Each week may see a new multiple grocery retail store opening, but no matter how many branches Tesco opens, the lack of in-store space remains a serious issue.
The problem, according to Alan Cobb, retail strategy director EMEA at point of purchase specialist Momentum, is one of increasing product lines. “When Coke launches a new variant, the retailer’s response is ‘Great, now what line will you take off the shelves to make space for the new one?'”From a brand’s point of view, you have to be able to create the store space if you want to launch a new product because retailers are loathe to introduce a new listing unless the manufacturer can help create the space.”
Cobb says one of the main preoccupations for PoP specialists is creating this new space in store, particularly in the growing number of smaller stores like Tesco Metro.
“We spend a lot of time researching retailer and store profiles,” he says. “When we produce an in-store campaign for multiple retail accounts, we use a PoP utilisation matrix to ensure we have developed a range of assets that cover the objectives of the brief, are appropriate to the retailer and facilitate the sell-in process for the brand account teams.”
Cobb adds that a one-size-fits-all approach to PoP is no longer valid, either because it has to suit the lowest common denominator, and therefore significantly reduces impact, or it relies on an overly engineered approach that increases cost and complexity.
Tom Garner, sales director at CJ Services, agrees, adding: “Modern PoP has to fit the personality and profile of in-store environments, not the other way around. Failure to do so is a key contributing factor to poor in-store compliance, meaning that PoP material can often remain unused due to lack of space or the inability of store teams to work with what has been supplied.
“But without a detailed assessment of differing retail formats that the PoP material will be deployed in, it is impossible to create displays that will deliver a genuinely flexible solution.”
This situation has seen specialist installation companies, which have traditionally been shoved at the end of the PoP process, being consulted much earlier on. “More retailers and brands are turning to installation companies for their knowledge and technology to help shape and define display design. We regularly conduct comprehensive store assessments, store profiling and site trials on behalf of clients, with the information fed back into in the briefing and design process.
“Retailers and brands spend a great deal of time developing the look and feel of display units, but until recently very little attention was paid to ensuring PoP equipment would work effectively for all retail formats, whether large or small,” adds Garner.
There are many, however, who would question the real impact of in-store displays in grocery retailers where the function of the trip is often to get in and out as quickly as possible.
Jim Taylor, regional director of MEC Retail, EMEA, points out that the mobile phone has been overlooked in terms of its impact on the in-store environment and how it can influence shoppers.
“Today, in-store communications is a repressed child. Retailers, on the whole, believe that there are many other factors which influence shopper behaviour more than communication, such as service levels, environment, stock levels and shopper value perception.
“They remain unconvinced that communications can do much more than simply motivate shoppers through promotional messaging. For this reason, retailers have stripped away a lot of the historical cardboard in a bid to clean up the aisles for customers and make the shopping trip easier.
“Retailers are also reactive, not pro-active. They say ‘no’ to manufacturer communication initiatives, often as a matter of course, without necessarily having good reasons or having a reference point on how communication could and should be used differently, around different parts of the store, for different types of categories, and for different share brands within a category.
“Retailers are reactive and unconvinced, and there’s a lack of high-impact communication formats to break the deadlock, which is where the opportunity for the mobile phone comes in.
“The mobile is commonly used in-store, usually to phone home for purchase guidance. But in the next five to ten years it will allow retailers much more leverage over shopper behaviour, such as driving perimeter shoppers into aisles, driving up visits to low-frequency categories, creating stronger conversion mechanics to increase rate of sale for planned or unplanned purchases.”
Although the technology is available to exploit mobile phones’ potential to transform in-store communication, there is little appetite on the part of the major retailers to support this innovation.
But technology will increasingly influence the development and direction of in-store communication and although for many the cost is still prohibitive, for some big brands it is facilitating the cutting-edge image needed to stand out in some sectors.
Earlier this year, for example, customer retailer interaction specialist The Marketing Innovation Group and Pixel Inspiration, the digital signage agency, launched Interactive Store Window. The technology lets retailers create highly interactive in-store marketing and promotional campaigns or even turn their entire shop window into a multimedia interactive experience. Added to this, a patent-pending solution allows digital messaging to be integrated in to the projected images enabling video, broadcast and Web information to be delivered to the screens via the internet, with content that can be updated remotely to any individual location at any time.
When Tommy Hilfiger Denim stores turned its shop windows into an interactive display, the fashion brand used touchscreen technology to allow passers-by to capture, stylise and submit their image as part of a collage of pictures being shown on digital screens in the shop windows. The digital storefronts enabled customers to interact with the Hilfiger brand outside business hours. At the end of the campaign, customers were able to return to the store and have their own T-shirt specially printed using the image they created as the design.
Inevitably, however, cost will always be a consideration and for many that will mean standard displays for different retail environments will continue to be produced. John Savage, managing director at Coutts Retail Communication (CRC), recalls a campaign they did for AOL in which the main body of a display was standard, but the messaging on the header was tailored to suit the demographic in that store.
Savage says: “It’s often the case that some retailer’s size restrictions are so limiting that to use a single unit across all stores would limit all of the other retailers.
“But it is not just about the environment, you have to take into account the objectives of all the stakeholders in the process. For the shopper, how do they feel and how can we best communicate with them? For the retailer, what are the key operational and logistical issues for the brand? How can we deliver or improve the sales uplift?”This all takes time, energy and investment, but a retailer who is fully engaged feels totally integrated into the PoP process and has ‘ownership’ of the display materials placed in their store.”