Online and offline could be like two peas in a POP

Brands are adapting their point-of-purchase marketing to suit the habits of the multichannel shopper.

Ardo, a manufacturer of frozen vegetables for supermarket own-brands, transfers POP practices to digital commerce

Mobile devices and the wireless internet have wreaked havoc on the retail sector, sending more and more consumers to online shopping sites and away from the high street. Now it seems they are also distracting the shoppers who are not only inside bricks-and-mortar stores but have already got as far as the till.

The recently identified phenomenon, known as the ‘mobile blinder’, describes shoppers who are paying less attention to point-of-purchase (POP) marketing because they are too distracted by reading emails, sending texts or browsing the web on their mobile devices. For example, US newsstand magazine sales dropped 10 per cent year on year in 2012, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, and publishers such as Hearst are partly blaming in-store mobile use.

But the increasing time people spend browsing on mobiles need not be all bad news for POP marketing, or bricks-and-mortar sales more generally, according to PayPal head of PR Rob Skinner. Indeed, the online payments company is banking on the ‘digital wallet’ – whereby people use mobile phones to transfer funds in person, but over an internet connection – being central to future purchasing behaviour on the high street.

“The mobile phone has lots of ways of connecting and our vision is to use as many of those as we can to make payment possible. Ultimately the consumer and the retailer will decide,” says Skinner.


One of PayPal’s approaches is to provide consumers with a smartphone app, which they can use to pay for goods in stores without having to go to a till. It works by letting in-store staff at retailers such as Karen Millen and Oasis take payment from customers by scanning a barcode on their mobile screen (see case study, below).

Skinner explains: “We chose a barcode solution for our in-store app because that’s what many retailers said was most useful. That’s what their customers are used to and it’s something that is in line with what they already have in store. There are other options down the line: ‘check-ins’ for example. Many of us are familiar with checking in via Facebook or Foursquare.”

Skinner predicts that digital wallets, of which PayPal’s app represents just one aspect, will eventually be universal. The company is currently seeing most interest from retailers where speed is important, and he says service industries as well as shops are adopting this and similar technology.

“Think not just of the major stores, important as they are to us, but also of ordering ahead. We’ve started [working with juice bar chain] Jamba Juice in the US, where you can order your drink before you get to the bar.”

Shop window

Ebay UK head of advertising Phuong Nguyen agrees that consumers’ mobile screens are a window to their shopping preferences. If POP marketers ignore them, or try to resist change in order to protect market share for conventional marketing channels, they risk obsolescence, he says. Delivering POP promotions or vouchers directly to mobile devices, as PayPal is doing, is one solution, while Nguyen and Skinner both predict loyalty points could provide in-store shopping incentives via mobile.

Nguyen gives an example: “Shopkick has come from nowhere to be the third-most used mobile commerce app in the US. It has a really interesting model that enables its network of retailers to understand when a consumer is in a shopping mall, then it pushes incentives to that consumer to walk into a store, then it pushes another incentive to that consumer to browse a range and make a purchase.”

Of course, the increased use of mobiles to pay for goods in stores will also require marketers to create POP innovations. For example, marketing materials on packs, on shelves or at tills are likely to incorporate more online elements encouraging deeper brand engagement at a later time, as well as calls to action that prompt consumers to buy immediately in the shop.

Crisp brand McCoy’s, owned by KP Snacks, is running an on-pack promotional tie-in with its Premier League Darts partnership that directs consumers online. At a branded microsite, people can play an online game called Mega Darts, which involves catapulting a van into a painted target area, and then enter a competition using an on-pack code to win prizes such as darts tickets and experience days.

According to KP Snacks marketing director George Johnston, Mega Darts reflects the brand’s personality. The promotion, devised by agency Billington Cartmell, runs until July and allows McCoy’s consumers the chance to submit up to five competition entries, giving the POP campaign ample opportunity to generate involvement with the darts sponsorship.

Similarly, Diageo’s ‘Endless Possibilities’ campaign at Morrisons, created by agency TMW, combined in-store POP materials with a dedicated area on the supermarket’s website. The alcoholic drinks company wanted consumers to appreciate the range and number of drinks that can be made from a bottle of spirits, making it a value as well as a premium purchase.

