Friday, September 28, 2007

Deloitte study: in-store marketing growing faster than Internet

Deloitte Consulting just released the summary of a report conducted for the Grocery Manufacturer's Association with a truly remarkable finding. As neatly summarized in this Ad Age article, they claim that in-store advertising is growing at a faster rate than internet advertising.

The report finds that "shopper marketing has grown from 3% of the overall marketing budgets of the 19 package-goods manufacturers surveyed in 2004 to 6% this year. The manufacturers expect it to reach 8% of marketing budgets by 2010. That puts the compound annual growth rate for their shopper-marketing spending at 21%, faster even than spending on Internet advertising (rising 15% annually) and far faster than the 2% growth projected for spending on such traditional media as TV, print and radio."

This is obviously great news for the industry. But once again, the problem of measuring the effectiveness of in-store marketing is a concern, as Ad Age writes "Shopper marketing also has been hampered by lack of audience-reach measurements comparable to other media, which in turn makes it hard for marketers or agencies to make spending decisions or do post-campaign effectiveness analysis on shopper marketing the same way as for traditional media."

Of course, this may change significantly due to today's announcent from Nielsen about establishing a global ratings metric for in-store marketing. But more on that later.

The fact that in-store marketing is growing so fast without conventional ways to measure effectiveness like television, print or even the internet says a lot about the potential of this industry. Advertisers are obviously acting on a certain amount of faith by starting to push more and more in-store marketing techniques. They obviously see a great future in it and want to be among those to stake the biggest claim on the market whether they have all of the numbers to back it up or not.

The statistics from the Deloitte study also further the idea that a serious splintering of media habits is occurring in America. There is a kind of free-fall nature to the way advertisers are reacting to this, which has turned out to be a good thing for us, as it means that newer techniques of reaching audiences are being given more attention (and more money).

It's impossible to say which media platform is going to be the "big winner" several years out, but playing in the advertising market is not a zero-sum game. While our piece of the pie might be growing at a fast rate, the whole pie itself is growing too. The money for at-retail projects is still probably coming out of some other budget (whether tv, print, or Internet), but with practically every budget growing, there are few losers, just smaller winners.

Tags: marketing at retail, out-of-home advertising

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Subliminal advertising meets retail?

Heather Strang at Retail Design Diva notes that Swiss firm Barix AG has started supplying retailers (specifically New Balance right now) with a new IP-based audio system for delivering in-store music and integrated advertising. While it doesn't sound like anything particularly new to me (pretty much every store you can name is using some kind of audio-over-IP system these days), Strang feels that the system, which has been billed as being able to, "increase brand awareness and customer recall of important marketing messages and can help increase sales through the power of suggestion," borders on brainwashing.

While on the one hand using a phrase like "the power of suggestion" is going to raise some hackles, I believe that the intent of the system is similar to any other POP display. Shoppers are probably not going to devote a lot of time and attention to processing it, but if and when the system plays an ad that's relevant to him, he'll either (consciously) take note, or (subconsciously) be primed to encounter the item while shopping. After all, the inherent power of point-of-purchase advertising is the message's proximity to the product, and consequently the shopper's ability to effectively marry the marketing message to the physical item that can be picked up, examined and purchased.

Now if Barix was doing something sneaky like trying to embed and hide the ads inside of regular-sounding music, that would indeed be creepy, and maybe even illegal depending on who you ask (anybody here see Josie & the Pussycats? No? You should, it's pretty entertaining). But that doesn't seem to be true here, in which case the firm has simply married a new distribution system to its existing in-store audio technology, and hopefully that will be a win-win for retailer and shopper alike. For the retailer, it means an affordable way to add more advertising elements to the store without cluttering up the environment. And for shoppers, well, if the audio track is right, maybe it'll mean no more Michael Bolton or Celine Dion background tracks. And I think that's something that we can all agree would be a good thing (right Heather?)

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nielsen and POPAI work out in-store media effectiveness

BrandWeek reports that sometime this week Nielsen Co. will make a major announcement regarding its effort to track the effectiveness of in-store marketing. This comes at more or less the same time as POPAI, the global organization for marketing at retail, plans to unveil their own study of the market which involved, "a proof-of-concept study of 400 shoppers who journeyed through four retail outlets-- 7-Eleven, BP, Dominick's and Walgreens--that explores the issue of engagement within the retail environment.POPAI's Marketing at Retail Initiative outfitted those consumers with micro-cameras to track their interaction with retail display materials."

POPAI examined several metrics including an impact ratio, which "measures in percentage the number of shoppers who passed the display and saw it", and an effectiveness ratio that, "describes (also in percentages) the number who passed the display. For example, if 10 shoppers pass a display, it gets a 100% effectiveness ratio score. If 10 pass it and three see it, it gets a 30% impact ratio score."

