Point of purchase (PoP) has always battled to lift its reputation out of the shelf-wobbler category of advertising. Despite increasingly creative work and research that proves that it works, the medium has to fight its battles on more than one front.
Apart from convincing marketing directors that they need to be thinking strategically about PoP right from the start instead of handing PoP practitioners a few crumbs left over from the marketing budget, practitioners then also have to convince store managers to display the work.
Why is it so difficult, and are the interactive and digital versions of PoP proving any more popular with store managers and consumers?
Managing director at Gekko, Daniel Torado, believes part of the problem lies with the material itself. "In my experience, PoP does not generally excite consumers. Regardless of how creative and dynamic the displays are, the main benefit is to increase awareness and prompt consumers of a brand’s promotion. Dealing with store managers is notoriously difficult as they generally dislike PoP in their store. But they must be reminded that the right promotion in the right store position can drive sales," he says.
Astonishingly, Torado believes that store managers don’t necessarily know that PoP can drive sales and a real business case has to be made to persuade them to co-operate.
But even if a good business case has been made to use specific material, if the size or shape is wrong for the store or shelf – it would have been a fruitless exercise. Yet another issue that PoP needs to grapple with.
But even if store managers are aware that PoP works, there is an increasing desire on their part to keep stores clutter free. The feeling is that if places like John Lewis and Waitrose can be PoP-free and still shift products, why can’t they?
Sales director at CJ Services, Tom Garner, comments: "Despite increased levels of spend by brands on PoP, industry figures still suggest that compliance is often less than 40 per cent. The simple fact is that a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer sufficient for the needs of modern retailers – what looks good in one retailer’s in-store environment can look and behave very differently in another."
Garner believes store managers need to be co-opted at a much earlier stage by brands and PoP practitioners to get the best out of them. "The reality is that store managers do still want to be inspired by creative, exciting and interactive PoP. If anything, actually making them more involved could be the key. Persuading store managers that such PoP will work in their environment now demands a greater degree of planning, communication and collaboration from the outset of the project – making them a genuine part of the development process, instead of simply handing them a solution."
Getting it right
Like any medium, there is also a vast difference between the best and the worst. The two-for-one shelf-wobbler is miles away from the work that results from in-depth research into the product and the target consumer.
Maria Correla is design director for the brand experience team at Enterprise IG. She says that any serious point of sale work needs to start with anticipating the behaviour of consumers. "With any brand we are working on, we analyse the consumer journey and try to really understand the customer behaviour. "For us, point of sale is an extension of the brand in a 3D form," she says.
From its design heritage, Enterprise IG analyses and dissects a brand much as any other design consultancy would and then applies that information to the point of sale material. According to Correla, it is this kind of research that separates what she calls gimmicky and short-term point of sale from the material that engages consumers.
Again, it seems that it is those brands that are prepared to do the legwork in terms of research, but also in terms of engaging store managers, that have most success.
Gordon Bethell, managing director of Leeds-based retail marketing agency Gratterpalm, says: "Our experience suggests that the majority of store managers are always supportive of new and innovative ways of creating impact in-store, but often the difficulties stem from the brand’s inability to work with them.
"For store managers, a problematic PoP unit from yet another brand comes low down on the list of priorities. The key is to fully integrate with the retailer, understand their promotional plans and timings, ask how or if any colleague hours are allocated to installing point of sale, and provide an infrastructure the store can call on. There are few retailers in the country who want store managers and colleagues taken away from their key task of stimulating sales and even fewer who want them embroiled in an issue around a failed or inappropriate OSDU (off shelf dump bin unit).
"A simple trial in one store based near the head office is not sufficient, but rather merchandising teams, detailed briefs and 24-hour help-lines are just some of the ways to ensure successful implementation."
And are the technological innovations, mainly in the form of interactive screens, proving any easier to sell in and more effective in terms of shifting stock?
Hicklin Slade & Partners has worked with the National Lottery since 1999, and because of the Lottery’s own in-store digital screen networks, the agency monitors other in-store innovations. Partner Matthew Brown warns those brands that "think they can just chuck their latest ads up there and expect people to stop and watch".
