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Wal-Mart Plans Video 'Narrowcasting' Displays Throughout Canada Stores

The plan is to link the LCD displays into store computer systems, so that ads would change based on inventory levels of different products, for example.

Wal-Mart Canada is installing video advertising displays in its stores that deliver messages based on current business data and customer buying trends. The plan is to link the displays into store computer systems, so that ads would change based on inventory levels of different products, for example.

Digital advertising company EK3 Technologies and its retail-focused subsidiary, ShopCast, will supply the systems for Wal-Mart's "narrowcasting," an industry term that means delivering specific content to a specific consumer segment. Wal-Mart Canada plans to have 60 stores equipped by December, and the country's remaining 215 Wal-Mart stores equipped by next August. The messages are delivered via 45-inch LCD displays placed strategically throughout a store, said Nick Prigioniero, president and CEO of EK3, in an interview.

Once tied into store inventory systems, the EK3 systems could automatically trigger messages promoting overstocked items, for example. They also can be programmed to detect changes in weather, and serve up promotions for beach supplies or tank tops, for example, if the weather suddenly turns warm.

Wal-Mart Canada plans to talk about its plans at the National Retail Federation Show in New York City in January, according to EK3. Ontario-based EK3 hopes Wal-Mart's operations in the U.S. will be listening along with other retailers. "I think [Wal-Mart Canada is] very progressive and visionary in its approach to retailing," Prigioniero said. The deal has "enabled us to set the benchmark for rest of [Wal-Mart] group around the world," he added.

Tim Horton's, a chain of 2,500 Canadian coffee shops that throws out any unsold fresh doughnuts after four hours, uses EK3 displays in its stores to promote doughnuts that are approaching their expiration time.

Prigioniero said the narrowcasting content is usually comprised of images, words, and characters that can catch a consumer's eye with an instant message. "You need to get the story across in a very short amount of time without being intrusive," he said. Content will be designed so that "if you look up from shopping cart, we're expecting whatever message you get in 10 seconds you'll fully understand." EK3 and ShopCast will deliver a combination of advertising, digital merchandising, and Wal-Mart Television, according to EK3.

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