INFLUENCING IN-STORE DECISIONS

For banana sales, the summer months are traditionally slow. For new dairy spreads, shelf space is limited. And, for frozen hot-dog hors d'oeuvres, getting noticed can be a dilemma as well.Armed with industry research revealing that more than 70% of buying decisions are made once the consumer is inside the store, manufacturers like Chiquita Fresh North America, Cincinnati; Unilever Best Foods, Englewood

For banana sales, the summer months are traditionally slow. For new dairy spreads, shelf space is limited. And, for frozen hot-dog hors d'oeuvres, getting noticed can be a dilemma as well.

Armed with industry research revealing that more than 70% of buying decisions are made once the consumer is inside the store, manufacturers like Chiquita Fresh North America, Cincinnati; Unilever Best Foods, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and Hebrew National Kosher Foods, Jericho, N.Y., turn to in-store marketing to help solve some of their problems.

Chiquita, of course, sells bananas; Unilever makes a yogurt-based spread under the Brummel and Brown name, and Hebrew National, a frozen franks-in-a-blanket product.

Teresa Wellington, marketing manager for Chiquita Fresh, told Brand Marketing that retailers who participate in its annual in-store summer promotion are bound to experience a pop in sales.

"Historically, as we look back at the numbers, retailers who participate can enjoy up to an 18% volume advantage over non-participants," Wellington said. "And, we do this in the summer when banana sales are slow."

The abundance of so many other fresh fruits during the summer compounds the problem, Wellington said.

Meanwhile, Eric Berman, senior associate brand manager, Unilever Best Foods, said tests done on sales impact following a recent shelf-sign campaign for Brummel and Brown spreads showed an 11% boost in sales.

"There is some merit to the theory that [shelf signs] boost sales," Berman said. "It all goes back to the old adage that most consumers don't make their actual buying decisions until they get in the store. So, anything that we can do to draw their attention to our product is an added bonus."

Leigh Platte, vice president, general manager/food service and new product initiations, Hebrew National, said his product did well with shelf signs and floor graphics.

With shelf signs, tied to a trade promotion, Platte said his frozen hot-dog product saw anywhere from a 20% to 40% boost in sales during the run. "We got very high lifts over time periods where we weren't using the signs," Platte said.

Moreover, Hebrew National also uses floor graphics to draw attention to its brand.

"[Floor graphics are] an effective tool to get consumers to notice us and draw them to the shelf," Platte said. However, Platte said he has not seen any figures yet on the effectiveness of the floor graphics.

Overall, though, advertising tools marketers are using in-store to draw attention to brands these days run the gamut in terms of sophistication. Some can be as simple as paper shelf signs, others as sophisticated as Internet-connected kiosks. Still other tools include floor graphics, coupon-takers and in-store radio ads.

In the case of Brummel and Brown spreads, Berman said that the manufacturer was limited in its choices because of the nature of the way the product has limited display visibility in a refrigerated dairy case.

Berman said his choices were limited to shelf signs and floor graphics. After trying both, Berman said he found the shelf signs to be more effective.

Point-of-purchase couponing was also tried, but Berman found it to be very limiting.

While enticing, floor graphics didn't seem to work as well, Berman said.

"They've got some very sophisticated floor graphics now, though," Berman said. "I mean there are [ads] that light up when you step on them," he added.

For Chiquita, the in-store promotion was not only broader, but also bigger. Wellington said Chiquita's annual summer banana promotion runs from July 5 to July 31. It is combined with an in-store sweepstakes -- this year a fully loaded Ford Windstar 2002 was given away -- and a contest among the retailers over which can construct the most impressive aisle display in the produce department.

Wellington said the promotion is designed to drive consumer traffic to retailers' produce departments and to generate increased sales of Chiquita bananas.

This year's theme was "Miss Chiquita's Summer Fun on the Run." To enter the sweepstakes consumers simply needed to fill out an entry form at the display and attach three labels.

This consumer sweepstakes was combined with a produce manager contest. To be eligible participating produce managers needed to increase their primary Chiquita banana display space by at least 15%, place point-of-sale materials at the display during the entire promotion, and run a minimum of a one-quarter page feature circular with program visuals provided by Chiquita. Prizes were awarded to retailers with the most creative display.

"For eight years running, Chiquita summer promotions have consistently delivered impressive sales results for our participating retailers," Wellington said.

According to Wellington, one retailer went so far as to bring an actual Ford Windstar into the store and build a banana display around it.

"This was perfect," she said. "That was certainly a way to drive product sales and create excitement in the store," she said.

Besides the annual summer promotion, Wellington said Chiquita also uses some in-store radio, floor graphics, cart signs and floor graphics to aid its in-store marketing efforts.

She said Chiquita has not participated in any usage of kiosks yet. However, she said secondary in-store displays are used from time to time. Secondary displays involve putting aisle displays in cross-promotional areas like the cereal aisle, Wellington said.

Berman said that while all of these in-store tactics are good and usually turn out to be cost-effective ways to attract brand attention, sometimes the bigger picture needs to be looked at.

"You have to look at how you deliver the message and not just draw attention," Berman said. "Drawing attention is good, but you have to think about whether the message is sticking."

Larry Mortimer, executive vice president of sales and business development at Insignia Systems, Plymouth, Minn., said in the crowded field of media advertising these days, traditional advertising means have become more important than ever.

Insignia specializes in in-store POP signs that usually carry targeted messages.

"This type of advertising has become even more important," Mortimer said.

"Television is no longer as effective as it used to be. Studies show that recall is greater on POP signs," he said.

Moreover, Mortimer said he agrees with analysis showing that most consumers don't make buying decisions until they are in the aisle.

"Most shoppers look straight ahead when they walk down the aisle," Mortimer said. "They don't look side to side. So anything we can do to flag consumers to stop and look has to be effective."

Mortimer said Insignia has plans to roll out a full, four-color POP sign product next year.

Gaylene Meyer, director of marketing for AccessVia, Seattle, said her company uses data-driven signs, using "pulled data" to format templates for its shelf signs.

While in-store media techniques are getting more sophisticated, Meyer said that shelf signs still work really well.

"Some of these new techniques, while interesting and exciting, still don't work as well as shelf signs," she said.

However, Meyer did predict that Internet-connected kiosks will become more commonplace.

"Most of the retailers that we deal with are usually slow to adopt new technology, but we do think the kiosks are the wave of the future." Meyer added that one of the more positive consequences from the recent downturn in computer prices is that the price for the hardware and software to construct kiosks has become cheaper.

Richard Rebh, chief executive officer of FLOORgraphics, Princeton, N.J., said the latest his company offers are electronic floor ads that produce very clear animation. These ads are computer controlled, battery powered and use flashing lights. Some of these ads can be programmed to provide sound, jingles and messages as well, he said.