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Advertising Age this morning reports that Wal-Mart has decided to partially lift its ban on providing data to syndicated market research firms, saying that it will do so in order to help better measure in performance of in-store marketing efforts.

“Wal-Mart Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Quinn said that the world's biggest retailer will provide sales data from 1,000 of its more than 3,000 stores in the U.S. to the Nielsen In-Store service, an initiative also backed by the retailer's biggest customer -- Procter & Gamble Co. -- and the media agency that serves them both, Starcom MediaVest Group,” Ad Age writes.

This all stems from a new technology application that has been developed to measure the effectiveness of in-store marketing efforts. By using infrared sensors placed roughly four feet high in selected aisles, the system is designed in a way to mimic the ability of companies to measure the viewership of television programs or Internet sites. Wal-Mart was one of the companies spearheading the application, and it made the shift on providing data because it knew that the metrics wouldn’t work without its participation.

Ad Age notes that “Wal-Mart pulled out of its pact with ACNielsen and rivals Information Resources Inc. and NPD in 2001, saying at the time it wasn't getting as much out of data it received as it was giving up in the way of competitive intelligence by providing data to syndicators.

“And Mr. Quinn said Wal-Mart would provide the sales data only for use by members of the Nielsen In-Store syndicate and only for use in that program, not broader applications.” However, Ad Age reports that analysts believe that this is just the first step in lifting the ban completely.
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