Video In Checkout Line,

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2004-12-29 Print this article Print

Shopping Carts"> The video advertisers will initially be almost exclusively consumer goods manufacturers, but that could be expanded over time. In theory, theres no reason why a car manufacturer or a bank may not want to target consumers making certain types of grocery purchases. Stopping by the tofu display? Show an ad for a local vegetarian restaurant. Pausing for two minutes in front of the caviar? Roll the Mercedes clip. Picking up some Hamburger Helper? Activate a commercial for a discount merchant.
The ability to have a captive prospect—they cant change the channel or walk away—and to be able to message them in a contextually appropriate environment is extremely attractive. "Advertisers need to get to the consumers at the point of purchase, not the point of sale," McNamara said.
A recent Microsoft POS move may make it retail-viable. To find out why, click here. Fujitsus approach relies on an elaborate storewide wireless LAN, which accesses a library of video stored at central regional server. The intelligence about what the customer is likely looking at comes from pings from a network of strategically placed beacons. The beacons tell the cart where the consumer is and the number of beacon pings indicates cart speed/movement. For example, if the cart receives one ping from Beacon 9 (frozen foods) and then receives one ping from Beacon 10 (breads) five seconds later, it concludes the customer is quickly pushing the cart. If the cart receives four or five consecutive pings from Beacon 9, it concludes the customer has stopped at frozen foods. The more beacons in the store, the more precisely the cart can know the consumers location. Fujitsus system—called U-Scan Shopper—is likely to be ready for retailers "in the April/May timeframe," McNamara said. To read more about smart shopping carts and their retail potential, click here. With the options available and volume discounts involved, prices will range sharply, but he estimated that a typical store might have to spend between $100,000 and $150,000, which would include the carts, servers, a headquarters system to download data and beacons. A big additional expense, McNamara said, would be paying to have huge numbers of tailored videos created, in a format appropriate for a shopping cart. Whether those costs will be handled by retailers or advertisers is "an open question," McNamara said. Retailers may insist that advertisers foot the entire bill, making the system risk-free for the retailer. But some retailers may want to pay for the systems and then charge advertisers for access, which raises the possibility of turning the carts into ongoing profit centers. Suns Green said he sees more immediate prospects for retailers pushing videos in checkout lanes, although he conceded those videos would likely have to be more generic and less targeted. Thats because its much harder to identify the consumer until they get to the cashier or the self-checkout unit, at which point the main opportunity—marketing to them while they are waiting in line—is lost. Future technologies such as a scan that could detect a chip embedded into a loyalty card, in much the same way that a reader detects an E-ZPass-equipped car, could change that. Next Page: The commercial that cant be zapped.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

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