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Balancing the Need for Innovative In-Store Displays with Competitive Pricing and Quick Production

It seems that each year, consumers are faced with an expanding amount of information when shopping at a retailer. From engaging in-store point of purchase (POP) displays to the tools and information available to consumers via their smartphones, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies must find new ways to attract consumers’ attention. Effective in-store displays remain a successful method of driving sales; an eye-catching display may capture a consumer’s attention long enough to encourage a purchase. These in-store displays must be unique to draw consumers in lieu of other options, but what are companies seeking in a creative product display? How can brands balance the desire for innovative designs with the realities of tight budgets and intensifying speed-to-market? How do they balance their own desire for unique displays with encroaching mandates from retailers on how a display can (or cannot) be structured? And how can brands keep pace with consumer demands that shift and adapt at an ever-increasing rate?

CPG companies using in-store displays may worry they will be forced to choose between adhering to lower costs or honoring retailer demands and seeking innovative display designs, but those that find a way to balance these demands will see the most opportunity and be rewarded with a robust return on investment. With so many considerations, it is best for CPG companies to approach display design, production and shipping holistically, as the In-Store Innovation design teams at Green Bay Packaging do. Mike Bagatta, design manager for In-Store Innovation at Green Bay Packaging, said companies and designers alike benefit from looking beyond the end result.

“I think, when you engineer a display, you have to look at the big picture from start to finish. Consider what is involved in the entire supply chain process, and try to find cost savings, whether that’s on the assembly line or in shipping,” he said. “That has value for our customers.”

Design Innovation: An Essential Component

Graph of GBP's design process

Competition among CPG companies can be fierce, and that competition can include POP displays. It’s all the more essential to stand out from the pack considering how difficult it can be to attract consumers’ attention in the first place. According to an InReality report, consumers do not notice 88% of in-store displays. Digital marketing has had an effect, but even though 84% of consumers research online beforehand, 53% of shoppers prefer to be in-store to make the final decision. Therefore, a creative display can have a pronounced effect, but how can this be done?

“That’s the ultimate question,” said Terry Krause, creative director at Green Bay Packaging, Baird Display Division. “It’s dictated by so many different things. But ultimately, as a designer, I think that a unique display is one that is going to gain attention, and there’s many ways you can do that, whether that’s interesting shapes or dimension or ‘plus-up’ items like lights, motions or sound. Technology keeps changing, so there’s a lot of different elements you can add.” That most in-store displays go unnoticed may initially disconcert CPG companies, but it actually provides an opportunity for brands willing to invest in the expertise to create eye-popping displays that will cause consumers to pause and consider a purchase.

However, there are numerous constraints on the creative work designers can do (and companies can request), and often these restraints come from retailers, particularly big-box and large chain stores. Retailers often release display guidelines, mandating the size of a product display and how much product it can hold. These restrictions can create additional challenges in the creative process, said Chris Cummings, Green Bay Packaging’s national sales manager.

“Brands realize the value of being creative, because they are looking for ways to set themselves apart at retail. They know a creative design that attracts the attention of the shopper provides a better opportunity for a higher ROI,” he said. “The problem is, the retailers are more concerned about continuity and the cleanliness of their store. They want to be able to dictate how their store looks.”

The Need for Speed (and Affordability Helps)

Every aspect of the CPG industry, from initial designs to supply chain operations to demands from retailers and consumers, is on an accelerated time frame. Companies have to be adaptable when considering designs for in-store displays and need to partner with designers that can offer cost-effective designs at a pace that can best competitors. However, Krause notes that it is imperative not to forgo innovation when weighing these other needs.

“Interesting and creative displays are really what CPG brands are after,” he said. “Getting that spot on the floor isn’t enough if it’s not an interesting piece. I think brands do realize an impactful display doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. A good budget can equal a great display.”

A design and production partner offering vertical integration can help satisfy CP companies’ requirements for in-store displays. If a single entity controls the entire operation, from initial designs through display mock-ups to final production, costs can be reduced, accountability can be strengthened and a speed-to-market that benefits brands and retailers is more likely to be accomplished. Additionally, a strong speed-to-market helps companies adapt to consumers’ shifting tastes in a responsive manner. If certain approaches drive higher sales, CPG companies working with adept designers can capitalize on additional revenue by making changes quickly.

The pace of project design and production has markedly changed since Krause entered the industry 20 years ago, when design teams typically had as long as two weeks to offer a prototype for a display design. Now, instead of two weeks, teams often have as little as two days to deliver the same results. Much of this speed is due to better communication between design teams and their manufacturing customers, and Krause pointed to this as an unexpected benefit of the accelerated design phase.

“When you’re in front of a client, there’s so many ways to engage and collaborate. Sketching a new design concept on a tablet during a meeting can be very productive,” he said. “At the end of that conversation, you have a high level of confidence you’re going to give the customer what they’re looking  for, and the ability to do that is much better now than when we had long lead times.” However, affordability needs to be considered at all times. Timothy Goll, vice president of sales and marketing with The Visual Pak Companies, said that keeping costs low is one of the primary drivers during display design and production phases. The Visual Pak Companies are a vertically integrated packaging company that often works with CPG companies to fulfill merchandise displays and often partners with Green Bay Packaging.

“If it’s really complex, it can become expensive to assemble. Labor resources are becoming constrained, so it becomes limited by labor abilities. If you can find a display that can be produced by fewer people, it can be more easily managed,” Goll said. “If you have complex assembly, you’re raising risk. The primary driver is cost.”

Cummings said that one way to help ensure a robust ROI and a quick turnaround time worked in the past, Bagatta said, but that may not be the best solution for either party. 

“You want to show them what you can do to set yourself and your company apart versus your competition,” he said. “Every customer is unique, and every retailer is unique. So to custom-create a display that fits the needs of both is something that’s always challenging.”

Indeed, custom creative designs for product displays may demand more significant initial investment, especially if companies seek the kinds of design that can attract a consumer and compel a potential purchase. CPG companies and designers understand that creative displays lead to a greater ROI, and cost-effective displays are possible. Bagatta said that in such a tumultuous time for a changing industry, it’s important for designers and companies to continue to understand both the preferences of consumers and the mandates of retailers.

“If you want to be good at what you do,” he said, “you need to have a broad knowledge of the bigger picture.”

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