Brands and retailers can choose from an increasingly sophisticated array of display equipment... but clear communication is still the best way to encourage purchase
As we go to press, the world’s largest retail trade fair, Düsseldorf’s EuroShop, is just days from getting underway. And it will doubtless illustrate once again the overwhelming level of innovation in point of sale (POS) design.
The crucial role that POS design plays in encouraging consumer purchase – or, when poorly executed, deterring it – is reflected in the display industry’s continued buoyancy throughout the ongoing recession. The C&T industry it appears is still willing to invest in display. “By and large the global downturn has in a strange way been good for the display business,” comments Charles Kessler, chairman of merchandising display communications company Kesslers International. “Good display work is one of the best forms of promotion and a pound invested in display is more effective than a pound spent elsewhere. The recession forced brands to review their budgets and display has fared well because it’s seen to be effective.”
Learning the basics
But for display to be truly effective a brand must follow some fundamental rules, says Kessler. Firstly, it needs to collaborate with the design agency to create a strong brief.
“You have to get to the essence of the brand – ask what is its position, who are its consumers and which outlets will its product be going into?” he tells SPC. “For example, you’re not going to recommend the same thing for Rimmel as you are for Christian Dior. Also you have to look at what you’re launching – is it a new perfume, say, or a colour cosmetics range extension?”
“One of the most important things is to create consistency,” he says. “Boots and The Perfume Store are major players in the UK, but they are very different to Douglas in Germany, so as a brand you want a consistent image that works across all stores internationally.” By using the same design elements and the same tooling, brands will not only help ensure a consistent message across all stores but also save costs.
And clear communication should not just be central to the initial brief, it should also form the basis of any in-store retail area. “We understand there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to find the brand that you are looking for so we ensure there are clear sight lines throughout the beauty and fragrance hall and that brand names and locations are visible,” comments Jayne Demuro, head of beauty at Selfridges. “We also keep our walkways as wide and clear as possible so that the store is easy to navigate and manoeuvre.”
When communicating with customers, basic concepts can prove the most successful. “Good point of sale design is all about signposting, communication and reassurance,” notes Kessler. A good physical representation of this mantra, he explains, is the giant factice, “where you take a fragrance bottle and make it bigger”.
“Essentially it’s good communication without using language, which makes a big difference if you’re working on a global project,” he tells SPC.
While it may be tempting to scale back spend during times of recession, something as simple as the quality of materials used speaks volumes about a brand... for better or worse. “I think consumers right now appreciate simple, well executed, high quality displays,” says Michael Sheridan, chairman of retail design agency Sheridan & Co. “Consumers make decisions based on disposable income and now that people have less to spend they are more considered in their purchasing. And if you use cheap, flimsy display it’s a bad reflection on the quality of the product.”
Another basic but vital element is lighting. LED lights of differing colour temperatures, for example, can be used to create eye-catching interplays of light and shadow, without the risk of ruining temperature sensitive products (LED lights don’t emit UV or infrared radiation) and as Sheridan & Co’s recent work with Art of Shaving proves, lighting can be extremely creative.
“We’re working on a new unit to go in store, which will light up if someone walks past,” Sheridan explains. “All it does is light up the under part of the unit, but it makes consumers recognise that this unit has something to tell them.”
It’s also worth remembering that the customer is not the only person involved in a transaction and that good POS design will look at ways of making life as easy as possible for retail staff. “Topshop is an experienced retailer and knows exactly what is needed to create an efficient retail space,” comments Kessler, whose company helped create the units for Topshop’s make-up line. “Because Topshop’s make-up offering changes seasonally, it had to be very updatable, so we developed a flexible tile system. Individual tiles can be easily removed and the products replaced by retail staff with minimum effort, cost and time.”
What’s on trend?
Although the above guidelines are more or less timeless, POS does evolve to reflect the zeitgeist and the sustainability wave currently sweeping the beauty industry has naturally been mirrored in many brands’ retail areas. “There is an increased awareness of green, which manifests itself in both the use of green materials – recycled and recyclable – and also in being seen to be green,” comments Kessler.
