It is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade cautious shoppers to spend money. So who should have the final say on what point of purchase (PoP) ideas will actually convince people to open their wallets?
Retailers love the type of PoP that allows them to maximise their sales per square foot, while brands have their own thoughts about what display material shifts volumes and boosts longer-term brand awareness.
The third party involved in this crucial debate tends to be a PoP design agency, which often finds itself managing the expectations of both the store and supplier.
In fact, campaigns work best when there is a tripartite relationship. You could argue that things run more smoothly still if other players such as display manufacturers, print companies and merchandising teams are also sitting around the table where knowledge is shared as openly as the tea and biscuits.
Getting different parties with several agendas together ensures there is clear and regular communication throughout the life of a campaign. It also means trust in each company’s particular expertise grows and any conflict is resolved before problems occur.
“The design agency is often the conduit of all communications, keeping each party abreast of where the project is at, what needs to be done and whose responsibility it is,” says Helen Haider, client services director at design and marketing agency Wax Communications. “Everyone should be prepared to compromise on PoP design. Sometimes negotiation can mean a better display unit because you must be innovative to think around a problem such as in-store restrictions or the lack of a power supply.”
Tim Howitt, a founding director of Design4Retail – whose clients include Alliance & Leicester, House of Fraser and Adidas – says retailers and brands do appreciate the knowledge design companies bring to any PoP discussion.
“We invest time and energy keeping abreast of a retailer’s store development and merchandising programmes, so we can provide brands with insight and ensure there is open dialogue and consultation with the retailer which also benefits from this proactive approach,” says Howitt.
He adds that this method has worked well in the shoe category to help brands achieve prominent displays in retailer Schuh. For Converse, Design4Retail devised a wall and floor display with inherent Converse branding, but Schuh insisted the floor standing unit incorporated advertising graphics that could be easily updated.
“We already knew through discussions with Schuh that store staff were more likely to change graphics if they were printed on a magnetic-based media,” says Howitt. “The wall bay display was also designed to suit the majority of Schuh’s shop fits and had to meet its standard guidelines for this type of presentation.”
The conduit role that design agencies play can certainly help to resolve any disagreements.
Creative retail marketing agency Live & Breathe became the perfect middle man when Sport Relief and Sainsbury’s were trying to co-ordinate an in-store promotion. They clashed over colour choices and the grocer’s strict health and safety rules.
“Sainsbury’s and Sport Relief had very different agendas but made it clear they wanted us to act as a go-between,” says L&B managing director Nick Gray. “We acknowledged the difficulties and reassessed everything from each side’s perspective so the campaign didn’t stall.”
While different professional stakeholders can throw around ideas for hours it is sensible not to make any final decision on PoP design until consumers have been spoken to.
Chris Hayward, managing director of Beswick Design, says relevance and objectivity come from customer insight, research and testing. Its relationship with biscuit company Burton Foods, for example, includes using the supplier’s own customer focus groups.
“Retailers and brands often make the mistake of pushing a project through without investing enough time in this stage,” says Hayward. “Brand ideas that are ‘un-negotiable’ or unworkable briefs are much easier to counter when faced with direct customer input.”
Indeed, when Diageo realised it needed to increase the in-store profile of Guinness in Ireland, it commissioned Media Square agency Holmes & Marchant to carry out some consumer research. Diageo did not want to simply tell retailers what it thought would be best for their stores so it used the findings of the study to strengthen its argument.
The result was a PoP display using slate and Corian to reflect the brand’s values in-store. It was created by PoP design and manufacturer Arken and features an integrated fridge which is sited at the gondola end rather than in the chilled aisle.
The involvement of interested parties such as Arken in the PoP decision-making process is likely to grow as the economy slows. Mark Simpson, chairman of PoP printer the Simpson Group, says there is evidence more clients prefer to use specialists rather than standard contract printers. “We can add value to the creative process if we are involved throughout,” he says.
Print services business St Ives has just launched a strategic retail marketing service for its clients and has appointed Natalie Somerville as its strategic marketing consultant. Her brief is to gather customer insight and help clients with marketing initiatives by working more closely with different retailers.
Despite the togetherness being seen in the planning and implementation stages of many PoP campaigns there is no getting away from the fact the retailer still holds the balance of power.
Michael Sheridan, managing director of retail design business Sheridan & Co, says design agencies and brands must never forget this, but they can use it to their advantage. “If we have an innovation in display technology we often go to retailers and say we have this idea or concept and ask them who they think we should be talking to,” he says. “This works well because brands have been briefing retailers about their planned activity and the store knows where our concept might be the most effective. It will hopefully mean all three of us are happy.”
The “clean store” thinking being adopted by the supermarkets is another challenge for the PoP sector. Chris Masterson, planning director at Mesh Marketing, wants the multiples to be more adventurous so in-store ideas and techniques remain fresh.
“What retailers want from PoP tends to be cyclical. It was all about in-store theatre, now it is more about clean store thinking. But that might have to change if the average basket spend starts to fall as the economy dips,” says Masterson. “If this happens, co-operation between design and marketing agencies, the brands and the retailers to stimulate consumers will become even more important.”