+44 (0)1928 597 777

Why Compliance Remains a "Scarefest" In-store

In newspaper reports ahead of the creepy celebrations, Asda was quoted as saying it had tripled its stocks of costumes and expected Halloween sales across all categories to rise by 20%. Sainsbury’s said it had bought 30% more adult costumes than last year and 22% more non-food Halloween-related products. It’s fair to say that as an in-store event it has developed from what was once a one aisle of ‘seasonal’ product in a supermarket or department store, into a key retail event across a multitude of categories. And, like many other big in-store events, the focus on ensuring brands are best placed to be able to capitalise on sales opportunities within what is a very narrow promotional window, is key. That means achieving high levels of compliance when it matters most – with displays deployed in-store, cited correctly, and well merchandised for the duration of the promotion.

If only compliance was as easy to predict as a sequel to a Halloween movie franchise. In truth, the issue of compliance is a topic that continues to haunt marketers. For most, an on-spec visit to almost any multiple retailer will leave them a quivering wreck, with poor compliance during big promotional campaigns a constant source of frustration – either in terms of display execution or stock availability. More importantly, it has a very visible and detrimental affect on the bottom line. Yet despite this fact, we believe that there remains too little emphasis on developing industry recognised best practice standards and solutions for what is, arguably, the one aspect of a POP campaign that has the potential to influence its success the most.

As an industry, research into understanding the real challenges faced by marketers and current compliance levels is woefully inadequate. At best, it is outdated. The last industry report into compliance was conducted back in 2008. And many quoted statistics relating to compliance are simply misleading. Claims of 98 per cent compliance and higher are commonplace. But this belies the true horrors that exist in many stores. And here’s why.

Put simply, too much focus in placed on Day One compliance. Make no mistake: ensuring that a campaign lands in-store simultaneously across countless stores on the day of launch, and at the same time looks its best, is vital. But most of the statistics that are banded around to showcase examples of great compliance only focus on the point up to which implementation is complete and installation teams leave the store.

What happens next? Compliance figures rarely tell us. Instead, they merely represent a snapshot – capturing a single moment in time and one when, in all fairness, you would expect promotional displays to be looking their best. If you can’t get it right at the beginning, why bother? But what about the day after install, the week after, or the month after? Getting visibility on compliance at those moments: that’s what really matters.

Often, retail displays will be left to languish in-store without adequate support in the post-implementation phase to ensure compliance is sustained throughout the duration of the campaign. Shops get shopped (we’d all be out of a job if they didn’t). More specifically, some displays will be shopped, hard. Day to day life in-store will quickly take its toll on both the retail display unit and merchandising standards. The result is often diminished standout in-store for the brand, a less than enjoyable shopping experience for the customer and, ultimately, lost sales.

The majority of temporary retail promotions run for a period of up to 12 weeks, or at least that is the intention behind them when in-store plans are agreed with retailers. However, retailers will regularly remove displays from the shop floor before promotions have ended, or place competing products on the displays if the brand on promotion has sold through, and stock levels are not correctly anticipated and maintained.

All of these scenarios are exactly what brands don’t need when it comes to maximising sales, justifying campaign spend internally or pushing for an increased share of brand marketing budgets next time around. Having investment so much in the promotion in the first place, and creating the supporting in-store campaign, surely allocating sufficient focus and budget to ensure there is no drop off in either impact or sales throughout the entire life of the promotional is a small price to pay for success.

In the excitement and enthusiasm to deliver POP campaigns on time there is, understandably in some respects, an imbalance in where time and resources are spent. However, it’s important to remember that success is not just about launching a new promotion well. It requires structured and ongoing support in the longer-term. Failure to do so will ensure promotions never fulfil their true ROI potential and surely that’s the true measure of compliance success – not just how many retail displays can be installed by a certain date. No matter how scary the complexity of the roll out, or the looming deadline, is.