With more and more advertising messages competing for consumers’
attention, many companies are turning to high-tech point-of-purchase
solutions, such as videowalls and interactive kiosks, to make their
brand stand out from the crowd in-store. But are these solutions any
more effective than the traditional cardboard cut-out?
’Academically, nothing is known about the effectiveness of high-tech POP
material,’ says Dr Hugh Phillips, senior lecturer in marketing at De
Montfort University and director of design company, Visuality.
’Shoppers are looking for more than just an economic interchange, so
anything which makes shopping more enjoyable and more intriguing should
be of benefit, because it satisfies a basic psychological need for
variety,’ he says.
A broad church
Philips warns, however, against companies using technology for its own
sake. ’Two things concern me about some of the high-tech units being
developed,’ he says. ’One is that the technology may become an end in
itself, the second is the cost. These things can work, but they
represent a serious investment, so they must form part of a proper
The high-tech church is a broad one. ID Cassette’s Point Of Purchase
Information Teaser (POPIT) system, for example, may not have the bells
and whistles of an interactive kiosk, but for a fraction of the cost the
company believes it can help brand owners extend their brand message
in-store in a consistent way.
POPIT employs a technique popularised in a Japanese children’s book some
50 years ago, using two discrete images printed on interleaved paper,
contained within a sealed cassette, roughly one-third A4 in size, which
is mounted on a stand. A small motor switches the display from one image
to the other in succession. The cassette can be changed in seconds
without any technical expertise.
The technique can be used either to create an illusion of movement, or
to show a before-and-after effect. In a demonstration, the effect was
The stand houses a single cassette, but the company also offers a ’totem
pole’, which can accommodate ten POPIT cassettes. The standard base unit
costs pounds 70, each cassette just pounds 7 plus origination and
’Recall rates from TV tend to be very small,’ says ID Cassette managing
director, David Johnson, who designed the device. ’With this, you can
run similar imagery at the point-of-purchase, including moving images.’
This, he believes, is crucial to the system’s appeal. ’Most static
displays are like wallpaper,’ he says. ’No one sees them. Unless you
have something that moves, you’re missing the boat.’
Movement was a prerequisite for the satellite broadcaster, BSkyB, when
it began selling the decoders for its digital satellite TV service at
the beginning of October. It turned to Coutts Retail Communications for
a POP solution. Coutts’ answer was a TV monitor, on which Sky broadcasts
a dedicated retailer channel previewing its digital offerings. The unit
also houses the decoder and dish required to receive the digital
’What we have developed is something which works on two levels,’ says
Patrick Bell, Coutts chief executive. ’From a distance, it has impact to
draw people into the store, then when customers get closer to it, they
can see what’s on offer through the preview channel and a printed guide
to the system.’
The basic unit is one metre wide, but before they were sent out, Coutts
canvassed 1800 Sky retailers to see whether they could make use of
add-on modules which would allow them to cross-sell related products,
such as widescreen televisions.
Elsewhere, many companies, particularly those targeting a youth
audience, use TV screens and videowalls to put their message across.
Dr. Marten’s Covent Garden store, for example, boasts a 48-screen
cylindrical video tower which plays music videos, ads and Dr. Martens TV
broadcasts, as well as pages from the Dr. Martens web site and Sony
But where TV and videowall displays fire sales messages at customers,
interactive kiosks encourage two-way communication.
’Videowalls are great as an attractor to grab someone’s attention and
get them in-store,’ says Patrick Tierney, sales and marketing manager
for Philips Disc Systems, which designs interactive programmes running
on its CD-i platform. Procter & Gamble has used the technology for Oil
of Ulay POP, as have Volvo and Asics.
’Interactive systems are about one-to-one marketing, giving customers
the chance to address any issues they may have about the brand and,
ultimately, help them close the sale.’
But, like Dr. Philips, Tierney warns against getting carried away with
the technology. ’Interactive kiosks have been around a long time,’ he
says, ’but were held back in the past because the programmes were
technology driven, so they bore little relation to what customers
’What you give them has to be digestible. Customers have to be able to
get the information they want without feeling that once they get into
the programme, they won’t be able to get out of it again.’
At POP company Evans Petty, chairman Nigel Petty is another fan of
’Everyone is talking about theatre to promote brand values,’ he
’But to create theatre, you need space. This is where interactive
systems can benefit retailers and consumers. If a retailer is cramped
for space, having a touch-screen system allows him to extend the range
of goods he has available without displaying them in the store.
’Customers can simply order the goods via the touch-screen system. Added
to this, these systems can function as a focus for data capture and
market-research activity,’ Petty says.
