Brands Test Ad Targeting at the Store Shelf

P&G, Walmart digitally nudge shoppers

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Brands are increasingly testing digital technology to pitch consumers while they’re in stores. Take Procter & Gamble, which this week will start targeting shoppers in the digestive health sections of 410 Walmarts with video ads for Pepto-Bismol and ZzzQuil.

When Walmart shoppers use a SoloHealth touchscreen kiosk, they’ll be asked to provide their gender, age and ethnicity before getting served a Pepto or ZzzQuil video spot tailored to them. The P&G brands will also ask consumers to provide email addresses and cellphone numbers in exchange for coupons and information about their health based on the kiosk’s features (weight, body mass index, blood pressure, vision screening, risk assessment) sent to them electronically. SoloHealth said that about 10 percent of consumers who see the videos opt in. Indeed, big brands see big potential when it comes to in-aisle digital.

Jon Waltz, P&G’s associate director of Walmart Team Health and Wellness, described P&G’s play as a test to see if advertising to consumers in a retail healthcare setting will work.

Bart Foster, CEO of SoloHealth, which sells the video ads, explained the appeal this way: “We can deliver a completely different video message to an in-aisle female who is over 40 or to a male who is under 25. You can see how many phone numbers you have of Hispanics over 40 years old in West Texas.”

SoloHealth has also advanced its relationship with Walmart, letting the retailer attach cold and flu products to the physical kiosks while syncing up store specials and video ads. The program is being tested in Atlanta and will be rolled out to other Walmart markets in January. The product racks are sold as an ad unit with the video spots on a CPM basis. That ad package is also being offered to CPGs in Safeways, and Foster said inventory is sold out through spring 2013.

“It’s mainly because of the targeting, combined with the fact that it’s measurable and in-store,” he said. “Traditionally, that data has been hard to get at.”

Digitally nudging offline shoppers to buy a $4 bottle of Pepto is one thing. Lincoln plans to see if the idea can sell luxury cars in 2013. When customers live chat with a Lincoln rep online while researching car specs, the agent can make the details available to local dealers.

In theory, the consumer will seamlessly continue the digital conversation with an iPad-armed showroom rep, providing a jump start to test drives and avoiding the frustration of spending all that time online and then having to start all over again at the dealership.

Such work is probably just the start of in-store interactive bells and whistles. Razorfish is developing image-recognition software that identifies traits like age and gender before digitally targeting offers in real time via its Emerging Experiences lab.

“Hundreds of retailers have flown in to see it,” said Jonathan Hull, global lead of Razorfish’s Emerging Experiences Group. “The demand is there, and we’ll see more in early 2013 as people’s budgets open back up.” 

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.