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Snack Sales: The importance of injecting theatre

Both these winning displays more than hold their own against their in-store counterparts and do what any great piece of point-of-purchase advertising should do: stop customers in their tracks. It’s proof, as if it were needed, that those responsible for designing in-theatre displays are routinely capable of finding the sweet spot.

When it comes to engaging shoppers to drive confectionery and snack sales, it’s point of purchase displays that brands have really gone to town in the last few years. The Cadbury Easter Van, produced for Mondelez International, is just one award-winning example of the investment and creativity that regularly excites and engages shoppers. Not only did the display deliver a great presence and novelty factor in-store, but the unit was also designed to be easy to assemble and, more importantly, modular – enabling it to be adapted if space was limited – further enhancing its effectiveness. The result of the in-store activity was an increase in sales volume of up to 13 per cent, and an increased sell through rate of 97.7 per cent in Asda stores, and 96.6 per cent in Tesco stores.

Clearly there is the willingness and capability to inject real ‘theatre’ into point-of-purchase displays, whether that’s promoting the latest film release, or driving brand engagement in-store. Also, the two are not always mutually exclusive. Indeed, supermarket shoppers were treated to an eye-catching display to promote the DVD launch of both Wolf of Wall Street and Mrs Brown’s Boys D Movie last year. The innovative freestanding display unit featured an in-built fan to enable dollars to float around the main key visual from the Leonard DiCaprio film, later re-purposed with the fan used to lift up Mrs Brown’s skirt –linking the display to the fun and cheeky nature of the DVD.

However, rarely do we see the same level of creativity from confectionery brands in cinemas. So, just why are our cinemas so bereft of engaging retail displays to promote confectionery sales? Especially when, in comparison to revenue from ticket sales that is split with the film studios, cinemas get to keep almost all the profit they make from selling food.

Whilst few can resist the allure of pick’n’mix, popcorn or a cold fizzy beverage, cinema chains face a very real threat to incremental sales as cinemagoers continuing to adopt the bring-your-own rule. A YouGov poll last year found that UK cinemagoers spend an average of £7.85 on ‘extras’ per visit. This is why I strongly believe that confectionery brands should invest more in bringing the same sense of retail theatre to cinema foyers as they do in the big supermarkets. As Ogilvy Group vice-chairman Rory Sutherland acknowledged as part of his introduction to a new book by behavioural scientist Dr Dilip Soman, “making people feel good at the point-of-purchase is more than half of the battle”. In other words, it’s not always about ‘price’.

Instead, it’s about the added ‘money can’t buy’ value which determines whether you see any transaction as representing good value for money. Why do we choose to go to the cinema rather than stay at home and watch films on the TV or online? The answer is simple: for the experience. The cinema experience adds value to the viewing experience; it’s the same reason why shoppers still love to shop, even when everything they could possibly want to buy is now available with a click from the comfort of their home.

In many ways, cinema embodies the power of ‘experiential’. It’s why concentrated efforts should be made to invest in improving standout of confectionery point-of-purchase displays, and channelling their resources into creating installations that drive more effective engagement and maximise sales – delivering a retail experience in this space that leads, not lags.

With the ban on promoting confectionery at checkouts in supermarkets, brands are having to rethink where and how they communicate with customers. Plus with confectionery sales representing such a major revenue contributor for cinema chains, there is surely every chance for both to prosper by seizing the initiative. However, standing still and doing more of what has always been done won’t achieve that.

According to the YouGov research, cinemagoers buy into the ‘novelty’ of splurging on extras. Displays must therefore encourage engagement and interaction. Customers need to see confectionery purchases as more than merely a functional transaction. For me, the change that confectionery brands and cinema chains need to make begins with bringing new ideas and innovations into the selling space that will enable them to truly connect with cinemagoers – giving them a reason to look past bring-your-own and to ‘feel something’ until, ultimately, they are itching to spend.

Walk into any cinema or supermarket and you’ll see just how much can be achieved. Isn’t it about time that the two worlds came together to inject a greater sense of retail theatre into confectionery sales and to be more inventive and maximise incremental sales opportunities? It’s an environment that’s ripe for show-stopping, high impact, one-off retail display activations – injecting real WOW in the purchase experience and making the journey of buying snacks before a film special once again. Do that, and the curtain could be raised on an exciting opportunity for sales growth.