While I understand the difficulty of tracking shoppers as they walk the store, I really hope that one of these two groups will eventually come up with something better than outfitting shoppers with cameras. Even if shoppers get used to the devices, it still seems like a shopper wearing the device will behave differently than one without. If you knew your actions were being caught on camera, even if your face wasn't showing, would you pick up that box of condoms? What about anti-fungal medication? What about dandruff shampoo? Causing a shopper to stop and think instead of simply follow his or her list makes for unnatural behavior and consequently less accurate measurements.

Despite all of the technological gadgetry being used, it still seems like retail outlets could get much better data for the effectiveness of in-store marketing by running split-tests and comparing sales results. For example, take a chain store like Wal-Mart. If they install more aggressive in-store marketing for a particular product in one store but not in another, they could then compare sales in order to determine the effectiveness.

As usual, we come back to trying to figure out what "effective" means. For example, just because people pass by a display and see it, it can't automatically be called effective or ineffective. What matters the most to retailers and advertisers is whether or not noticing the ad spurred shoppers to make a purchase. What the POPAI study seems to measure more accurately is how attractive or eye-catching an ad may be, rather than how effective it will be at producing more sales. In theory, if the POPAI study was adopted as the industry standard, advertisers could just fire off ads full of bright colors and catchy visuals and as long as shoppers looked at them they could conclude they were effective and therefore charge more money. But where does the value for content come into play? An ad with less striking content may not attract as many eyeballs, but those that do notice it may be more likely to make a purchase based on its offer.

Tags: Nielsen, POPAI, retail marketing, in-store marketing

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Organic asks: what's the concept behind concept stores?

Concept stores are somewhat unique in their ability to capture customer and media attention with sometimes over-the-top sensory experiences, unique spaces and unusual merchandising techniques. Over at Three Minds @ Organic, though, Marta Strickland wonders whether the aura and mystique they create might not be so great. Ok, the argument centers around one trip to Ruehl, Abercrombie & Fitch's attempt to cater to the 22-35 audience who outgrow A&F's standard fare. Here's her take on the store, one of about a dozen or so currently operating in the US:
Last weekend I visited Ruehl for the first time in the Twelve Oaks mall. I have usually been too intimidated to go in the store. There is just something about a darkly lit “street corner” in the middle of the mall with disinterested text-messaging girls half my age wandering in and out of the darkness that intimidates me. The one in the Twelve Oaks mall is particularly darkly lit to the point where you can’t really see anything from the outside of the “windows” to even make you certain it is a clothes store and not some wormhole to another dimension.
Despite the cool atmosphere, though, she wonders whether or not the store's concept was the right one:
In the end, I can’t say that I "get it". Maybe I’m not the right target and certainly not a fashion expert, but chic martini lounge atmosphere + 22-35 audience = "understated" screen print hoodies… it just doesn’t add up for me.
And in just those few words I think Strickland has hit upon an idea that is frequently overlooked when retailers plan a new store concept -- namely, whether cool sells. And I'm not just talking about selling a few more hoodies or pairs of flip flops. I'm talking about whether "cool" or "unique" or "interesting" are good enough concepts by themselves to garner brand loyalty. Whether it's Organic staffers' experiences at Ruehl (they feel it creates an artificial aura of superiority) or Samsung's "Experience" store (where you can't actually buy products), concept stores occasionally focus too much on the "concept" and not enough on the "store" side of things, to their detriment.

Back in the mythical time when all stores looked the same and all personnel were equally knowledgeable, a store that stood out based purely on its ambiance may have worked. But with so much focus on shopper marketing and the in-store experience, retailers must now have remarkable staff and remarkable products to win loyal customers. There's nothing wrong with being cool, of course (well, unless like the Organic folks it's cool to the point of being clique-ish), but today's concept retailers can no longer count on it as a reliable way to convert passers-by into browsers into shoppers into buyers into repeat buyers into lifelong-loyal customers (or at least demographically-loyal, since I get the feeling that Ruehl might kick you out once you cross the 35 year old threshold).

As if to illustrate that point, check out's article about (and creepy pictures of) A&F's 61 year-old CEO, lacquered up to look like a "casually flawless college kid."

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Digital signage owners should look for the fine line between ambient and not

Digital signage gets a lot of lip service these days because like other forms of POP these screens can deliver marketing messages to shoppers while they're in a buying (or at least shopping) mode. The allure of being able to advertise so close in both time and space to where a purchase decision will be made makes the store a lucrative target for advertisers savvy enough to use it to its fullest potential. Unlike most other forms of POP, though, digital signs have a few other things going for them that make them unique, most notably that they can use both audio and animation to grab a shopper's attention.

