In-Store Product Puts Digital Display Ads Beneath Shoppers' Feet

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COLUMBUS, Ohio ( -- Technology firm Intellimat has patented a computer mat less than an inch thick that will turn retailers’ floors into yet another space for brands to advertise.

Essentially a PC wired to a storewide computer, the mat is sturdy, but thin enough to roll a shopping cart over, and it can play ads with sound at shoppers walking on it. At $9,900 each, the four-screen plasma mat is being shopped to grocery and drugstore chains nationwide.

Intellimat, based in Roanoke, Va. and financed by incubator The Egg Factory, declined to name its clients, but said retailers set to launch test markets include a national grocery store and national drugstore chain. Typically, in-store advertising providers have revenue-sharing agreements with retailers, but Intellimat has not set up a formal sales process yet.

Evolution of floor graphics
The Intellimat represents an evolution of floor graphics, which hit the retail scene in the mid-'90s. “The key is the versatility,” said Debra Saunders, marketing director. “You can pick it up, move it around and put it anywhere in the store you like. That way, you can keep testing until you get it in the right place.”

Jayne Mullen-Sampson, VP-marketing at Floorgraphics, a floor-graphics company based in Hamilton, N.J., praised the innovation but said practical challenges will prevent widespread adoption.

Too expensive?
“It’s not going to work. You have issues related to American Disabilities Act, people with wheelchairs are going to have a hard time getting over it,” she said. “I think it is a terrific idea, but it’s only going to work if it is paper-thin. And the cost of the unit also seems way too high. It’s hard to justify the expense.”

Mrs. Mullen-Sampson compared Intellimat’s costs to that of the production costs for a floor ad, which runs about $16 with an average $15 more per cycle for the media space. “I don’t think advertisers are going to be willing to pay for this,” she added.

Jim Spaeth, president of Sequent Partners, and lead researcher on an extensive study of in-store advertising by POPAI, the point-of-purchase advertising trade group, said the Intellimat could finally make floor graphics a more noticeable medium.

A compelling place
“When you suddenly add motion and sound it changes things,” he said. “In the form floor ads have been exercised to date, they haven’t been tremendously effective. The floor is a compelling place and it has been a relatively uncluttered” one.

Mr. Spaeth pointed to a 2004 POPAI in-store advertising study of the drugstore channel. When consumers were questioned on recall of specific in-store media, 56% recalled signs, 39% tags on shelves, but only 12% recalled floor ads. In a 2002 study by online research firm Insight Express, a window poster generated 49% brand awareness, an aisle banner 35% and floor graphics 19%.

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