In-store communications, long the backwater of advertising, is getting a fresh look. Increasingly, Marketers are realizing that the in-store environment is a critical marketing communications touchpoint, and one that they need to get right to succeed.
In-Store Communications — Why It’s Important
The in-store environment has always been important. For most categories, research has consistently shown that the majority of purchase decisions are made at the shelf. This isn’t changing anytime soon.
In addition, the advent of in-store apps (see “Digitizing the 1st Moment of Truth”) are adding to the urgency for brands to become much more strategic about how they communicate with consumers in-store. Why? Consumers now have the ability to access product information, ratings and their social networks opinions about brands—right at the point of sale.
Finally, if this weren’t enough, retailers are becoming much more sophisticated in their use of video networks and other in-store communication vehicles, and non store brands are at risk of falling behind. For example, many retailers routinely measure in-store video impact by location, category, time of day, etc. And much of this advertising is for their store brands—or said differently, your competitor.
Traditional In-Store Drivers – Features, Displays & Pricing
One major reason for Marketers historical lack of attention to in-store communications was their focus on in-store “fundamentals.” For 25+ years, companies have used scanner data to measure the impact of features, displays and pricing on their volume and share. And, in many categories, the impact of these factors is huge. So large, that the role of in-store communications has been largely drowned out.
Another reason for the lack of focus on in-store communications is that CPG companies took a very simplistic view of the “path to purchase” — e.g. there was none—or almost none. Conventional wisdom said this: get your basic equity advertising and in-store conditions right, and volume and share would follow. Increasingly, however, CPG Marketers are realizing that the in-store message is important—and also different from their equity message.
Finally, another factor in the inattention to in-store communications is lack of measurement. As a brand manager, I measured the impact of all kinds of in-store conditions—but communicating my message? Forget it. Marketers didn’t focus on in-store communications, in part, because there were no viable tools to measure and track it over time.
What’s Different About In-Store Communications
It’s important at this point to note the obvious: in-store communication is very different from other advertising mediums like TV, Print and the Web. How?
- In-store communications are not linear. Unlike TV, for example, where you are (usually) tuned to a single channel and see ads sequentially, the in-store experience is non-linear. Hundreds, if not thousands, of brands compete for your attention–all at the same time. Think break-thru is tough in TV? Think about in-store.
- In-store communications cut across multiple mediums. It’s possible for a single brand to communicate via 3, 4 or more different mediums in store—e.g. packaging, in-store video, displays, etc. — and all can be used to communicate the same message to the same consumer on the same shopping trip.
- In-store communications are not usually about equity messaging. Marketers are focused on building brands, and communicating the key owenership equities for their brand. But many brands have learned that equity messaging is not the most appropriate message on the last stop in the path to purchase.
So, the in-store communications challenge is very different from other communication touch-points.
What’s Needed For Effective In-Store Communications
- Message Strategy – Marketers need to define the in-store messaging that maximizes purchase. This sounds so simple, yet in my experience, the vast majority of Marketers do virtually no research on the path to purchase and what in-store messaging motivates purchase.
- Message Qualification — Even if they have the right strategic message defined, Marketers need to qualify in-store messaging, and not just assume they have the right execution. What’s the in-store equivalent to copy testing? Most organizations don’t have one.
- In-Store Media Mix – As noted earlier, the in-store environment offers a multitude of media touch points. Which ones are most effective for your brand? Which combinations of touch points work best? And, do they play different roles in stopping, engaging and activating consumers?
- Campaign Integration – Even if the messaging in-store is different from your overall equity messaging, it’s still important to connect your messaging to your core equities and “pay rent” to the parent equity message.
- On-Going Assessment – Once in-market, tracking messaging effectiveness is key. There’s a big gap in the market today for doing so. Marketers need to work with measurement partners to measure performance in market to be sure that their messaging is working as intended.
CMO’s and their Marketing teams need to think of the store as a Marketing communication touch point–and one that’s becoming increasingly important. Optimizing and integrating this touch point into the overall Marketing programs is an important opportunity that more brands should capitalize on.