Retailers are seeking methods of putting traditional in-store media to work in innovative ways, and in many cases are succeeding. While operators look to leverage greater marketing and merchandising opportunities in everything from in-store signage to the point-of-sale, consumers increasingly are responding to the best of these programs.
The goal is clear: to lure customers to spend more money during their average shopping trip and, in particular, do some good-old impulse-purchasing while in the store.
One supermarket that reaped the rewards of an aggressive in-store marketing and media program is Lees Supermarket, Westport, Mass. The single-store but highly innovative operator installed two kiosks to boost communications with customers in-store. The retailer makes in-store specials and recipes available to shoppers at the kiosks. About 15% of all shoppers use the in-store kiosks at Lees.
Initially only frequent shoppers were targeted for special offers. But then "customers who didn't receive the offers were upset," said Albert Lees Sr., owner. "Maybe my marketplace is different, but I never realized how important the bottom 30% of my customers are to my store." Lees has a long-standing frequent-shopper program in place.
Communication with customers is the main goal retailers have when employing in-store media -- communication about savings, rebates, contests or trials. Gone forever are the days of simply offering price or product information.
Savvy operators, like Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va., are harnessing the power of frequent-shopper cards and coupling the cards with in-store media that reward card holders with added value.
The 27-unit chain, for example, has just launched an in-store media campaign using the Internet and the company's existing Web site coupled with in-store kiosks and the chain's frequent-shopper card. The retailer's Web site offers menu planning tools and product information. But shoppers who browse the Web site using their frequent-shopper number gain access to special areas of the Ukrop's Meals site.
Using a 12,000-recipe database, specific meal components are suggested to shoppers. Should a customer typically buy low-fat products, recipes using these products are culled and new product offerings made available. If a shopper wants to plan that night's meal, recipes can be selected for each course. In the store, customers can swipe their frequent-shopper cards at the kiosks to get the same information.
"We are excited about the wealth of recipes and meal planning we can bring to our customers," said Scott Ukrop, vice president of marketing. "There are many added bonuses of tie-ins with the kiosk in-store. Customers can get their selected recipes and their shopping list by simply swiping their card. It's a great opportunity and certainly has increased functionality to our Web site."
"Things are happening on the Internet to make the shopping experience pleasant," said Carlene Thissen, president of Retail Systems Consulting, Naples, Fla. "There are tasks consumers can do ahead of time and things retailers can do to speed the experience. Kiosks in the front that are fast and offer something are very valuable. Consumers want retailers to help them cut through the clutter and speak to them on a singular basis."
In-store media are being used to meet consumers' needs -- whether that involves saving them time, quick-preparation suggestions, addressing dietary restrictions or providing menu options.
Retailers including Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y.; Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass; and Wakefern Food Corp.'s mid-Atlantic ShopRite independent operators are all targeting prescription buyers via enhanced in-store media. A system that prints prescription labels along with individualized instructions, and then targeted coupons and offers, is now being used to cater better to specific customers' needs.
"This is particularly important with newly diagnosed [diabetes] patients," said one pharmacist. "They have a lot of questions and we have a lot of solutions available to them. It's just a great way of introducing ourselves, our services and our products."
"Planning ahead is what consumers want to do," said Ian Melanson, vice president of marketing and product development at Meals.com, Bellevue, Wash. "They want to have their individual needs and preferences identified and addressed. They want to have an increased convenience added to their trip. Particularly with frequent-shopper programs, consumers want retailers to take the information and do something with it that is useful to them."
With the store itself serving as a rich depository of data that once retrieved and mined can take retailers very far with the relevance of their communications, in-store media have been put to work to boost sales.
"Consumers want their frequent-shopper card to have value, to be a passport to do things on-line and in-store," said Melanson. "Creating a one-to-one marketing relationship is not new. It has been done for a 100 years. Store owners knew shoppers by name and made recommendations. Now we can use the cards to achieve this relationship. The key to the kingdom is relationships."
In addition to meeting the goal of offering specific messages to shoppers, retailers have found that by employing these highly targeted methods, in-store promotional budgets can be finely honed and deliver more effect for less investment.