BENTONVILLE, Arkansas: An electronic system that tracks shoppers' movements instore and correlates them with sales data could have a profound effect on marketing, claims number one US retailer Wal-Mart Stores.

The Prism system, unveiled this week in Chicago, promises the first scientific metric for the effectiveness of instore sales tools, such as shelf location and promotional displays.

Its sponsors believe it could boost the importance of such marketing while the industry assesses the impact of the internet on TV and magazine advertising.

Comments Wal-Mart's svp of marketing Stephen Quinn: "I do think a lot of marketing resources are up for grabs."

The system has been developed over the last year by a consortium of retailers and major manufacturers, including Procter & Gamble and the Coca-Cola Company.

Says P&G global marketing officer Jim Stengel: "This is huge for our industry. The store is the moment of truth. We will now be able to measure consumer 'reach' with far better accuracy."

Laura Desmond, ceo for the Americas at Starcom MediaVest calls Prism a "game changing" move to target consumers based on shopping habits rather than demographics.

The system has been tested in ten US stores during a month-long trial. The consortium now wants to recruit more participants.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff