You are continuously searching for better ways to compete and succeed in today's marketing environment. Your brands are under pressure from everyday low pricing, private label, Efficient Consumer Response, etc. Past strategies have used pricing as the key component for many brands. However, most marketing organizations are finding that price alone is not the answer. For price is a tactic that can be, and often is, easily duplicated.
More brands are turning to in-store programs to compete and improve their position in the marketplace. With rocketing revenues, the industry has increased significantly both in programs and players. Your challenge is finding the correct criteria to rate the effectiveness of in-store programs in relation to your goals.
There are masses of material and promotional pieces from in-store companies. Sifting through them is a daunting task. Separating reality from rationale is an even greater obstacle. However, innovative solutions do exist. Viewing the programs from consumers' and retailers' perspectives is critical to your success in-store. Synthesize your plans with your customers' goals. Making your in-store strategies symbiotic with consumers' and retailers' needs will significantly add to your success in-store.
Here are some questions to ask about in-store programs prior to making your choices. They are based on solid thinking from supermarket executives, their practical applications and my own front-line experience:
1. What does the program contribute to the consumer's shopping experience? What is the basis for its appeal to the primary shopper? Consumers are looking for information on whether it's nutritional or even nice-to-know. They look for menu planning ideas, savings incentives, etc., while they shop. Does the program have any loyalty potential for the primary shopper and the store -- a very important factor for the retailer?
2. Is it simple for the customer to use? What extra steps do consumers have to take from their normal shopping routine to participate? Weigh the reward or appeal of the program vs. the effort needed.
3. What is the program's track record on increasing sales not only on the brand, but also the category? Can the program sustain the increases throughout the quarter? If not, are you simply robbing one month's sales from another?
4. Can the program reflect the multiple formats and merchandising strategies that exist in the market? Most importantly, can it be executed differently on both an account- and store-level basis?
5. Is it compatible with the other operational functions in the store? Is it indigenous to a retail operation? Does it clutter or litter the store environment?
6. Do retailers use this program or similar ones to promote their own products? If so, what categories are actively involved and why?
7. Can you customize the program for retailers, with different, but proportionally equal, advantages? Is there an opportunity to copromote with private label?
8. How is the retailer notified about the essential elements of your participation in the program? How effective are the lines of communication from the in-store company to retailers' operations?
Getting the answers to the above list may seem daunting given the amount of time any marketing executive has. However, you can easily format your own comparison grid or get help. Simply give these questions to representatives of the in-store companies you are considering. Have them complete the analysis for you. They should analyze both their programs and the competitive ones that you may be considering. Review the results and make your decision.
Larry Wojciechowski is president of marketing consulting firm Retail Media Management, based in Ridgefield, Conn.