Media: Double Standards - Why digital screens are altering in-store comms

Communicating with shoppers is key to maximising profitability for stores, which is where the directors of MEC Retail and Saatchi & Saatchi X can step in to help.

JIM TAYLOR - DIRECTOR, MEC RETAIL, EMEA

- Are brands spending more money on retail and on in-store communications?

Yes. In-store communication is becoming much more sophisticated, and is increasingly recognised as having the potential to drive brand and sales measures.

- Is there more to retail communications than just discounts and promotions?

Globally, around 55 per cent of communications spend now goes in-store. For manufacturers, making in-store communication spend more effective is a lot more important to them than making a good TV ad.

- Are these communications largely focused on product or can it be used for broader brand activity?

In the UK, promotions and price are still the dominant form of messaging in-store. But in many other markets, communication is now becoming more focused on brand and experiential.

- How is digital changing the in-store and retail market?

To date, digital has driven change only on the retailer supply side, but it is starting to make inroads into communication, particularly through digital screens. The forerunners have not been the likes of Tesco, but rather people like Toys "R" Us in the US, which uses digital screens in an innovative way to pull people into the store, direct them, and to create moods. This is still the tip of the iceberg. Digital screens will soon become the key communication platform in-store.

- What attitudes do retailers adopt towards brand communications in their stores?

There are still some retailers who feel communication doesn't have a big role to play in growing basket size. One area we can help build retailers' faith in communications is how to category-manage them.

- Can you think of examples of effective retail and in-store communications?

We've done some great in-store work with our global consultancy client, SABMiller, on packaging. For example, in Hungary, the beer brand Arany Aszok has a communication idea called "celebrating everyday pleasures". So, one simple thing we did - which crystallised "everydayness" for the consumer - was to produce a seven-pack, one for each day of the week.

- How much is the retail sector growing, and are we likely to see more agencies moving into this space?

The agency retail sector is growing. Not so much on the executional side, which is crowded and relatively low margin, but in the strategic planning space. This is why we have set up MEC Retail as a strategic consultancy. It will go head to head with the strategic elements of existing promotional agencies and retail brand consultancies.

- What sorts of innovations and technologies can we expect to see in-store over the coming year?

Next year is set to see a number of brand owners and retailers collaborating to test different approaches to branded content in stores across the UK.

- What are your favourite stores and retail chains?

If you judge these things by behaviour, I'd have to say my favourite store is B&Q. I go there most Saturdays, and I tend to go around 7.30 in the morning to beat the rush. My daughter Amy, who is four, usually keeps me company, but that's because she's partial to the chip van outside.

SIMON HATHAWAY - MANAGING DIRECTOR, SAATCHI & SAATCHI X

- Are brands spending more money on retail and on in-store communications?

Globally, we are seeing more money being spent in-store as media fragments and retail consolidates. It has been slower in the UK, because our highly evolved marketing community is siloed and it's tough to move money out of non-traditional channels.

- Is there more to retail communications than just discounts and promotions?

Shoppers don't choose, they deselect. Discount and promotion are rather blunt instruments in that context, and there are better tools that can also help retain the value in the brand and category. Most marketers are waking up to the competitive advantage quality shopper communication can deliver.

- Are these communications largely focused on product or can it be used for broader brand activity?

It's about experience. If you want to build a brand that people will love, they have to enjoy buying it, too. The store is the theatre of dreams. If you simply focus on product benefit, you won't make that dream come true. Great in-store connects emotionally, and if you do that well, it will help build your brand.

- How is digital changing the in-store and retail market?

Digital is the way ahead, but it's not had a dramatic impact quite yet. To date, we have seen the greatest benefit in compliance. I'd suggest that screens, especially the mobile phone, will dramatically change in-store communication in the future.

- What attitudes do retailers adopt towards brand communications in their stores?

Retailers are brands, so it's not surprising they have strong views on how other brands behave in their stores. You have to build strong relationships, but if the retailer has a strong private label, that will be based on co-opetition.

- Can you think of examples of effective retail and in-store communications?

Toyota's "pop-up" retail for the launch of its Auris model was very strong, and the multibrand platforms from Boots are well dialled into its shoppers.

- How much is the retail sector growing, and are we likely to see more agencies moving into this space?

It's growing steadily, so a lot of agencies are now talking shopper. Whether they can deliver or are simply just repackaging "integrated" is a more interesting question.

- What sorts of innovations and technologies can we expect to see in-store over the coming year?

I hope M-Bar-Go takes off, and I'd like to see someone using Quode in the next year, but the real step change in-store will be with radio frequency identification. It also excites me what the Metro Group is doing at its Future Store in Germany.

- What are your favourite stores and retail chains?

I love Urban Outfitters, but my number one is Patagonia. Its move into surf has been beautiful to watch. The way it took Keith Malloy's Bend to Baja film and worked it from web to store was inspired. Unfortunately, my local store is in Chamonix, and I can't find an excuse to visit them in California to buy an innovative merino wool wetsuit.

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