Long Tail Media in the Store

Herb Sorensen
TNS Sorensen


Walk in to a supermarket and you are confronted with a sensory overload of stimuli. The supermarket is a 360-degree sensory environment with enticing smells, samples to taste, auditory announcements, and most importantly a barrage of visual media from signage, packaging, and display advertisements. This information is non-directed; that is, it is an assault from all sides and, because of the quantity of information to absorb, consumers employ more filtering in the retail environment than for any other media. TNS Magasin data have shown that in a typical 20-minute shopping trip, the shopper only reads 8 to 10 text-type messages. Rather than through words, communication with purchased products is all about color, shape, and iconic images.

In a supermarket, purchasing decisions also take place very quickly—most decisions being made in only a few seconds. Many of these purchasing decisions are not planned in advance; impulse shopping in the supermarket accounts for 40 percent of all money spent (User Interface Engineering, 2001; confirmed by TNS Sorensen primary and secondary locations purchase data), and certain categories lend themselves more strongly to impulse buys than others. This presents some interesting research challenges in how to document shoppers' decision-making process and in identifying which in-store media are most effective. Because of the immense amount of visual stimuli, knowing what the consumers pass by as they move around the store or the contents of an aisle are not enough—directed measurement of the field of vision is the only way to accurately assess consumers' behavior, motivations, and perceptions at the point of purchase. This article shares some insights on measuring both the long tail and “the big head” in an in-store media environment.