about 300 stores, including all super centers, in time for the holiday season, the new network will be powered by Internet Protocol Television, allowing content and advertising to be monitored and controlled down to a single screen. By 2010, Wal-Mart anticipates chain-wide deployment of 27,000 screens.

The Wal-Mart Smart Network, the first next-generation retail media network, is the result of two years and $10 million in research and development to find the ideal placement of screens and optimal programming to engage consumers. It will replace in part Wal-Mart’s current satellite-delivered network operating in 3,000 stores.

“We’ve built a network tailored to the way consumers shop our stores, delivering helpful, custom content closest to the point of decision that helps them shop smarter,” said Stephen Quinn, chief marketing officer at Wal-Mart Stores. “The Smart Network is intelligent too, because every screen and every message has a purpose and we will be analyzing point-of-sale data on an ongoing basis to deliver a shopper-centric communications platform.”

For the Smart Network, the retailer has partnered with three companies: Studio2, which will provide custom programming; Thomson’s Premier Retail Networks (PRN), which will provide network operations, implementation and ad sales; and DS-IQ, a company that provided analytical insights for the new network’s pilot last year. DS-IQ will also provide advertisers with proof of performance and sales reports.

Advertisers will be able to target more precisely by store, by screen, by day and by time-of-day, as well as change messages more frequently than the current in-store network.

“This is a network about brands. All of the content could be classified as advertising, but hopefully it won’t be perceived that way by the consumer. We have the ability to offer clients as little or as much exposure as they want, as long as it meets the needs of the shopper. These won’t be like the ads you see at home,” said Bill Lynch, evp of sales for PRN.