In-store technology: on the cusp of real growth?

Articles
August 12, 2009

Can in-store technology minimize reliance on store staffs to execute consistently, positively shape the shopping experience, and differentiate retailers in their markets?

Can in-store technology minimize reliance on store staffs to execute consistently, positively shape the shopping experience, and differentiate retailers in their markets? This is an interesting goal with no immediate answer. Investments in in-store marketing technology have slowed in this economy, but to us this suggests a potentially bigger opportunity once two things happen:
•    Consumer spending expands once more, retailers start to see daylight in their performance, and begin to imagine a cascade of positive dollar sales gains from efforts that only seem costly today.
•    Trading partners identify “exactly where the value lies” in in-store marketing technology, as RSR Research said in its new benchmark study, Enabling the Shopping Process: In-Store Marketing for the Empowered Consumer, released in July. “Results need to be measured not in eyeballs or dwell time, but in hard dollar sales increases,” the report cautioned.

Indeed, we’ve heard for so long about the downslide of traditional media and the upside of in-store marketing, it seems to us that more should have been done by now, if not for the lack of cohesion, good will and accountability by trading partners. How soon the trade regards the store as an effective marketing environment looks to be an open question.  

But here’s a positive sign: the vast majority of retailers (51% high/34% medium priority) are emphasizing customer-facing tools and technologies. Chains that RSR defines as winners (more than 3% annual same-store sales growth) use an average of 5.7 in-store marketing vehicles vs. about 4.5 for average performers and laggards.

Their top three priorities for shelf-level marketing: improve sales (92% very important), create a more compelling in-store experience for our customers (79%), and increased consistency in messaging and promotions across categories (79%), the research showed.

“There’s a serious disconnect for one particular in-store technology: digital in-store media. Much of the effort to date around in-store media has revolved around tying to measure things like ‘opportunity to view’ and ‘dwell time,’ when clearly retailers are focused on one thing above all other others: improving sales,” the report stressed.  Figures from the online survey that included answers from 88 retail respondents in February-March 2009 indicated that just 25% use this vehicle (32% of winners vs. 17% of laggards). Also, more winners (14%) use mobile coupons or incentives than laggards do (9%), and more winners (14%) provide hand-held scanners vs. laggards (4%).

Which activities do retailers emphasize? Weekly sales promotions (86%), club card promotions (61%), store-level promotions (53%), shelf talkers (49%), receipt-based offers or coupons/in-store demos (tied at 46%).