While the marketing possibilities abound, there's a significant problem with a lot of today's in-store networks: they can be pretty annoying, for shoppers and employees alike. Building out an in-store media system that's effective while remaining unobtrusive is tough, even for marketing and merchandising experts. That's why this blog entry from the guys at Motorola (courtesy of this post from Experentia) caught my attention this morning. While Motorola is focusing on ways to create unobtrusive, ambient displays for the home environment, in reality they could be testing their techniques in stores as well. They note that their effort revolves around solving two fairly complex problems:
Over the past few decades many researchers have built devices that use light, color, sound, or motion to convey information about people, activities, and places. These devices let people see information at a glance, without the need to go to another device or navigate an interface.

...There are two big challenges in this space from a research perspective. The first is to create displays that are truly ambient and don't interfere with the home environment. We want to ensure that we can provide useful information without distracting people from their home lives. The second challenge is all about finding the most useful information sources for these displays. Obviously, the two are closely tied together and are a big part of our research into ambient communications.
The displays they favor aren't necessarily traditional big, flat panels, but instead encompass a broad range of devices from simple colored lights to small embedded screens. The display of a particular type of information is optimized for each device.

Visual clutter and a competitive POP environment will make ambient media a tough sell in retail right now, but as more retailers tighten down on what will and won't be allowed in their stores I'd expect these techniques to become more popular. I also expect to see "traditional" digital signage systems become more integrated into the retail environment, and the research being conducted by Motorola (and others, surely) will likely yield content creation and optimization techniques that will allow these systems to behave more like a part of the store instead of a bolted-on appendage.

To truly be effective, though, ambient media still needs to be noticed, even if it's typically in the periphery. Perhaps retailers will train shoppers to mentally correlate images, shapes, colors and sounds with the different types of information that might be displayed. A retailer that settled on a standardized set of visual and audio cues to help visitors connect with their in-store media would have the advantage of being able to quickly yet unobtrusively connect with regular shoppers. The problem of course, is that infrequent visitors would be unfamiliar with the cues, and if the media is a bit too ambient, would thus be more likely to tune it out entirely rather than be engaged by it.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hypermarkets creating a new shopping culture in China

I thought this article about shopping in China at The Retail Bulletin was a pretty amazing contrast to an earlier report in the WSJ about shopping in India. In India, if you'll recall, organized retail is still the exception rather than the rule, and except for a small population of elite Indians (well, small by percentages -- only about 14% -- but that's still 150 million people), most still do their daily shopping in disorganized mom and pop stores and stalls. In order to capitalize on this massive amount of people and their combined purchasing power, big retail chains have taken to creating organized retail stores that merely look disorganized, selling damaged merchandise alongside new goods, keeping stores hot and stuffy, and making aisles curved and cluttered instead of neat and orderly. In short, in order to cater to the existing shopping culture, retailers have changed the way their stores work.

Now go ahead and read the aforementioned Retail Bulletin article, and you'll see that in China retailers are trying precisely the opposite. China's middle class is growing at an astounding rate and are being influenced by outside forces and Western concepts like never before. Combined with traditional shopping patterns and expectations that are somewhat different from India's, China has been a breeding ground for new hypermarket activity, as, "on average, China's middle class consumers visit hypermarkets every 10 days, making for a frequent-shopping pattern that owners of hypermarkets can bank on for a predictable revenue stream." In fact, according to the article:
TNS Worldpanel (China), which continuously measures household consumption in 20 of China's provinces as well as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing, says latest data show that hypermarkets increased their share of the value of China's grocery sector in the country's 15 largest cities from 28.5% in 2005 to 29.8% in 2006. The share in these largely provincial capital cities and municipalities - known as tier 1 cities - has continued to increase this year, reaching 30.1% in the first half of 2007. TNS is predicting a share for hypermarkets of 35% by the end of the decade - compared to the level of just 19.7% seen in 2001.
Most hypermarket operators aren't native, but are instead imports from other countries (Wal-Mart/Trust-Mart (US), Carrefour (France), Tesco (UK), and RT-Mart (Taiwan)), further illustrating a difference between Chinese and Indian shopping preferences.

What's interesting is that both economies are growing rapidly, and both countries still have hundreds of millions of people who will grow wealthier over the next few decades, and will consequently have more expendable income to spend on food, soft/hard goods and luxury items. But where retailers -- even those native to the country -- have had to scale back their plans to Westernize their stores in India, in China the swelling middle class can't seem to get enough of Western-style organized retail activity. It's even more ironic considering that India's mode of government is democratic, and the nation has long appreciated the dynamic of free market economics, whereas China's sometimes stifling Communist government only recently began allowing the foreign investment and competitive business practices essential to making something like a hypermarket work in the first place.

