Before we can create effective in-store content, Kinney says, we first need to realize that "the store is a place both to build brands and to sell brands." While the majority of products -- whether they be newly launched or established brands -- take a multi-channel approach to marketing, often combining in-store POP with TV, print or radio ads, direct mail programs, and the like. However, there are many brands that make their first connection with shoppers right on the sales floor. Think about it: how many of the LCD screens sold at Best Buy will be advertised on TV (or even in a circular)? Of those ads, about how many do you think you'll actually see? Likewise, there's an entire aisle at my local supermarket devoted to packaged sauces and condiments, but only a very small number of the products offered actually have nationwide (or even regional) advertising campaigns.
With this in mind, it's no surprise that a very large portion of CPG manufacturers rely on in-store advertisements -- everything from product packaging to POP displays -- to announce and promote their products. But in an age where shopping is increasingly thought of as a pastime by many, the traditional methods of in-store advertising have gotten a boost from both new media (like digital signs) and innovative product display strategies (for example, when supermarkets offer name-brand sanitary wipes near the shopping carts and baskets). While these initiatives are certainly a good start, Kinney suggests that there are three major factors preventing product-based businesses (those whose modus operandi is to sell more merchandise) from becoming people-based businesses (where merchandise is sold as result of the shopping experience).
The first factor is what she calls the dogma of consumer product research, and it's certainly something that I know I tend to focus on when starting a retail research project. Simply put, we spend a lot of time trying to quantify individual transactions, experiences and shopping trips, usually with the goal of being able to predict future behaviors when we observe other, similar events taking place. However, relatively little time and energy is invested in exploratory shopper research that eschews the typical trial-test-repeat scenario (which can yield great results when done properly) in favor of forward-looking, observational research that tries to identify broader trends.
The second factor is the overemphasis on the science of shopping. We tend to spend lots of time building shopping models and ROI measurement tools for our different in-store marketing programs, yet in comparison we devote relatively little to examining the art of shopping. This reminds me of Pat Hellberg's comment about how Nike approaches in-store media networks:
Hellberg's team relies on other implicit measurements and observations to assess their progress. Since the goal is to "define and amplify the brand through innovative, meaningful, and impactful media," Hellberg and his colleagues often sit down to discuss the overall impact created by the DS. They ask questions like, "Does the content add energy to the store environment?" and "Does it make the brand more valuable?" Assuming the answer to both questions is yes, Hellberg says the exact numbers aren't important: "We don't have empirical goals. We constantly judge our effort subjectively, and our colleagues in marketing do the same. It does come down to gut and instinct, which has served Nike well over the years."The final factor is our treatment of shopping as a chore, where speed and convenience are of paramount importance. While this was the prevailing theme in much of the research in the past century (and still holds true when discussing the retail experience today), recent studies and comprehensive in-store marketing programs adopted by retailers like Wal-Mart suggest that people are spending more of their free time shopping, whether there is an intent (or need) to purchase or not.
As shoppers become more sensitive to the environments where they shop, retailers will need to build a deeper connection with them by refining in-store media to make not only a rational appeal, but an emotional one as well. By observing shopper behavior and monitoring cultural trends, retailers (along with their creative agencies and retail media consultants) can begin communicating with shoppers in novel and meaningful ways, moving closer to the end goal of improving the shopping experience and boosting shopper satisfaction -- which is not necessarily the same thing as customer satisfaction, as you might imagine. Every retail chain is a unique entity with its own distinct personality, and whether consciously or not, shoppers interact with each chain in much the same way as they interact with other people and institutions that form a part of their lives. Thus, if a retailer is known for being the most knowledgeable about products and offering the most accurate product recomendations, its in-store media should reflect and bolster that reputation, ideally demonstrating how other representative customers have benefitted from these attributes. Similarly, if the store focuses on a particular demographic or psychographic target, the store environment should make an emotional connection to that group (as is the case with Nike). By appealing to a shopper's softer side and demonstrating an understanding for her backgrounds, needs and desires, retailers stand to gain not just increased sales, but also improved shopper loyalty, satisfaction and goodwill.