>>instore tv is not tv - Nick Widdowson, merchandising manager Unilever Bestfoods UK & chairman POPAI UK & Ireland

The advance of digital technology signals a momentous change in the instore environment, with the huge potential for plasma TV screens to feature prominently in aisles and fixtures as a means of communicating product messages. But, as a new media, there is still much to learn about how to get the best value from this in terms of sales.
Recent tests have demonstrated that digital point of purchase or POP can lead to impressive sales uplifts. In the recent Spar trial, for example, sales of the ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ spread brand grew 44%.
Furthermore, recall rates of the advertising shown on the screens remained very high, particularly within the 16-24 and 25-44 age groups. Customer feedback on the TV screens was that they were clear and added to the overall atmosphere, suggesting not only a general acceptance of the media but that it enhanced the shopping experience.
One advantage digital POP also has, particularly for brand owners like Unilever Bestfoods UK, is the concept of 100% compliance. With carefully defined play lists and screens working correctly in store, brand messages are delivered exactly as intended, which provides a new measure of confidence for suppliers.
Furthermore, understanding customer flow through a store or aisle enables the quantification of how many shoppers see the advertising and how often, thereby leading to a better understanding of the return. The development of this new media in store allows more flexibility and opportunity to engage the customer at the place where the purchase decision is made.
This being the case, and given the fact this form of instore marketing can be measured and evaluated on a par with above-the-line media, many people in the industry are seeing the store as a communication as well as a distribution channel.
However, in terms of implementation it is vital we recognise that digital POP is not simply a new outlet for TV. To treat it as such would be to misinterpret the instore environment. Shoppers are in a different mindset when they are walking the aisles of a supermarket to that when they are watching television or reading magazines.
As a former store manager, I am well aware stores are noisy places, where shoppers are bombarded with thousands of messages and have limited time. Position an instore screen in the wrong place or with
inappropriate content and it will not generate the desired increase in products sold. To this extent, digital works just the same as traditional point of purchase.
Instore advertising of all forms has to be impactful. Digital POP is no exception. Whereas a traditional brand ad for TV broadcast would run for 30 seconds, in store the optimum time is 10 seconds to reflect the time the shopper is prepared to spend at the fixture. Whereas conventional TV advertising is designed to build relevance and trust, digital POP should bring the brand to life at the fixture, with a clear message designed to encourage product purchase.
Clearly, digital POP cannot operate in isolation. Above-the-line TV advertising will continue to have a huge impact on people’s perception of branded fmcg products. Likewise, new media and traditional POP must be able to live alongside each other.
There is still a place for the humble wobbler, barker or freestanding unit alongside plasma screen technology. Secondary siting opportunities will still exist to support promotions, new launches and other activities, where additional stock is required or brand visibility and shopper value would be enhanced.
Digital screens have the opportunity to change the way shoppers interact with products in store and in so doing add significant value for retailers and manufacturers. However, in the rush to implement this new technology, we must be careful not to overlook the importance of, or the knowledge gained from traditional cardboard and plastic.