I certainly haven't yet figured out what makes these two countries so different in terms of shopping cultures, but given the sizes of their markets and the speed at which they're both growing, there are probably a lot of smart minds working on the problem at this very moment.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

CBS takes to grocery stores with a plan to brand deli meat

It's been a while since an article in Advertising Age has cracked me up, but how can you not laugh at a title like "Hey Deli Man, Can I Get a Pound of Ham, and Jimmy Smits?" What does it have to do with retail, you ask? Well, interestingly it looks like CBS has started a new campaign that will be featured, among other places, on packaging and containers at supermarkets across the country. Following up on a successful in-store campaign that involved laser-etching messages onto thousands of individual eggs, CBS will be slapping ads for their shows onto labels, stickers, boxes and bags for supermarket deli products, ensuring that the roughly 70% of supermarket shoppers that visit the deli, meat or seafood counters will have a chance to see their promotions. Even more cleverly, as the article points out, those who do take home a package emblazoned with the catchphrase for Two and a Half Men (or whatever) will be re-exposed to that message every time they open the fridge. And if you're like me and frequently forget about things you've put in there, it could be a while before that package of cold cuts finally disappears.

Apparently aside from trying to reach a different audience, CBS's nontraditional tactics have another advantage: they're cheap, especially when compared to the cost of producing and carrying TV commercials (which is kind of ironic considering that they own a major network). Given all the news of CBS's intent to purchase in-store TV company SignStorey, we can see that CBS is clearly concerned by increasing media fragmentation and the new challenges associated with reaching an audience.

While grocery stores have huge footfall and have a very broad appeal demographically speaking, I for one am still not quite sure I'd be more likely to tune in to CSI after glancing at a label while rummaging around for a snack. But there are probably plenty of people who will, and that's what CBS is counting on.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

P&G redefines "ad spend" to include in-store media

While P&G has been shining a spotlight on their plans to increase their presence inside stores potentially at the expense of traditional media, the news from AdAge today is that they're taking the plan so seriously that they'll be restating 11 years of ad-spending data in an effort to align their past marketing expenditures with their new terms and plans. AdAge speculates that the new restatement has as much to do with the company's internal goals as it does with the firm's share price, which has stumbled due to lack of organic growth and a slipping ad-to-sales ratio, the primary measure by which its growth was measured throughout the 90s and early this decade. Here's the quick summary from the article:
In-store advertising accounted for "the bulk" but not all of the increases, she said. At the same time, P&G subtracted the pay of many of its own marketing executives from the reported number. That reduced ad spending by as much as $163 million in 1998, when P&G apparently had little in-store advertising to offset the salaries and benefits

In all, P&G's restatement added $349 million to 2006 ad spending, with much smaller adjustments in other years, though Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Ali Dibadj believes the differences between the old and new definitions could have boosted P&G's reported 2007 outlays by $350 million, too. P&G said it hadn't calculated or disclosed the 2007 impact.
Essentially, the company added in budgets for in-store advertising (which it does a ton of), and removed the salaries and benefits of its marketing and advertising employees, essentially highlighting external and media-related expenses instead of more nebulous internal ones. The new numbers indicate that P&G has been spending about the same percentage of its sales -- roughly 10.5% -- for at least the past decade, as opposed to the last round of figures that indicated the firm was reducing its overall ad spend. Unfortunately, though, AdAge notes that even with these changes the firm still doesn't include consumer promotion spending as part of advertising, so we still don't have a complete picture of what the world's largest advertiser is really doing.

So why is it so important to know anyway? Well, as the article notes, "P&G's figures in the past 11 years show a very high statistical correlation (0.78) between ad spending ratios and organic sales growth under the old advertising definition, and an even higher one (0.87) under the new definition. For the past five years, however, the new ad definition shows a much lower correlation to sales growth than the old one." Consequently, investors like to see a slightly increasing (or at least steady) ad spend ratio, since that should imply higher (or at least steady) sales in the near future.

We know that P&G wants to continue winning that all-important First Moment of Truth on the sales floor, and given media fragmentation and the difficulty of reaching so many different mini-demographics with ad messages these days, it looks like they'll be bringing their A-game to the sales floor, which makes a lot of sense to me. Whether or not it will improve their overall performance as they shift more attention to retail media remains to be seen, but if nothing else, this looks like a really solid hedge in the age where TiVo and the Internet are making traditional media buys more speculative and often less successful.

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