Walmart goes hyperlocal on screens with deals and content, but …

October 11, 2011 by Dave Haynes

Walmart is launching new messaging technology that localizes marketing messages based on what’s going on in the area and things like the weather.

Sound familiar?

Sure, it sounds like database-driven digital screen content. Yay!

Except the screens, in this case, are PCs, tablets and smartphones.

The retailing giant has announced the My Local Walmart Facebook app, which will serve  tailored communications about local deals, events or limited-distribution products available at 3,600 stores, for some 9 million Facebook fans.

The app is described as a way to enable the retail giant to make its stores relevant locally, but at scale, reports Ad Age.

This will be ‘Oh dear’ moment for the already beleaguered newspaper industry, as it may well be the first step in the gradual elimination of weekly newspaper inserts.

“Over time, I guess if it became a really huge scale effort, it might have that impact,” Stephen Quinn, chief marketing officer, told Ad Age. “But right now it’s not really impacting us in that way, because it’s really an extension of what we ought to be doing anyway, which is paying attention to what customers want.”

From the different lens of the digital signage and in-store digital sector, the news is interesting for a few reasons. If you have been around this sector for a few years, you will know that content serving based on what the data is saying has always been one of the big selling points. Whether you are buying or selling, you have probably used or heard the pitch about databases that let know the software know that “if it’s raining, it should push umbrellas.”

There’s always enthusiasm around the concept, but not a lot of action to actually use retailer screens in such a sophisticated manner. It’s enough just to keep the planned content fresh in most retailers that have put in screens. Getting the systems talking to the screen software was something for down the road.

But when a massive, and massively influential, retailer like Walmart starts doing data-driven content, that’s a big moment. Its competitors may already be doing some of that, but they’re not Walmart.

“They’re not just having a local tab on their fan page where people can find their nearest retailer by putting in a ZIP code,” says Carolyn Everson, VP-global marketing solutions for Facebook, about the app and the possibilities. “There’s actually going to be fundamentally different business being done and a different relationship at the local level because of being able to launch new products at the local level” or offering localized news about savings and events.

What it means for in-store digital – probably among a few things – is that the data being made available from in-store systems is now in such a shape that if it can be used to influence a localized Facebook app. If it can do that, it should also be capable of influencing what’s on screens in a store.


Leave a comment