One of the most important steps is a nationwide trial which began in April and will end in December. The trial phase involves tracking traffic and exposure to marketing messages in 160 stores around the country. The test phase of the PRISM (Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric) method calls for counting traffic in store aisles both digitally and manually, but the final version will rely solely on digital measurement.
By multiplying in-store traffic by opportunities to see marketing messages, PRISM hopes to produce something similar to the gross ratings points used in TV advertising.
According to Nielsen figures, the number of marketing messages shoppers could potentially be exposed to is enormous: 3,500 during a visit to the grocery store, 5,000 in a mass merchandiser and 2,300 in a drugstore.
Nielsen's research has already yielded some intriguing insights about shopper behavior. For example: foot traffic doesn't translate into purchases. A higher proportion of visits to the salty snack food aisle lead to purchases than do visits to the dairy aisle. Early PRISM data also confirms that shopping trips with children result in more purchases--even in categories of low interest to kids, like hair care and water. A counterintuitive detail: the presence of kids doesn't have much impact on candy sales.
The PRISM project was first unveiled in September 2006, with a list of major supporters, including A&P, Clorox, Coca-Cola, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Group M, Hewlett-Packard, Kraft, Kroger, Mars, Mattel, Miller Brewing, Nintendo, OMD, Procter & Gamble, Pathmark, Price Chopper, Rite Aid, Safeway, Sears/Kmart, Starcom MediaVest, Stop & Shop, Target, Unilever, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie.