Brick-and-mortar shoppers today need help. They don’t always know what they want, and even if they do, they can still be overwhelmed by shelves overflowing with options. Point-of-purchase (POP) advertising can show your customers the way and help you move product in the process.
Business consultant Bob Adams, MBA, calls POP displays “[o]ne of the best investments of your marketing dollars.” That’s because they allow you to dramatically increase the impact of your product “at the moment it counts most—at purchase time.”
To help you leverage this valuable sales tool effectively, this post will help you:
- Understand just what POP advertising is
- See why it’s crucial for your brick-and-mortar sales efforts
- Learn common examples that could work for your products
- Use POP advertising more effectively with tips for smarter strategies
What is point-of-purchasing (POP) advertising?
POP advertising typically refers to vendor-provided signage and displays strategically placed in a retail store to draw attention to a product. To increase purchases, vendors and retailers use POP advertising to promote sales, announce new items, and highlight seasonal products.
Don’t take the second P (purchase) in POP advertising too literally. In the past, yes, POP advertising referred specifically to the purchasing/checkout area. But gradually retailers and manufacturers realized the power that POP advertising could have throughout a store.
Point-of-purchase vs. point-of-sale
You might see POP used interchangeably with POS (point-of-sale). Just know that, technically speaking, POS has the narrower meaning of advertising designed specifically for where people actually pay for their merchandise. (For examples of POP advertising, see further below.)
Get an accurate perspective on bricks vs. clicks: The advantages of point-of-purchase advertising still matter
No discussion of in-store sales efforts like POP advertising would be complete without first acknowledging the reality of the online shopper—emphasis on reality—and the status of brick-and-mortar stores.
Researcher and retail consultant Candace Adams, PhD, says that people still “do most of their shopping for groceries, drug, and general merchandise products in brick-and-mortar stores, and, despite the growth of e-commerce, they enjoy the in-store experience.”
Market research company eMarketer estimates total online retail sales for 2019 will be somewhere around one-eighth the size of brick-and-mortar retail. And although online commerce is growing, eMarketer.com also forecasts it will level off and even decline slightly by 2023.
All of this points to POP advertising’s ongoing importance for the brick-and-mortar store. In fact, Jason Wood, Director of Display Development for Mars Wrigley Confectionery says, “Display has become even more critical as we try to connect with consumers through meaningful … promotions.”
Also, keep in mind factors like these:
- Grocery store growth. Grocery store openings saw a 30% increase in 2018.
- Brick-and-mortar expansions. Amazon, Wayfair, and other online-focused companies will be rolling out physical stores.
- New teaming to drive traffic to brick-and-mortar. For example, Kohl’s is partnering with Amazon by selling the online giant’s gadgets and accepting its customer returns.
- The importance of shoppers touching products. Research shows that touching products actually increases the chances of buying. POP advertising draws shoppers in and helps get them to touch merchandise.
Know the various types of point-of-purchase advertising
Don’t be stuck on a single idea of what POP advertising can be. There’s a wide range of possibilities, from floor to ceiling and everywhere in between. Take a look at these examples:
Stand-alone signs or banner stands can be situated next to products or sit on top of them. You can also create a pathway with signs that lead to the actual product. And depending on the store layout, POP signage can also hang from the ceiling above a product display.
A smaller form of signage, these can appear on merchandise aisle shelves, attached directly below products or projecting from the shelving.
Consider how this brick-and-mortar Amazon uses testimonial shelf talkers. Customer review snippets like this could be used on anything from guacamole to golf balls.
These are typically two- or four-sided displays with peg board (and sometimes shelving) placed in high-traffic main aisles. Gondolas can use a hybrid of retailer-supplied material with manufacturer signage and work well with a variety of goods.
Bold in contrast to the floor color and super-simple in messaging, floor graphics typically are used directly in front of shelved products.
How far can your design team’s imagination go? Freestanding displays can take on any shape you can imagine as long as they’re stable and strong enough to hold products. When sized appropriately for their location, these can go nearly anywhere in a store.
A form of freestanding display, these can usually be found in main aisles. Their name is fairly self-explanatory: Products—often smaller in size like socks, candy bars, or rolls of tape—are dumped in and allow for easy 360 degree grabbing.
