It may seem obvious that retail staff will be on board and on message with your products or services being sold. But there is no guarantee that they will be inclined to shift more product, unless there is something in it for them – and that something usually involves more than a competitive salary.
Which is why point of purchase (PoP) practitioners are encouraging clients to include retail staff in the equation when developing campaigns. The idea is that frontline staff will add another layer to a multi-channel strategy: at the very point of purchase they will reinforce the message.
Understanding the strategy behind a campaign is essential, but the starting point to staff member inclusion must be their understanding of how PoP effects sales generally, says CRC strategic account director Tom Bird.
“We find if staff understand the effect that campaigns have on sales, the process is much easier. The key is them understanding how campaigns lift sales,” he says.
CRC does a lot of work in the home entertainment sector and Bird says one of the jobs is to make sure staff know what the new releases are going to be and in what format. “We tell them what is coming in and we also work with the film studio field marketing teams so that staff also know what collateral they will be getting. It means that when someone comes in to ask for something, staff know what they are talking about.”
Bird admits that staff in home entertainment outlets aren’t there for the long term, which is why getting them to support promotions often involves an incentive.
Nick Gray, managing director of Live & Breathe, says even when staff know about the products and services they are selling, they still need the extra push. He uses the example of a sportswear client, New Balance, that manufactures running shoes that not only has half-sizes in length but also three width sizes. But this unique selling point poses problems for buyers, as many more pairs of shoes need to be stored in order to provide the full range.
“New Balance wanted to be stocked in JJB Sports and so developed a campaign for one of its running shoes called Absorb,” explains Gray. “The problem is that explaining the benefits of these shoes to the staff on the shopfloor can be boring for them because each brand has its own proprietary technology. But to have any success, there had to be a trade push.”
Lend a guiding hand
The push for the trade included a simple guide for shopfloor staff on the benefits of the Absorb brand. “The guide provided memorable features and sound bites for the staff to use,” says Gray.
But the strategy also included an incentive – a cash prize for the store that sold the most shoes and, within the winning store, prizes for the top three sales people.
Of course getting staff more involved in campaigns not only helps lift sales but also enhances customer service. When a member of staff engages knowledgeably about a product or service, even if a transaction hasn’t taken place, that verbal communication will have an impact on brand engagement.
Staff knowledge and communication becomes crucial in areas such as technology and banking. Andy Jarvis at Billington Cartmell works on the Lloyds TSB business, where he says there has been a massive increase in brands focusing on staff and their ability to promote campaigns through simple promptings.
“My background is in telecommunications, which has for a long time been very focused on staff. I am used to being in teams where half the team works with consumers and the other half with staff.
“Lloyds TSB is doing a lot more to engage staff – right down to us talking to John in the Bognor branch and finding out how we can make his job easier,” explains Jarvis.
But the engagement is not only limited to those staff with responsibilities for mortgages and loans, but cashier staff as well. “We provide till prompts for staff so if there is an ad on the glass facing the consumer, we will have devised specific prompts on the same sheet facing the cashier.”
Billington Cartmell has done similar work for Woolworths, and Jarvis says the principle is always the same. “The demographics of the frontline staff in a bank or in Woolworths is not that different. As long as the consumer feels they are getting some sort of payback by getting information, or being entertained, then the strategy will always work.
“The retail channel is now recognised as the principal consumer touchpoint and the most cost-effective communication channel, and this has ensured greater senior management focus and investment,” says Jarvis.
Live & Breathe’s Gray says the benefit of staff involvement is apparent in large department stores. Shops in the store that are staffed by the brand owner always have higher sales. They are motivated to sell only their brand. And this commitment will always affect the customers in a positive way.”
Staff Pop ups
He adds that the number of PoP strategies that involve staff has increased rapidly over the past few years. “All clients talk about now is return on investment. Just doing a promotion at point of purchase is not enough anymore; clients are increasingly asking us to involve the staff.”
CRC’s Bird says the desire by clients to get the staff on board has resulted in improved technology in terms of how the store gets promotional briefs and increasingly, he says, agencies are communicating with store staff directly. He even says that a lot of store staff would like more PoP in specific areas – which flies in the face of the common perception that staff would like to see much of the cardboard that comes into the store go up in flames.