The science of compliance

Continued advances in technology mean the ubiquitous issue of non-compliance could be one less thing to worry about, says Martin Croft

Point-of-purchase advertising is wonderfully diverse: from the humble shelf wobbler to hi-tech in-store plasma screens. But ask PoP experts to name the biggest impediment to innovation in their sector and, no matter what their exact line of business is, they will give the same answer: retailer compliance. Or rather, the lack of it.

They’re used to having to overcome the objections of manufacturers who say their creative ideas can’t be turned into reality; they have no problems liaising with above-the-line agencies on integrated campaigns; and they don’t mind the challenge of convincing nervous packaged goods clients to try something new. But when it comes to getting shop managers and staff to properly deploy a new piece of PoP material- particularly hi-tech displays – it’s another matter.

As John Cole, chief executive of interactive kiosk company Retec Interface, laments: “Retailer compliance is one of the biggest issues in PoP. Store staff have other things to do, and unless something is mission critical, they won’t do anything about it.” Cole, who has been working in PoP for 35 years, adds: “You build a nice display and the moment you leave the store, the manager takes it away and puts it in the storeroom as he wants to use the space for something else.” Or, if it’s a hi-tech display, then nobody will bother to inform the PoP company when it malfunctions – again, it’s off to the storeroom.

Retec – which supplies Sainsbury’s Bank’s interactive terminals – has only really begun to overcome the problem of non-compliance in the past year or so, with the spread of broadband communications. “If one of our kiosks goes down, the manager can walk past it ten times a day and won’t ring us. But now we’re networked – if it’s a software problem, often we can fix it remotely. If not, then at least we know to send someone to fix it.”

The three-line whip

As Lee Behan of Sales Articulation Solutions (SAS) says there are three key points to remember when trying to introduce innovation to PoP marketing: “Brand owners are not sure what works. Creatives don’t understand PoP as a media space – they’d rather be doing something more glamorous. Chief operating officers and chief financial officers are demanding return on investment (ROI) and accountability.”

New technology can deliver that accountability, Behan argues. For instance, SAS markets a range of PoP marketing and services, including floor and trolley ads and field marketing. Its floor and trolley materials all have radio frequency identity (RFID) chips in them, which can be programmed with information about where they are, what they are and when they were put there, and which can be read with hand-held scanners, so allowing compliance to be tracked.

Gideon Karmiloff, client director of PoP company Vividbrand, warns: “Many brands put a lot of money into PoP but if they’re not communicating the right message at the right time and in the right place, the money is wasted.”

Money talk

Not all PoP necessarily faces the same restrictions, of course. Comments such as those above primarily apply to PoP material for packaged goods brands. Some brand owners – financial services suppliers, for instance – have entirely different issues to contend with.

In one sense, banks and building societies have an easier task when using PoP. They do not have to take into account the activities of rival brands within the retail space and, since they are their own distributors and own the retail space, they don’t have problems with compliance.

But they do have a whole series of issues of their own. Their products can’t be neatly packaged and are hugely information-intensive. There is little consistency in the retail environment, and branches are often old buildings that may not lend themselves to modern retail communications.

HSBC head of marketing Mark Mullen says: “Every property we have is different, so finding PoP that will work across our entire estate is challenging.” HSBC solves this by using a range of techniques – leaflets, posters, window displays – and is exploring hi-tech solutions such as televisions with built-in DVD players running clips, plasma screens, and in-brand radio. “It can be very difficult to measure ROI on things like plasma screens, and there are also health and safety issues, such as wiring.”

Some PoP material will have to be designed for people who are already in the bank, he adds, and some – window displays – target passers-by. Incidentally, window displays can be a particular problem, since they have to be designed to work across a huge range of different sizes and styles of window: “Merchandising a Georgian window can be a challenge,” Mullen says.

David Newman, director of marketing management at Co-operative Financial Services, says any PoP material must be carefully written to adhere to the Financial Services Authority’s financial promotions regulations.

PoP material tends to be integrated with other media, so the same message is communicated whether it is via TV ads, talking directly to a call centre or picking up a leaflet in store.

Newman says that when PoP material is distributed to branches, “we have a contact in branch who has responsibility for displaying the material according to a written brief. We give very clear guidelines to all staff outlining the objectives of a campaign and how PoP material should be used to support these. You must engage staff.”

Charles Kessler, deputy chairman of PoP specialist Kesslers International, argues “banks and building societies should be as creative about their PoP materials as any other retailer, particularly now that supermarkets have moved into banking.”v

Cisco Systems

Cisco Systems provides the networks which handle an estimated 80 per cent of all internet traffic, and it is actively working with retailers and service providers to explore how technology can be used in stores. Cisco has put together working models to demonstrate to retailers and financial services companies what properly networked systems can offer, says Josie Burdon, business development manager retail, Cisco Europe, Middle East and Africa.

One of the problems in getting retailers to accept in-store TV is that, because it is such a new medium, different companies are using it for completely different purposes: Tesco sees it as a chargeable medium which it can sell space on; Asda uses it for training purposes; Carrefour uses it to market to consumers.

Yet networked systems can offer so much more, she believes: link the in-store TV network with data networks, and retailers can change their messages in store according to real-time sales data, the time of day or even the weather – running promotions for ice cream when it’s sunny.

Burdon concludes: ‘There can be no argument that in-store TV is the most effective PoP, but there are issues that have to be addressed. There is the problem of getting different parts of the organisation to agree on a common strategy. There is the complex relationship between retailer, brand owners and their marketing agencies.’ And of course, there is the issue of power: ‘Brand owners don’t want retailers to get more power – and vice versa.’

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