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Wal-Mart Gets Smart

BY Marianne Wilson

Wal-Mart Stores is taking digital signage to a new level with the launch of its new media and marketing platform, Wal-Mart Smart Network. The in-store network is being rolled out on 27,000 screens in 2,700 Wal-Mart Supercenters across the nation. The deployment is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2010.

Described by Wal-Mart as the first “shopper-intelligent network at retail,” the network is designed to provide customers with relevant and timely product information via in-store TV. It is supported by a flexible, open-enterprise platform powered by Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), a system whereby a digital-television service is delivered using Internet Protocol over a network infrastructure. The technology, which enables a more customized and timely experience, allows Wal-Mart to monitor and control content nationwide, down to a single screen in a single store.

The chain said the network is the result of two years and $10 million in research and development during which it identified optimal locations, applications and programming for reaching its customers.

The new digital network will replace, to some extent, Wal-Mart’s current in-store TV network, which is satellite-delivered and contains a mix of entertainment programming, brand messaging and standard ads. The messages on the Smart Network are more focused on driving purchases. They will be part of integrated marketing programs involving pricing, merchandising and media advertising.

The first Smart Network installations are slated for 300 Wal-Mart Supercenters that currently have no in-store TV network, Linda Brown Blakley, senior director, Promote Communications, Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., told Chain Store Age. The network is expected to be up and running in those locations in time for the upcoming holiday season.

As to how the new media platform differs from the chain’s existing in-store TV network, Blakley said it has been redesigned from the ground up with the shopper in mind.

“It keeps the best aspects of the previous network, while incorporating new capabilities and technologies,” she explained.

Also, Blakley said, screens will now be placed at eye level to better engage shoppers, and content created for the network is now 100% customized to the shopping experience. In addition, real-time sales-performance analysis via response measurement will be provided for all campaigns (by DS-IQ, Bellevue, Wash.).

With the IPTV technology, advertisers on the Smart Network will be able to target their messages not only by store and screen, but also by day and time of day.

“One of the most important features of the Smart Network is the ability it gives Wal-Mart to dynamically optimize ads in terms of how and when they are played,” said Richard Fisher, president, Thomson’s Premier Retail Networks (PRN), San Francisco, which is providing network operations, implementation and ad sales.

The new network is made up of three different components. It delivers soundless messages just past the store entrance on “Welcome Screens.”

In the most frequently visited departments of health and beauty, grocery and electronics, content is delivered on audio-equipped “Category Screens.” Sale items featured on key endcap displays are advertised on 14-in. “Endcap Screens” throughout the store.

All of the content is customized, and designed to deliver product information at the point of purchase.

The new and improved network is likely to raise the ante for its advertisers, largely consumer-product-goods (CPG) manufacturers, who are eager to get a share of the vast exposure potential the network affords.

“The network will reach millions of consumers every week while providing advertisers unprecedented visibility into the effectiveness of their campaigns,” Blakley said. “With the new network, advertisers will be able to see the impact of every campaign they run: by product, by week, by day part and even by store cluster.”

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Staples partners with Blackhawk for gift cards

BY CSA STAFF

PLEASANTON, Calif. Staples has announced an exclusive partnership with the Blackhawk Network, the largest third-party provider of prepaid gift-cards, to carry Blackhawk’s Signature Gift Card Mall, currently found in grocery stores such as Safeway. Blackhawk’s Gift Card Mall features over 300 branded gift cards across categories such as fashion, tickets, electronics, home and sports.

“Consumers love buying and receiving gift cards, and putting the Gift Card Mall in Staples stores will make it easy and convenient for our customers to buy a wide variety of gift cards,” said Mark Mettler, senior vp and gmm at Staples.

“Staples is a valuable retail outlet for us because of its understanding of the B2B aspect of our business,” said Don Kingsborough, ceo of Blackhawk Network. “Working with Staples, we will reach small business owners and give them the ability to purchase prepaid gift cards for their employees in the same place they buy office supplies.”

Staples is the first office supply store to carry Blackhawk gift cards.

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RadioShack appoints new chief marketer

BY CSA STAFF

FORT WORTH, Texas RadioShack announced the appointment of Lee Applbaum to the position of evp and chief marketing officer. Applbaum will be responsible for advertising, brand management, customer relations management and marketing and will report to chairman and ceo Julian Day. He will also serve as a member of the office of the chairman, comprised of Day; Bryan Bevin, evp of store operations; Jim Gooch, evp and cfo and Peter Whitsett, evp of merchandising.

“Lee’s joining us at RadioShack represents another significant step in strengthening our senior management team,” said Day. “Lee’s background and successful track record position him well to add value to our brand.”

Applbaum began his career at Lederle Consumer Health, a division of American Cyanamid Co., shortly after earning his MBA in 1994 from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has also worked at The Coca-Cola Co., Schlotzsky’s, Footstar and The David’s Bridal Group, a division of Federated Department Stores. Immediately prior to joining RadioShack, Applbaum was the chief marketing officer for The Schottenstein Stores Corp.

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