News Analysis: Watch This Space

Marketing, May 18, 2005 | Go to article overview

News Analysis: Watch This Space


The UK's retail giants are signing up to in-store TV, but have yet to agree on how best to deploy it.

As Sainsbury's becomes the latest retailer to commit to an in-store TV network, there is still no industry-standard approach to format, placement or, crucially, content. Some networks carry content similar to TV commercials, others broadcast infomercials, and others act more like digital posters.

Tesco, as usual, is setting the industry agenda. It first tested a screen network in 2003, at a time when Sainsbury's store-TV trials consisted of mini-LCD screens attached to shelves featuring text-based price information.

Sainsbury's trial is long-forgotten, but by mid-2004 Tesco announced it was rolling out its network to 300 stores. It was soon followed by Asda's decision to begin trials of its Asda Live TV system.

Now Sainsbury's has responded with the trial of Fresh TV, an in-store network of 42in plasma screens. These broadcast informative film clips via 15 channels, each providing product details relevant to the part of the store in which they are shown.

Rob Crumbie, Sainsbury's business development manager, insists that Fresh TV is different from Tesco's offering, which he argues is seen as 'commercial and not giving much back to customers' - something Fresh TV aims to achieve.

Content clash

Content and how far it can be pushed is the chief issue for this nascent medium. Asda uses basic animated price points and product pictures, featuring minimal movement and no sound. Sainsbury's plans to feature full-motion video of product demonstrations and similar content. Tesco, meanwhile, falls somewhere between the two.

Originally, it was the prospect of producing ads similar to TV commercials and coupling them with the huge footfall in stores that was most tantalising to retailers. When Tesco launched its rate card, media manager Bill Pennell said he expected the medium to take money from TV advertising budgets.

Janice Fernandes, JCDecaux's head of sales for Tesco TV, says this belief was overly optimistic. Since the medium's launch, retailers have learned that, despite high footfall, factors such as the length of time customers spend in store areas make it inflexible. 'It is not TV; it is animated posters with sound,' she adds.

Media planners agree. In January Tesco TV's rate card was slashed by 40%, since which time media sales have become more successful.

Another challenge has been educating buyers about the medium's benefits.

'The biggest success has been with clients, because they understand retail,' says Fernandes. 'Agencies don't.'

If marketing is assessed by return on investment, Tesco TV should be doing well. The initial trial recorded an average sales uplift of about 10% for the brands advertised, and Fernandes says that returns are still between 8% and 10%.

One aspect all retailers agree on is that trial research needs to provide a convincing business case and an understanding of what works. To this end, Sainsbury's will not only rely on sales data in its trial but also match profiles of Nectar cardholders with shopping patterns in the relevant stores to gauge the effects of the TV network.

Unilever UK foods merchandising manager Nick Widdowson says in-store TV could be a highly effective medium. …

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