“Brands are under more pressure to make sure things are green,” agrees Sheridan. “L’Oréal now only uses biodegradable plastics in its display and I’m sure other companies will adopt similar measures.”
A standout trend in POS design, according to a recent poll by point of purchase trade association POPAI, is for digital signage, the use of which has quadrupled since 2007. And according to POPAI, the use of digital signage is becoming more sophisticated with a reduction in the use of screens using sound and an increase in the use of touch screen technology.
“Retailers are beginning to realise that consumers are now expecting a more interactive experience. With the spread of touch screen mobile phones and tablet computers, many people have become used to touch screens as part of everyday life,” comments Warren Lewis, sales director of LG Electronics, which commissioned the survey.
One such retailer is Superdrug, part of AS Watson Group, which recently introduced virtual mirror technology allowing customers to photograph themselves and use a touch screen to ‘apply’ cosmetics.
Meanwhile, the pop-up store has morphed from a guerrilla marketing tactic into an opportunity for brands to test design elements before introducing them in-store. In February, Sheridan & Co collaborated with Clarins on a pop-up store for the brand’s upcoming range for 18-25 year-olds. Sheridan describes the space as “a cross between Clarins and Starbucks” with scattered, comfortable seating, a juice bar and an area for customers to chat with Clarins girls. “Eventually the offer will be integrated into the mainstream, where it will be displayed alongside Clarins’ other ranges,” he says. “The hard launch will be supported by events and in-store activities and having set up this pop-up store Clarins will know what resonates best with its target consumer.”
Display in the digital age
Statistically, says Kessler, out of home marketing – which includes point of sale, consultants and billboards – is the second fastest growing area of marketing. The fastest growing is the internet.
“With marketing, more money is going from above the line to below the line, so from TV and magazine advertising to the internet, which frees up money for other areas,” he tells SPC.
But it is not just the design industry that stands to benefit from the growing online community. Beauty brands and retailers do too, provided they stop looking for ways to boost footfall despite online retail and find ways of using it to their advantage.
“In-store retail will actually be more closely linked to the internet,” predicts Sheridan. “A customer could see a promotion in-store, test the product, consider their purchase while scanning the barcode on their phone and then decide to buy the item later via the retailer’s website or app.”
Other industries are already treading this path; Tesco’s smartphone app allows shoppers to scan a product’s barcode, wherever they may be, to add it to their online basket.
“There are more and more tools to drive people out of the retail environment and brands should be aware that they could see an erosion of mainstream sales,” Sheridan warns. “Brands and retailers must work with technological advances to drive traffic to their stores or retail sites, otherwise their custom will go elsewhere.”
Filthy Gorgeous – a new salon and retail concept created by Adam Dargan, Clair Rose and Noelle Shine – launched in Debenhams stores in London’s Oxford Circus and Glasgow in October 2010. Managing director and founder Noelle Shine tells SPC how the brand developed its perfect in-store environment
“Our aim was to create a one-stop-shop for treatments and products which felt independent but which benefited from Debenhams’ footfall. You want people to feel like they’ve ‘discovered’ you. “We looked at the market and although there are plenty of salons with experts in individual categories, there are few who are expert across the board. What we wanted to do was enable customers to have several treatments from the same consultant. We also wanted to sell products that were professional in format or character, which were something different for customers to find in a retail area.
“We want customers to feel like they’ve entered someone’s boudoir, so we’ve put up a wall to block out the part of the store behind us to provide some privacy, for example.
“For our décor we did a lot of sourcing online and in local shops. There’s a silver cabinet that we originally saw on ebay – unfortunately the seller kept delaying the delivery date, so we tracked down the company that made them and ordered from there instead.
“Our wallpaper is designed by Peter Brookes, a graphic designer who used to work in the music industry, which is reflected in the designs. There are six different fabrics, which match the different looks we can create for customers, such as boho and rock chick.
“The position and shape of the sites in Oxford Circus and Glasgow are very different, but we still had to ensure, as a new brand, that customers ‘get’ us. Fortunately we had a very clear idea about the atmosphere we wanted to create.”