As their name suggests, these are situated at the end of merchandise aisles. They usually face into main aisles or more open store areas. End caps can actually bring together a combination of POP advertising like those mentioned above.
POP advertising can include digital signage and even video display. As with any POP endeavor, be sure to weigh the longevity of the project with its overall expense. One caveat: Be realistic about shoppers’ ability or willingness to view video.
How to increase the effectiveness of point-of-purchase advertising
Now that you have a background on the state of POP advertising, let’s turn to more tips on how to make the most of it.
Stay vigilant with your brand colors
Plastic substrates, card stock, corrugated cardboard, possibly even other materials like wood or metal—these each require their own unique manufacturing and color application processes. Unfortunately, this is where color-matching issues can emerge.
Just like your packaging or your marketing materials, you want your POP advertising brand colors to be accurate and consistent. Make sure your colors undergo rigorous color management. If they don’t, it can cheapen your brand image or even diminish your brand’s recognition.
Color management requires that your POP advertising printer or manufacturer thoroughly understand your brand colors—and your expectations for their performance. It can also include procedures to verify accurate color output and involve adhering to industry standards for color accuracy.
Be mindful of the need for speed by using simple messaging
Shoppers today are inundated with options. “We know from studies and a growing body of academic literature that time-pressed shoppers struggle to quickly sort through these options,” says retail marketing consultant Scott Young of Perception Research Services.
Fortunately, POP advertising can combat analysis paralysis by delivering a message that’s compelling because it’s simple to digest.
“Typically,” says Young, “when displays become too complex in trying to explain product differences, they are simply ignored.”
Cost considerations: Create a display durable enough for your needs
Corrugated cardboard is common for POP displays. Relatively inexpensive, the material lends itself to an array of creative design possibilities. But it does have its shortcomings: Don’t expect to break down and reassemble that cardboard display too many times before it shows wear.
But if that’s not your plan, then corrugated could still be king. You may, however, have more long-term needs for your POP displays. That’s when more durable material like plastic or even metal could be worth it.
For any situation, view your POP advertising with a shopper in mind. Your signage and displays should always look pristine to them.
Take the grab-and-go idea seriously in your design
Be sure form doesn’t trump function. For grab-and-go shoppers, that means making your products easy to access in your POP displays:
Use good shelving fundamentals. Prevent the need for bending over or reaching awkwardly for a product. Also, don’t require a shopper to maneuver a product out of the display like it’s some kind of challenge.
Keep it stocked. Do all you can to make sure you and your retailer keep your POP display stocked. In the age of the impatient shopper, they’ll just keep moving if it’s empty.
Get it in high-traffic areas. This may seem obvious, but it’s not always easy to do. Form good relationships with your retailers, and you’ll have more say in securing prime real estate on the sales floor. Also, give them incentives like discounted orders if they use your POP items.
Make assembly of your POP advertising as foolproof as possible
If you’re setting up your own POP advertising, you obviously want assembly to be fairly easy. But even more important: If you ship it to your retailer for assembly, don’t forget that it could be a 16-year-old, part-time store clerk who puts it together.
The moral here? Work with a POP advertising printer or manufacturer who puts a priority on creating signs and displays that are easy for the end-user to install—and update, if needed.
Use cross-merchandising to drive more sales
Cross-merchandising displays work because they make it convenient for people to buy multiplerelated items. Here are some examples:
- Simple snack combos like chips and salsa or cheese and crackers
- Holiday cookie ingredients from frosting and flour to sugar and sprinkles
- S’mores necessities (chocolate bars, marshmallows, graham crackers)
- Charcoal with lighter fluid
- Flashlights with batteries
- Snow shovels with de-icing salt
Keep evolving: POP advertising works if you work it
Using POP advertising should be a dynamic process. Keep trying to improve upon it with every success or setback. What’s really moving your products effectively and what’s not? It’s up to you to know and adjust your POP advertising accordingly.
Ultimately, your investment will pay off with increased sales and a happier retail partner. But always remember to keep your focus on the shopper. As their needs and wants evolve, so should your POP advertising.