Diageo Great Britain head of shopper marketing Charlie Greener says: “The in-store activity directed consumers online, where we created a full recipe site with Morrisons website to demonstrate the wide range of drinks that were possible from every bottle. This helped to maintain engagement with consumers and encourage repeat purchase.”

The campaign was 180 per cent more effective than previous POP activity at converting shoppers to purchasers, Greener claims. He adds that combining POP with online activity should no longer be considered an optional extra but a necessity for making POP as effective as it can be.

“While in-store helps to engage consumers and encourage them to buy your products, it struggles to deliver that ongoing engagement that can drive repeat purchase and consumption. This is where linking online activity is essential,” Greener says.

POP genesis

But despite the substantial impact the internet and connected devices have had on retail, the transferral of POP marketing techniques into online stores remains in its infancy. Indeed, so undeveloped is POP on websites that it is rarely recognised as an online marketing discipline, and is more usually subsumed into the wider category of online product merchandising.

Stuart Hiscott, marketing manager at Ardo UK, which manufactures frozen fruit and vegetables under supermarket brand names, says retailers aren’t yet making full use of POP-style marketing on their websites. He says the company sometimes places suggestions and links alongside suitable products that can be paired with its own, but adds that in most cases Ardo is having to push to buy this space, whereas in-store it would usually be the supermarket encouraging the manufacturer to do more POP marketing.

Ardo sees a significant opportunity in transferring the principles of POP marketing to ecommerce because websites are far more accommodating for its products than physical POP, Hiscott says. The company has a small advertising budget and struggles to get a return on investment from in-store marketing, especially as supermarkets will generally ask suppliers to promote under-performing products. Having products in the freezer section is also limiting, he says.

“In-store marketing materials, such as shelf barkers and door signage are very costly. We also tend to be chosen at the end of the supermarket shop, and by that time shoppers are usually tired and not so alert to marketing messages; the freezers themselves are cold and if you are cajoling the children around, they are not inviting places to be. Online, that’s gone.”

Using point-of-purchase online is not new in itself but, like Hiscott, eBay’s Nguyen concurs that ecommerce sites need to adopt the decades-old thinking behind physical POP marketing in order to enhance their merchandising.

“When you get towards the checkout or ‘view item’ pages, that’s where you can start to package-sell and cross-sell. For example, on an item page for a mobile phone from one of our eBay sellers, they are using advertising placements to bundle in accessories and covers,” he says.

He adds that eBay’s own experiences increasingly show online and in-store sales channels can benefit one another through effective POP campaigns. For example, House of Fraser’s summer sale on its eBay store last year increased customers’ propensity to visit bricks-and-mortar stores by 16 per cent, Nguyen claims, while car manufacturer BMW is an example of a brand pointing its customers in the other direction. Its BMW Direct eBay store is where the company sends car owners looking for spare parts, accessories and merchandise.

As with other areas of retail, the rules of POP marketing have been disrupted – it’s no longer just about in-store messages but about reaching consumers across every media channel.



Matthew Curry
Head of Commerce
Lovehoney Group (sex toy and lingerie retailers)

Marketing Week (MW): What are the biggest differences between point-of-purchase marketing in stores and its onlineequivalents?

Matthew Curry (MC): The difference between online and offline is that offline, in a store, it’s a one-shot deal. You can’t intelligently re-merchandise at the point of sale or at shelf level for each person looking at that shelf, but you can online, obviously. We base that on behavioural algorithms and on inbound keywords. There are a whole heap of factors you can pour in to say, if someone is looking at this product, what else they might like to buy.

MW: What have you learned about patterns of behaviour that helps market products in your online stores?

MC: We noticed, for example, that women shopped for Valentine’s Day presents for their husband or boyfriend about two weeks before men shopped for their partners. We could then alter merchandising and what particular products we were pushing at any point in time. As we got closer to Valentine’s we wanted to remove people’s vacillations over what they were going to buy, so we hit them with gift packs that cost £50 and we kitted it all out, rather than giving people a series of options.

MW: Do customers tend to go to your bricks-and-mortar Coco de Mer store after researching online, or do they visit the website after seeing something in store?