Data analysis is integral to a new system being tested at Sainsbury’s,
called Interact. Customers swipe their card at a terminal in-store. The
system then checks its database to analyse the cardholder’s shopping
habits and prints off coupons for special offers on goods which the
customer has a history of buying.
It can also encourage the customer to try new lines, perhaps a new
variant of a previously-purchased drink, or a new flavour of pet food
for the cat. The trial has been running in ten stores since June and the
company is now assessing the success of the scheme before deciding on
the next stage.
The design consultancy DIA has developed a range of slimline, standalone
interactive kiosks for use in store or at exhibitions and seminars. The
kiosks feature a 15-inch touchscreen monitor, hooked up to a 166MHz
Pentium laptop PC with 64Mb RAM and a 1Gb hard disk, housed in the base
of the unit. They can run CD-ROM or DVD-ROM presentations, or be hooked
up to the internet or a company intranet.
With DIA’s interactive division creating software solutions, the company
says it can offer clients a complete software/hardware package, creating
the presentation programme and building the kiosks.
’The development of the kiosks came from stepping back and looking at
the environment in which the software operates,’ says DIA Interactive
director, Alex Michael. ’Even before people approach the screen, it’s a
very friendly, inviting system, with a beautiful, thin screen, much more
appealing to look at than the traditional touch-screen monitor.’
But as the world turns interactive, Richard Thompson, chairman of POP
company EMS, which specialises in the IT sector, cautions that
interacting with a machine is not always the best solution.
’As the product becomes more and more sophisticated,’ he says, ’there is
more of a need to have an interactive experience at the
point-of-purchase - but with another human being. If someone is trying
to get to grips with a computer, the best form of interactivity they can
have is for another person to show them what the product can do.
Second-generation buyers might use an interactive kiosk, but the
first-generation buyer probably wouldn’t go near it.’
DAEWOO - CASE STUDY
When Daewoo launched its cars in the UK in 1995, it wanted to go about
its business in a more user-friendly way, so the company commissioned a
survey of 200,000 car buyers to find out what they thought of the way
that cars were sold.
’What we found,’ says media relations manager Alison Moran, ’was that
people didn’t like the conventional dealership approach of being pounced
on and sold to as soon as they walked through the door.’ Daewoo’s
solution was to install interactive terminals in all its dealerships,
where prospects can sit and have a coffee and peruse the specifications
and purchase options open to them on Daewoo vehicles. Through the
terminals, customers can get information on specifications, colours,
optional extras, insurance and finance packages. The system also prompts
users to input relevant information, such as the size of the family and
the number of miles travelled each year, in order to steer them toward
the most suitable choice of car.
’It’s a no hassle, no pressure approach, which people seem to like’ says
TALK ABOUT POP MUSIC
For most people, in-store music means instrumental versions of The Girl
from Ipanema, Careless Whisper played on pan pipes or Nights in White
Satin sung by the Flying Pickets. Piped music, lift music - call it what
you will - is the pits.
Or is it? Nowadays, music is being treated as a vital element of
in-store and POP design, as marketers and store designers seek to make
shopping environments reflect the values of the retailer’s brand.
The techniques currently being used to match music with retail
environment are surprisingly sophisticated. Forget the idea of a tape
deck under the counter with the manager’s favourite compilation tape.
AEI - a US company specialising in designing music for retail - has
devised a system whereby tracks can be beamed into the store via
satellite, allowing the selection and even the volume to be controlled
and updated remotely.
Kathy Turrell, marketing co-ordinator with AEI, says the appropriate
music is designed for a store after a visit by a ’music programmer’.
They analyse the demographics of that store’s customers, study its peak
and low periods and factors such as interior design and lighting. As
well as finding something suitable for the overall values of the
retailer’s brand, the programmers will take account of local influences
on a store.
All music is by original artists and is sourced from AEI’s
Putting the concept to the test, I visited some of the stores using
AEI’s music. Listening to Turrell explain the concept in a Pret a Manger
on London’s Piccadilly, we are soothed by some cool, mellow jazz.
Turrell says it fits in with the ’cosmopolitan and retro-chic’ feel of
As I sip my cappuccino I nod in agreement, privately wondering what
’retro-chic’ is when it’s at home.
Moving onto Habitat on Tottenham Court Road, we hear more contemporary
jazz, interspersed with some earthy ethnic grooves which almost seduce
me into buying a laundry basket crafted from reeds by Aborigine
Resisting the urge, the jazz then has me slavering over some stainless
steel kitchen units.
As entertainment and brand experience become more important in retail
strategy, the time may be right for this concept of customised
It’s certainly easier on the ears than the usual shopping mall all-time
greats and is probably more effective too.