Pop Culture

Designers are learning to maximise the likelihood of an unplanned purchase. Lauren Mills explores the issues concerning point-of-purchase display material.

“Pile ’em high; sell ’em cheap” may once have been a retail philosophy that worked. But times have changed. Consumers are more clued up than ever before, which means cheap prices alone are not enough to close a deal.

These days people insist on value for money and they want to understand why they should buy one product and not another. Given that up to 70 per cent of purchasing decisions in-store are unplanned, opportunities abound to win favour from passing shoppers. After all, the messages consumers receive at the point-of-purchase can make all the difference as to whether or not they buy a product.

According to Martin Law, chief executive of Fords Design Group, which specialises in retail design and POP material: “The point-of-purchase is the moment when all your sales, marketing and advertising activity come together. It is the one chance you get to turn browsers into customers.”

This is why POP advertising has evolved into a highly sophisticated business. It is all about creating impact and giving information.

Jeff Kindleysides, creative director at design consultancy Checkland Kindleysides, says: “POP units need to reflect and reinforce other media communicating with brand personality. The POP can be used to remind the consumer of the values they are buying into.”

While at first glance the options are almost endless, when it comes to the design of POP displays, a lot depends on the type of product, as well as its value and the length of the promotion. While good design is vital, stands must also be functional and capable of adapting to a client’s changing needs. They must also be suited to the retail environment in which they are to be installed.

Law advises: “Consider the consistency of the retail environments – this will dictate the overall level of sophistication at POP. Even Nike has had to develop four or five different systems to cater for varying market conditions internationally.”

Frontline Display marketing director Barry Jobling adds: “You have to design and build units which are flexible enough to take a full range of products, and which can be adapted to take more products in case the client adds to the range.”

While it is hard to predict the shelf life of a display stand, it is important to remember that stands must always look fresh. They are there to bring above-the-line advertising in-store, at the point where it matters most.

Law makes a point of advising his clients to think carefully before making a decision about the materials they choose for POP displays. “In the harsh retail environment, you can’t expect poorly made displays to last. What may look great on the drawing board, and even better on the balance sheet, will prove to be a false economy, especially if the retailer asks you to take it away because it looks shoddy. Invest as much as you can in the initial design and composition of your material, and it will not only keep the retailer happy, but more than pay for itself in increased sales,” he says.

While simple cardboard or vacuum-formed plastic stands are cheap – and can also be effective – it is sometimes worth investing a bit more up front to make savings at a later date. For instance, with clients wanting a high volume of stands, it may be worth considering injection-moulding products. While these are expensive at the outset, they are cheap to reproduce – even in high quantities.

When choosing materials other factors apart from cost come to the fore. Law even points to external influences such as the weather. “It is important to remember that climatic differences can affect some types of POP material – for instance, outdoors or window displays,” he says.

Before materials can be chosen, those involved in devising POP strategies must ensure that they fully understand the marketplace, and how people actually buy the product.

While certain items, such as computer games, may be suited to gimmicky, interactive display stands, others require a subtler approach. “Our job is to draw attention to the product, by creating an overall profile for it. There has to be synergy between each factor, from above-the-line, to packaging and POP displays,” says Jobling.

Frontline recently designed and manufactured a stand for German white goods manufacturer Miele’s latest vacuum cleaner. The stand has an acrylic plinth, with a card-manufactured backboard.

Jobling explains some of the problems which had to be overcome before arriving at the final solution: “The product has a large footprint, and three different attachments for cleaning different floor surfaces. And all three of these had to be part of the display.

“The unit had to be modular, so it could be sent out in one piece or in bits, to suit different retailers. And, while Miele wanted it to be placed on a shelf, it had to look like the cleaner itself was sitting on the floor. So this also had to be incorporated in the design,” he says.

Miele is certainly happy with the end result. According to Miele marketing services manager Jenny Holmes: “The final product was the result of many discussions and a developing brief over a period of time. The reaction of our sales force and retailers, and our competitors, is a testament to the fact that we have an unrivalled presence in our retail environments.”

Fords recently designed an in-store marketing tool for fashion footwear manufacturer Kickers. Brand positioning was absolutely key for the company. But this meant not only portraying Kickers’ new-found streetwise slot, it had also to communicate the company’s heritage. So Fords designed a totally flexible method of displaying and merchandising the full ranges of Kickers footwear and clothing.

The materials used – which include galvanised steel, beech and hammerite finishes, and the overall styling, reflect the Kickers brand. Eye-catching items include curved feature areas and floor-standing footwear displays, which can be used either to highlight new ranges or for high volume products. The system also features museum pieces depicting Kickers’ history and heritage. And it has fully adjustable lighting arms and ceiling rafts to create the desired ambience – whatever the size or shape of individual retailing locations.

Kickers managing director Tony Parkin is full of praise for the shop-in-shop system. “It represents a wonderful vehicle for the brand to make a complete statement to its consumer,” he says.

But, while coming up with highly individual, eye-catching design solutions is an extremely important part of successful POP advertising, Kindleysides stresses that design companies should not get carried away. “Innovation is about how POP assists the product it is selling, without becoming a piece of art in itself. It needs to support, not overshadow, the product.”

In the case of music retailer, Our Price, POP has played an important part in actually strengthening the brand. CDT Design, which created a new brand identity for Our Price back in 1996, is responsible for the design of all in-store advertising material. This includes the weekly chart role, three major sales, loyalty campaigns and third party promotions.

CDT director Iain Crockart explains that all POP for Our Price has to perform several functions and meet particular objectives. These include clarity of proposition, developing and building the brand personality and creating and maintaining a constant dialogue with customers. CDT also works hand in hand with Our Price’s ad agency WCRS when campaigns need to go above or below the line.

Given the number of factors potentially at play in developing POP marketing solutions, and the ever-increasing demands of the consumer, it is hardly surprising that POP has evolved into the highly complicated business that it is today. Design consultancies touting for business in the retail sector must therefore go to considerable lengths to keep abreast of changes in people’s shopping habits.

They must also be prepared to accept that, while design has an important role to play in POP, alone it rarely provides the answer.

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