A PRISM post-mortem looks at promise of in-store metrics

February 17, 2009 by Dave Haynes

James van Etten’s daily e-mail blast to subscribers always had a good mix of stuff I would otherwise never come across including, this morning, a post-mortem on the In-Store Marketing Institute’s Web site, about the much-ballyhooed shopper metrics program that was recently shelved by the Nielsen Company.

In a column, the Institute’s Peter Breen argues: I don’t think there’s any argument that the ongoing industry discussion generated by the P.R.I.S.M project has advanced the concept of the store as a marketing venue. It also can be argued that it has helped drive the broader, more game-changing emergence of “shopper marketing” as an essential go-to-market strategy.  

Breen interviewed George Wishart, Nielsen In-Store’s global managing director, who said the year’s worth of data that came out of the PRISM program, including metrics from Walmart, proved the store environment has untapped potential as a marketing vehicle and led to a new measurement metric: lift per thousand impressions.

Wishart also provided some detail on the impact of Walmart pulling out of the project late last and how weeks after that the project in its entirely was suspended.

Data is only beneficial if it can be acted upon, and the potential costs of activating the insights available through P.R.I.S.M. — in addition to the costs of purchasing the data — would require careful consideration even in the most ideal economic times.

As it turned out, the economic times into which Nielsen’s service prepared to launch were as far from ideal as could be imagined. In the current recession, when many companies are desperately looking for ways to reduce expenses, asking them to allocate money for a new initiative was a tough sell. “There is an immediate need to preserve cash, so an investment that lets you refine a program six months from now wasn’t a priority,” Wishart says.

Wishart doesn’t think Walmart’s decision to back away from participation in the service had a major impact on the industry’s ultimate assessment. “As companies examined the opportunity, they took a critical look at the costs. I think [Walmart’s departure] gave them pause, but I don’t think it was a driving force.”

While he suggests that media discussions about subscription costs (which put the price tag as high as seven figures for large companies) were “exaggerated,” Wishart believes that “what most folks missed were the cost savings” that would result from an in-depth analysis of in-store marketing practices, as well as the ultimate return on investment from more effective programming. “You could ultimately implement more of what works and less of what doesn’t,” he says. 

I don’t think there’s any question that more substantiated, consistent data coming out of retail will help further build the case for digital media in-store, but when retailers are looking for every way possible to trim operating costs, there’s likely enough out there already to convince decision-makers this stuff WILL have an impact. Exactly how much, and in what ways, they can get nailed somewhere down the road when better times return.

Worth having a full read of this piece. 

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