What’s the point of sale?

A marketeer will tell you it’s an extension of the brand, the commercial team will tell you it’s a way of driving sales, the ad man will tell you it’s the stuff the mac monkey churns out and if you walk down the high street you will say it’s that bun fight hanging off the ceilings and very conceivable shelf edge.

How POS is used represents a very clear insight into the health of a brand. Customer oriented ones with clear vision and values use it sparingly, to genuinely help customers make decisions eg ‘this is new’, and to express brand personality – ‘this is our ethical policy’. In these cases there’s little of it because the layout, ranging, packaging and product all do their jobs effectively, you don’t get bombarded with graphic pollution when you walk into your local John Lewis store. At the other end of the scale are businesses driven by tactical commercial objectives where shifting stock, selling ‘loss leaders’ or generating supplier marketing contributions are the order of the day – not very strategic or customer oriented, symptomatic of unhealthy brands chasing a headline for the quarterly City update rather than long term brand, customer or share-holder value.

So why have it?

What we do know is that it works, when stores don’t put any promotional material up sales drop, but surely there’s a way to inform customers about: WIGIGS, promos, clearance, new products, statutory info, special offers and everyday low prices – without hurling all of it at the hapless shopper.

POS has a simple purpose, to inform customers and help them shop. It does beg the question of why is it done so badly, bearing in mind that the need is always there, do retailers think about POS as part of their comms strategy or as knee jerk reaction to that week’s particular drop in sales?

Why is POS the poor relation of the comms piece? It’s pretty simple, it’s not a TV ad, it’s not part of the digital piece and quite frankly anybody can churn it out. What amazing award can the agency get for creating effective POS? The point is that effective POS should communicate a few simple facts:

  • The offer
  • The price & saving
  • How to buy it

Call it what you want but there should always be a set of “solids” not just banal waffle, which the customer can engage with. POS should be clear, have a reason for being and fit into the right stage of the customer journey – have a look around your local supermarket and see how many of the above tenants are adhered to. It looks like the marketing manual has been thrown out of the window and replaced with a simple rule, SHOUT! My old friend used to say that a graphic equaliser should be applied to POS, turning up and down different elements, rather than putting everything on 10.

What’s the future – a bland high street, with minimalist info, a kaleidoscopic melange assailing the senses, or some well designed POS that is positioned in the right part of the store, with a clear call to action, with clear benefits and a rationalised design that reflects a retailer’s brand applied to the myriad of offers and price info?


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