Point of purchase – hi-tech advantage is only for the brave

As digital techniques enter the physical retail environment, brand owners must take care to use technology only when it adds genuine value to the shopping experience. By Maeve Hosea

The term point of purchase (PoP) used to mean cardboard stands near tills, but the latest innovations in retail marketing mean the channel is now as technologically advanced as anything that might be encountered on TV or online.

One PoP unit for the Lego brand reveals in 3D, via augmented reality (AR) software, what a box’s contents will look like when assembled. The technology from Metaio means that when a customer holds up an AR-enabled Lego product to the PoP unit, software is able to recognise the item and reveal its contents in fully assembled form as a 3D animated image on-screen.

Tony Best, managing director of retail marketing agency The Attic Room, says this type of installation is becoming more common. “Five years ago, PoP was limited to not much more than a mixture of permanent shelving and card versions with graphic headers but the medium has come a long way recently,” he says.

“This has been driven by progressions in print processes, the competitive cost of technology and the need for development designers to produce more innovative ideas to win pitches.”

To promote pop star and designer Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Lovers fragrance, brand owner Coty created a marketing campaign that included a touring karaoke booth designed to cut through the highly saturated and celebrity-driven fragrance market.

Rather than focus on Stefani’s recognisable image and celebrity for the in-store campaign, a Harajuku Lovers roadshow took the karaoke booth around ten stores during 2009, allowing customers to record themselves singing a song and then view it on the Harajuku Lovers website.

Customers could also send a photo and their karaoke recording to their mobile phone via Bluetooth in the booth. Importantly, the PoP unit, which was designed by The Attic Room, allowed consumers to experience the perfume’s brand personality without making a purchase. This helped Coty and Stefani develop wider brand awareness than simply offering the fragrance for trial on perfume counters.

Brand stories
Agency view
Charles Kessler
Chairman of PoP specialist Kesslers International

Point of purchase innovations strongly reflect the developments in internet consumer activity. The consumer is better informed and looking for more information and support than ever before. Merchandising reflects this trend, with brand messaging and communication having a much greater role.

At the top end of the market, we are witnessing a large number of thin film transistor screens in-store, which is the kind of hi-tech communication that consumers feel comfortable with. But at lower price points, brands are focused on creating presence and awareness.

Media fragmentation is a key driver behind the growth of merchandising. Budgets are being made to work ever harder, with funds being released from above-the-line campaigns and spent elsewhere in the marketing budget. Procter & Gamble, Shell and other major multinationals have led the way in this.

Our report into consumer shopping behaviour studied a series of purchasing activities nationally. It backed up the well-established fact that over two-thirds of all brand purchase decisions are taken in store.

Making an impact at the point of purchase is a key movement in the consumer journey and is classically referred to as “the first moment of truth”. It has led to a growth in PoP as an important category for brands.

Multinational brands recognise the power of merchandising and display in creating a global image. In doing so, display has moved from being a store or sales-based activity to a key marketing tool.

Brands with global ambitions are investing in display. They invest even when times are hard, recognising where their marketing budget is most delivering value.

Ian Taylor
Trade marketing manager at William Grant & Sons, who oversees duty free retailer World Of Whiskies

Point of purchase is at the forefront of our brands and is very much focused on experience, interaction and tasting. We have to be innovating constantly. You can’t stand still because the way consumers interact with your brand changes with the times.

One way to do this for us has been to work with World Duty Free to demystify the malt whisky category and allow consumers to experience it in a way they would enjoy. World of Whiskies is part of this.

The World of Whiskies concept, recently updated by Sheridan & Co with a store launched in Heathrow Terminal 4 in November 2009 and one in Edinburgh Airport due to open this month, aims to bring together and educate the less familiar drinker and the specialist.

Instead of a geographical experience of whisky, it aims to generate a fireside indulgence feel. The Discover your Taste “bar” uses radio frequency identification technology at the point of sale to trigger videos and graphics that explain each product when it is placed on the bar top.

I see this as innovative because it is an example of breaking down a closed category and giving people the chance to interact with the brand in their own time. This is how you build trust.

Another example of this type of brand exposure was on Hendricks Gin, where we used a Victorian bathtub full of roses and bottles of the product to draw people in. This type of theatre is the new base level. Four or five years ago, you would have got away with a good wall unit but now you can’t.

PoP should be pleasurable for the consumer and allow them to interact with the brand. In the future, there will be more of a need for really personal and involved designs.

Key learnings

  • Design of the PoP material has to add genuine value to the shopper’s experience, rather than simply be eye-catching.
  • Time-pressed consumers require a PoP design to be compelling in both the idea behind it and the final execution.
  • Consumers only respond to technology when it is used in a logical way and connects to other elements of the brand campaign.
  • Technology such as augmented reality and radio frequency identification will play a greater role in PoP design in future.
  • Designs that allow consumers to discover something for themselves work well for marketing-conscious customers.
  • When possible, the human touch is invaluable and a personal anecdote or advice can often swing a purchase decision.
  • Check how other sectors are using PoP to gain valuable innovation tips for your own business.


New year, new positive outlook

Marketing Week

Welcome to 2010. It looks like a tough year ahead. Trends and predictions are all very well but anybody can be a futurist. You need something more solid than famous people telling you what they think might happen.