"You only have a few seconds to stop people in store, unlike the TV ten or 30-second slots, and you don’t always have sound. The content must not only be relevant, timely and proximate but must also have real cut through. To be successful in this medium, the creative mindset has to be ‘I am creating a moving, 3D piece of point of sale, not a brand ad in a shop’. More creative directors need to put themselves into the mindset of a busy, multi-tasking, often stressed shopper on a budget and short of time before they work on that big idea," he says.
The desire by store managers to de-clutter their stores has meant that many have embraced the cleaner high-tech approaches. But these have not always been successful. The most high profile endeavour was Tesco TV, but it didn’t attract much advertising and it appears most of the screens have now been removed. And because of the often in-built stress element of shopping, some of the iPoP (Interactive Point of Purchase) innovations are passed by and remain unnoticed.
There is evidence that shows that iPoP works in locations like estate agents, post offices and even corner shops. For example, there are 1,400 National Lottery digital media screens in retailers across the country. Camelot conducted a pilot scheme across a range of formats and sectors before rolling out their digital network – from corner shops to supermarkets – and claim positive results. According to Camelot, participating outlets saw an average sales uplift of around three per cent.
Steve Lucas, Camelot’s director of sales, says: "We pioneered the digital screen network to help lottery retailers communicate with their customers easily and effectively. The centrally operated system is installed and maintained free by charge by Camelot – and is hassle-free for retailers. It allows them to capitalise on impulse purchases around jackpots, one-off event draws and new games, as well as being a regular reminder to players to buy their lottery tickets."
It perhaps seems more obvious that a digital screen dedicated to the promotion of a single, high-profile brand, with presumably little competitive distraction is more successful. And maybe for those thinking of interactive and digital solutions, only particular, bespoke environments should be considered, rather than the busy retail lanes of supermarkets.
Malcolm Caldwell, executive creative director at Inferno, adds: "Given the current attitudes of consumers to digital screens, I suspect the most successful PoP using digital screens will be found in departure lounges in airport terminals.
Digital screens in supermarkets will be more successful as brand recognition tools when the creative content is improved." Caldwell’s message to media planners with regards to iPoP is: "Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should."
Which is probably an apposite message to anyone considering PoP. It is the one medium, is seems, where there are too many weak spots in terms of size, shape, siting and chance of seeing the light of day. Probably more than most media, it takes real commitment to make it work properly.
Point of purchase
"Creative thinking and new technologies have developed point of purchase (PoP) displays that are dynamic, exciting and interactive. However, the basic problem is how to integrate this into a customer engagement activity. Large scale PoP or using the latest technology like Bluetooth posters will only work if there are also other customer support activities for example tangible incentives for the store manager and moreover the staff to induce them to make it work and create relevance."
"Customer relationships are built over a lifetime and destroyed in a minute. A multi-million pound integrated marketing campaign can fail the moment a staff member cannot answer a question about the PoP display they are both standing in front of. Many companies claim they have a good customer relationship programme in place but then fail to motivate those who are front line in delivering that relationship.
"Much of the blame can be attributed to the marketing department that has failed to allocate enough investment, time and money to train the customer facing teams and until they do so their customer programmes will continue to fire on an incomplete set of cylinders, thus underperforming. There is no use in promoting a lavish tropical holiday within one of the major supermarkets and then undervaluing the staff to the point of only issuing then we an "Ask Me" badge with a smiley face on it – staff need to feel engaged and motivated in the promotion as well – ideally with incentives that mirror the customer promise – both reinforcing the message and maintain their involvement.
"Whilst there are still too few companies investing the time, money and effort into ensuring that the total customer in-store experience matches the innovation levels displayed by their PoP materials a start has been made by forward thinking marketers who see front line staff as a key communications route and take the time to understand how best to leverage this channel; but more companies must realise that the theory of product promotions and customer relationships needs to be dovetailed into an effective customer in-store experience."
general manager, ICLP