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The Rules of Engagement

By: Daniela Ciocan
Posted: April 4, 2012, from the April 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Today’s in-store displays are more artistic, more visually stimulating and more interactive. The development process is a laborious task during which numerous aspects must be considered and many departments may need to be involved. One of the leaders in the area of in-store presentations, Royal Promotions Group, helped compile key points that should serve as a beginning in the development process. Considerations always must be given to the brand’s image and the extent that the character of the brand can be brought to life, particularly when retailers have their own unique, strong image.

Brands that have the luxury of owning their own stores can interpret the design of each boutique based on location and local culture. VMV Hypoallergenics, a lifestyle brand of hypoallergenic beauty products with boutiques in Asia and North America, has had to be creative in retaining certain elements (steel and wood) for its stores as the tying elements, but the overall store designs shift and vary.

What is the common denominator and what are the most important signature elements you want the consumer to instantly associate with your brand? What is your two-to-four-year product launch strategy so the investment cost of in-store units is maximized and the templates created are easily updated given planned launches? What type of lighting is necessary for the displays to best showcase the items and not compromise the integrity of the formulas? What are the key items and how does the customer intuitively understand what sets these items apart? What is the brand’s system and how do you create a foolproof path to shopping your brand?

This brings us back to the technology aspect of retail. Today’s store environments, while providing a unique hands-on experience, must also integrate elements today’s computer-savvy consumers have come to expect. A few of the ways stores can integrate technology are by including Wi-Fi in their retail environments, providing touch screens that recommend products, offering virtual makeovers by selecting models with similar features and/or colorings, incorporating RFID-based technology to reward loyalty and implementing replenishment reminders, introducing Quick Response (QR) codes, providing self- and smartphone-checkouts, and even showcasing holographic beauty advisors that greet you, like at the Duane Reade Wall Street location. The one challenge the industry is grappling with is how to incorporate such technologies to complement the in-store experience. QR codes are great, but what relevant message can you provide to entice consumers enough to want to scan the code and then feel satisfaction that the action had a relevant purpose behind it? How do you use technology without driving consumers away from your store to online or other outlets as a result of price comparisons?

There are so many areas that brands must consider as they face the crucial point of contact, the point where the brand speaks directly to the consumer and seeks to make the connection—the retail point of distribution. Ian Ginsberg of C.O. Bigelow said, “The brands must never lose sight of the ‘10 foot rule,’ which entails that the consumer should know what the product is and what it does from 10 feet away.” Does your brand do that? Those brands that master this rule are the ones that thrive at retail and keep their customers coming back for more. Experience is crucial; your retail strategy has to give customers the total experience, keep them engaged, and keep them coming back again and again.