Specialty brand in-store displays go digital

 |  by Tug McTighe Tug McTighe

For many years, premium pet food brands (and pretty much everybody else) leaned on POP displays inside specialty stores to do most of their marketing’s heavy lifting. You put an FSI in the paper on Sunday, you got some space in the big-box pet retailer’s circular and you waited for the shoppers to show up. Then you broke out your old bag of tricks (danglers, on-shelf displays, posters, etc.) to direct those shoppers from the front of the store to your aisle and to your products on the shelf.

But times are changing. Being the heavily research-focused agency that we are, we’re constantly out in the stores watching the way people shop and reporting what we’ve learned to our clients. And what we’ve seen recently is pretty amazing.

As with everything else, the digital age hasn’t just crept into the world of in-store marketing, it’s jumped in with both feet. And it’s wearing a size-22 boot. The splash that digital bits and bytes are making in the world of shopper marketing for specialty brands is big. Following are just a few examples of what we’ve been seeing out there.

Interactive Point-Of-Purchase: These are not your father’s kiosks.
While kiosks have been around for decades, the way that digital is being integrated into them today is truly groundbreaking. JCPenney is doing some amazing things with their FindMore Fixture, which features a touchscreen display built into what is basically a regular old kiosk. This display, however, delivers an interactive shopping experience that helps the customer find other sizes/colors, lets them scan an item’s barcode to get recommendations for complementary items, and even provides them with an online dressing room to hold their choices. Customers then print a page listing the items and where they can be found in the store. It alleviates much of the time wasted searching and takes away the uncertainty in putting outfits and accessories together. Great concept.

QR codes are finding their way.
QR codes have been out there in the marketplace for a few years, however, there has been little consumer adoption and the codes (in my mind at least) haven’t really taken hold with consumers. Well, that too seems to be changing. Macy's, for example, is using in-store QR codes that give shoppers personal assistance, with experts such as Tommy Hilfiger, Bobbi Brown or Rachel Roy demonstrating how to wear items from their fashion lines. And Verizon is giving away free phones in the San Francisco Bay area—just for scanning QR codes and spreading the word. Robert Marhamat, Verizon’s Vice President of Sales with EVO2, summed the promotion up in a recent interview: “Come into any EVO2 Verizon Wireless Premium store, scan the QR code, tell your friends about the great deal and get a brand new cell phone or smartphone. That’s an offer that’s worth hundreds of dollars.” 

If simply by scanning a QR code you can get advice from a fashion guru or a free phone, then it seems like you can do pretty much anything, as long as what you receive for scanning provides sales context or “insider” info.

Shopping: There is, in fact, an app for that.
Shopkick, a new app specifically designed to drive traffic to brick and mortar retailers is truly a remarkable concept that seems poised to blow up. Shopkick installs a small in-store receiver that communicates with an app downloaded to a customer’s mobile phone; the customer then receives pop-up discounts and offers. Already in place at big box stores like Best Buy, Target, Macy's and other large retailers, Shopkick is about to go local. Right now the service is looking for 1,000 small businesses in 10 states to sign up for free. 

Additionally, Shopkick's app offers a gamification element, awarding users with ‘kicks’—points they can earn just for entering the store or picking up a product and scanning the bar code. The points are interchangeable between retailers and can be paid off with iTunes gift cards, Facebook credits, dollars off at restaurants or gift cards for Best Buy, Target and Sports Authority. This sounds like pretty great way to get people to make frequent store trips—without training them to only come in when you’ve got a deal or sale. The app launched in August of 2010, and it’s already been downloaded two million times. 

This has a chance to blow the doors wide open for the retailers that sign up. And the applications of this, er, app are pretty far reaching. Shopkick, I think, has only scratched the surface of what they can do.

I’ll wrap it up for you.
OK, what follows is some food for thought as you move away from pushing cardboard displays to integrating some of these new technologies into your in-store marketing:

  • Think context. 
    Remember that shoppers are experiencing your product or service in a very specific context, so any interaction must have that context in mind. If shoppers are at the shelf, offering a QR code on the shelf-talker that connects them to deeper, more specific product information will deliver great utility, while connecting them to a Facebook page probably won’t.
  • Know that the future is now.
    We really are living life like the Jetsons. Now that we can carry computers around in our hands and most smartphones offer powerful processors with graphics cards, consumers can get near-instant access to educational information about your product or service. And if they are looking for that info at the shelf, you need to do whatever you can to push the sale by giving it to them.
  • Give them the experience they want.
    Shoppers sometimes can’t understand how a specialty brand fits into their lives. Even worse, they often think the people who use certain brands are “not like” them. By providing a digital product or service experience, you can empower shoppers by letting them experience your product, giving them an understanding of how its “story” will play out in their world.

It’s an amazing time to be in the business of retail marketing. Everything is changing by the day, the hour, even the minute. So get in there and start thinking about how some of this stuff can work for you. As long as you’re focused on your shopper’s needs, there is no wrong answer and nearly anything goes. Man, what a great time to be a specialty brand and a specialty brand shopper!

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