RETAILERS AND THE POP FRONTIER: NEW TECHNOLOGY

Without getting rid of traditional point-of-purchase tools, retailers are nevertheless latching onto new technologies that bring excitement to in-store advertisements.Kroger Co, and Winn-Dixie Stores in the Louisville, Ky., area, for example, are partnering with an e-mail newsletter publisher to promote a $500 shopping spree. During the 12-week promotion, which began in early April, a recipe Tip of

Without getting rid of traditional point-of-purchase tools, retailers are nevertheless latching onto new technologies that bring excitement to in-store advertisements.

Kroger Co, and Winn-Dixie Stores in the Louisville, Ky., area, for example, are partnering with an e-mail newsletter publisher to promote a $500 shopping spree. During the 12-week promotion, which began in early April, a recipe Tip of the Day is printed on the back of the stores' receipts. The receipts also tell shoppers how to register for the spree, and how to receive the recipes by e-mail.

Dick's Supermarket in Platteville, Wis., meanwhile, is using dangling plastic shelf tags to call attention to products that are discounted weekly on its Web site. "When the customer comes in, whether they have the page [printed off the site] or not, this helps them identify which products are on special," said Ken Robb, senior vice president of marketing at Dick's. The tags do not advertise the discount; rather, they state that an on-line coupon is available on that item, along with the Web address. Discounts that the shopper chooses on the Web site are automatically deducted when the shopper presents the frequent-shopper card at the checkout. The shelf tags spur interest from shoppers who have not visited Dick's Web site. "Paperless coupons have their own issues, one of them being customer recognition [of the discounted products] in the store," Robb said. "There is a great deal of coordination to close that communication gap."

Many supermarket executives are also finding that kiosks can be one of the best in-store advertising tools.

G&R Felpausch Co., Hastings, Mich., has had "measurable increases" in sales as a direct result of the kiosks in its 20 stores, said Felpausch's target marketing manager, Jeff Crim. The retailer has seen a 20% redemption on coupons from kiosks after customers swipe their loyalty cards, compared with the chain's 12% direct-mail redemption rates. "Those [kiosk offers] are trial coupons, and shoppers are purchasing products that they never purchased before," Crim said.

However, other industry observers said that while kiosks can be helpful, retailers need to take steps to capture customer attention, and spur impulse sales, when shoppers shop each category, which, on average, lasts only about 15 seconds. To that end, some retailers are turning from the traditional in-aisle coupon machines to electronic coupon systems.

In one such scenario, electronic machines would allow customers to swipe their loyalty cards -- smart cards with built-in microprocessors -- and upload electronic coupons to their cards. Shoppers would present their loyalty cards to the cashiers, who would swipe the cards, and the discounts would be automatically deducted from the bills.

"It marries the retailer benefits of loyalty cards with the at-shelf convenience of coupon dispensers," said an industry source.

While supermarkets are experimenting with more technologically advanced point-of-purchase systems, they are also continuing to make good use of more traditional programs. Remke's Markets, Covington, Ky., still mails promotions to 30% of its customers, but Pat Iasillo, preferred customer merchandiser, nevertheless favors in-aisle coupon dispensers. "Coupon dispensers communicate with 100% of customers every time they walk in the store," he said.

Displays are also popular, and retailers are urging manufacturers to develop higher quality displays that can stay on the floor longer. "Retailers' No. 1 complaint is the quality of POP displays," said another industry source.

PSK Supermarkets, dba Foodtown, Mount Vernon, N.Y., is successfully mixing the old with the new. Vice president Daniel Katz said customer interest in the chain's frequent-shopper program, which features rewards from an on-line catalog after shoppers obtain a certain number of points, has been fueled in part by in-store signage.

Foodtown stores display shelf signs offering bonus points on certain products, which gives sales a "better lift than just discount pricing."

King Soopers, Denver, for its part, significantly boosted sales of Coca-Cola non-carbonated beverages with a high-quality display in its stores.

The permanent display, a vertical floor stand and beverage organizer with tilting metal shelves and gravity-fed slides, fits on endcaps.