Retailers and marketers, armed with new technology, have transformed the store itself into
|One of the latest high-tech in-store marketing devices is a mini-strobe activated by passing movement. It brightly lights a product, like this Mountain Dew bottle, to make it stand out from nearby competitors.
GROWING CLASH BETWEEN RETAIL ADS AND TRADE PROMOTIONS
Both Seek to Dominate Shopper's Real-Time Experience
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> Survey Results: Consumer Reponse to In-Store Displays
> Survey: In-Store and Out-of-Store Ad Association
The steady splintering of ad-supported print and TV media options has made it more important than ever for marketers to make their products shout at consumers from the store shelves. And retailers' new mantra is to brand the shopping experience itself so customers are constantly aware of where they're shopping. Just walk into a Target or Kroger near you to see the evidence.
Even the weariest, most distracted shopper will have a difficult time ignoring some of in-store marketing's newest gadgets, including floors that talk, messages that swoop down from the ceiling and motion sensors that trigger on-shelf light shows.
One of the most high-tech options is a new wireless hand-held device from Symbol Technologies, Holtsville, N.Y. The Portable Shopping System device is issued to a consumer upon entering the store. It can scan the price of any product, giving the shopper a running total on purchases; the screen also points out discounts on nearby products and suggests complementary purchases based on the shopper's choices.
Shopping list uploads
The device can upload shopping lists sent by the consumer via the Internet, and can let a shopper know when prescriptions, photos or deli orders are ready during the shopping excursion. It's currently being tested in six Stop & Shop stores in the Northeast and in some Chicago area Jewel stores, with wider deployment expected this summer.
Floorgraphics, a leading marketer of decals that adhere to supermarket floors to promote specific brands, is introducing its first talking floor ad. Audio commercials are triggered when customers step on a designated spot. Deals with several major brand marketers are pending, says Richard Rebh, CEO of Floorgraphics, based in Princeton, N.J.
Pepsi-Cola Co.'s Mountain Dew will be one of the first brands to benefit from Kent, Conn.-based Crew Design's Visi-strobe. The motion-activated device triggers individual beverage containers to light up in bright green from inside store refrigerators when consumers walk by, says Gil Aviles, one of the partners behind Visi-strobe. It was tested last summer on bottles of Cadbury Schweppes' Dr Pepper at convenience stores in the Southwest.
Even store ceilings are being deployed in the war to get consumers' attention. The new SkyBox from Island Display, Lewisville,
|A hand-held, PDA-like device from Symbol Tech can upload shopping lists and provide shoppers with a stream of data about products and specials as they shop.
It has gone so far that some supermarkets are trying to reduce the clutter of the marketing messages delivered inside their stores -- which is potentially bad news for marketers. "All the gadgets thrown into the store to get consumers' attention have turned into a kind of marketing spam," says Kevin Kelley, a principal with Shook Kelley, Charlotte, N.C.
"Retailers want to turn down the noise while emphasizing their own names and private-label brands," says Mr. Kelley, whose retail store design consultancy works with supermarkets.
Despite this in-store tug of war between the retailer and the marketer, retailers never forget the widely cited fact that at least 70% of all buying decisions are made at the point of purchase, and brand marketers' in-store displays, promotions and contests play a big role in making cash registers ring, says Dick Blatt, president-CEO of Point-of-Purchase Advertising International. POPAI represents makers of in-store marketing displays.
"Retailers are demanding more quality in their displays," Mr. Blatt says. "They want in-store devices to conform to their standards, and in the process, display makers are working more strategically with marketing agencies to get better results."
'Clean store' policy
More than ever, trade dollars grease the shelves of all retailers, says Mickey Jardon, executive vice president at DVC Co-Marketing, a Norwalk, Conn.-based division of DVC Worldwide. "The dollars keep going up, and although many retailers have put out a 'clean store' policy to limit in-store messaging, they know manufacturer-driven promotions push not just those specific brands but entire product categories," he says.
Budgets previously earmarked for traditional advertising are increasingly migrating into co-marketing funds for retailer-specific national promotions often backed by spot TV commercials. These efforts usually have a significant in-store marketing component, says Paul Kramer, president of the channel marketing group at Ryan Partnership, a Wilton, Conn.-based marketing agency.
Overall, mainstream supermarkets have given up on fighting discounter Wal-Mart Stores and club stores like Costco on price and are reconfiguring their stores to focus on a more relaxed shopping experience, better customer service and products grouped around lifestyle needs such as entertainment or health care. High-profit categories such as dry grocery and general merchandise items are being showcased through new store fixtures that look less like aisles and more like islands, alcoves and attractive pantry layouts, say in-store experts.
The consumer's mind-set
"Supermarkets were traditionally set up like lumberyards, but now they're being designed more around the consumer's mind-set," Mr. Kelley says, "and in-store marketing displays must follow that logic rather than just blindly screaming for attention."
Other new trends include less reliance on kiosks and machines
|During the Christmas season, Allied Domecq took to the floor to promote its Malibu Coconut rum in retail outlets.
During this past holiday season, Allied Domecq took the floor, literally, to tout Malibu coconut rum. The program using Floorgraphics' billboards followed similar efforts for Kahlua liqueur and Stolichnaya vodka.
Allied Domecq was able to gain incremental floor displays for its brands without price promotion at a time when floor space is at a premium, says Joanne Kletecka, group brand director. "We are constantly searching for innovative, yet strategic, ways to reach our consumer in a crowded marketplace," she says.
"In-store promotion devices are becoming more brand-specific, aimed at changing behavior and attitudes, not just on rewarding a customer with a lower price that day," Mr. Kramer says. "The bottom line is that in-store displays matter more than ever, and every inch has to count for more, both for the marketer and the retailer."