MC: People will search for products online and then go to the store to buy it, especially if they are in London. If you’re spending £800 on a Jenny Packham gown, you want to try it on. But any campaign brief online will include what the store will look like at that point during the campaign.

MW: What point-of-purchase techniques do you use to influence what people buy?

MC: There’s cross-selling at product level and cross-selling at basket level, but we tend not to do up-selling. We will guide people to higher-margin items but we prefer to sell something good. So we base all our merchandising on customer ratings, knowing that if the customer has got something good they’re likely to come back. That’s worth more to us than an extra £5 because they have bought a more expensive item.

Case study

PayPal and Aurora

The past 12 months have been a landmark year for UK retailers. In 2012, many high street businesses saw the first concerted moves to combine the in-store shopping experience with the growing number of web and mobile channels they also use to sell. For fashion retailers Oasis, Coast and Warehouse, which are owned by Aurora Fashions, as well as high street counterpart Karen Millen, a defining development has been the adoption of payments company PayPal’s smartphone app. It allows consumers to pay for goods via their phones anywhere within a store, not just at the till.

Each user’s app will display a unique barcode on their mobile screen. Checkout staff or in-store attendants who carry iPads then scan this barcode, which instantly charges the account for the items chosen by the shopper.

PayPal head of PR Rob Skinner says: “We made a prediction some time ago that by 2016 we wouldn’t need to take a wallet or purse with us when out shopping on the UK high street: a smartphone will be enough. [In-store mobile use] is certainly something we expect to develop very quickly over the next 12 months and beyond.”

PayPal’s app is likely to develop further, Skinner says, and “increasingly it will include loyalty points and such like”. Shoppers can already redeem discount vouchers made available to them within the app without having to remember to bring a slip of paper from home. It could also present the opportunity for retailers to cross-sell and up-sell different products in stores on the mobile screen, just as checkout staff and sales people could, although this is not something that UK retailers have started doing yet, says Skinner.

Top trends: 2013 predictions


Phuong Nguyen
Head of UK advertising

There aren’t many brands bringing what they’ve learned offline into online shopping malls. It is such a missed opportunity, but in the past six months there have been more brands knocking on the doors of online retailers to try to replicate online what they have been doing in an offline POP context for decades. I think it’s very nascent and over the next few years we’ll see more online retailers open up their real estate to allow this model to thrive.


Rob Skinner
Head of PR
PayPal UK

We’ve seen a huge rise in the number of payments on mobile phones by our customers globally. It topped $14bn (£9bn) last year. We’re expecting that to rise to $20bn (£13bn) this year.

Many consumers have more than one phone and may have a tablet. Making payment a seamless experience, so no matter which device they have they can use PayPal with it, is our vision. The future for payments is with a digital wallet.


Stuart Hiscott
Marketing manager
Ardo UK

We promote own-label products and so the usual scenario for POP is that we will be approached by a retailer when it wants to do marketing in-store. But with online POP it’s the other way round because we’re early adopters of this kind of technology. And we’re getting good deals – we were trying to make hay while the sun shines, before we were priced out of the market.

We have an ongoing offline promotion where we as a private label supplier have teamed up with a brand to do a cross-promotion. Doing a deal with a private label is a first for us and we hope to do more of them in the future.


Matthew Curry
Head of ecommerce
Lovehoney Group

Trends in our industry will be influenced by people hearing about certain products. The most popular toy is a wand massager, so we see many people searching for ‘magic wand’ and for things they’ve seen in magazines or spoken about with friends. Last year with [erotic novel] Fifty Shades of Grey we saw a huge amount of activity around it. We now have the worldwide licence to manufacture and distribute under the Fifty Shades of Grey brand. We’ve got a movie and theoretically a fourth book.

Figure focus

£9bn – worth of transactions made on mobile devices by PayPal customers globally in 2012

£13bn – worth of mobile transactions forecast by PayPal in 2013

16 per cent – increased propensity to visit House of Fraser stores following its eBay promotion

40 per cent – retail sales forecast by Forrester to be made offline after online research

Sources: PayPal, eBay, Forrester


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