Managing the spaces in-between: What can and can’t be done with in-store campaigns?

White space, in the world of design and art, is negative space. Space left unfilled. It’s not blank – instead, it’s the canvas for objects of focus to exist and be perceived.

The successful use of white space is what separates cluttered visual environments from elegant, classy and accessible ones – and managing white space is vital for in-store marketing campaigns too.

Think about it. Market halls, shopping centres, supermarkets, high streets; they’re visually busy places, where every brand hangs their hoarding and demands attention. White space is already at a premium in these places, and an in-store campaign has to occupy that limited space and make itself visible without adding to the clutter.

That’s why in-store marketing experiences have to fit in and stand out. In-store experiential marketing must integrate the physical space it’s in, the daily operations of the business, the people around it and the brand being represented.

If you want to make the most of the white space, you need to think practically. Here’s how.

1. What does good in-store activity look like?

Your in-store experience has to look planned, organised, and efficient. An ill-considered campaign will stand out for all the wrong reasons.

The campaign as a whole needs direction: that means clear KPIs and targets, and briefing your people well on what they’re trying to achieve for the brand. Messaging needs to be clear, so visitors know what you’re doing there, and the demonstrators and their kit need to be smart, visible and on-brand. If there are Health and Safety regulations in play, compliance needs to be followed, appropriate notices need to be displayed, and safety gear needs to be present and correct. Walk the walk, talk the talk, and make it clear that you have a plan.

2. What are the key logistical considerations?

Step two: ensuring that things run smoothly. The less disruptive your in-store experience is to the store, and the less disrupted the experience itself is by its logistical needs, the better.

Set up in an area with good foot-flow, rather than blocking customers’ movement around the store. Ensure you’ve been signed off by the retailer’s head office, but also the store management; they’re the people whose day to day operations are disrupted by your in-store experience being there. There will be a risk assessment procedure – comply with it fully. And finally, make sure there’s a plentiful and timely supply of kit, stock and staff, and that you have time to bring them all together.

3. Delivery without disruption

The key to delivering the experience on the day? Communication. Excellent communication.

You need to ensure the space for the stand is available for as many activation days as possible, and that stocks of the product are close to the demonstration, which means communicating with the retailer. Field staff need a clear and consistent point of contact with the agency: this will improve the effectiveness of briefings and face to face training, and allow for efficient reporting on the experience itself. On the day, the team needs to be updated on any changes – whether the kit’s in a different place; whether there’s a new target; if anything has been realigned. That means a daily brief and debrief.

4. In-store campaign must-haves

Firstly: a strong Point Of Sale (POS) presence. The in-store experience is there to promote purchases, so make the product visible at or near the place where money changes hands.

Stimulate those purchases with a strong call to action that offers something valuable – money off a new product or a free gift if you purchase today – and you’ll be able to trace the direct impact of your experience and incentives. Keep the message simple – emphasise two or three selling points and have your staff briefed on them – but be flexible, and make sure your team can answer the questions visitors ask.

5. In-store campaign no-nos

The first and most obvious thing to not do? Break the law. Or the rules. Whether it’s the agreement you’ve made with the retailer or compliance with health and safety legislation, ground rules need to be taken seriously. To make sure they are, agree and discuss everything you can think of: the overall plan and as many of the details as you can manage. There should be no major surprises on activation day.

The second thing: underbriefing. In-store marketing must be consistently branded. Marketing can afford to go off script, but it has to stay on message.

Finally: understaffing. This can mean a shortage of numbers, but there are other ways in which failure to properly staff your in-store marketing experience can let you down. Untrained and unqualified staff who don’t know the product, the selling points and the brief; poor staff conduct that creates friction between the brand, the store, the customers and you; and inexperienced staff who are left without a senior hand on the tiller. This is a hard balance to strike – people have to gain their experience somehow – but the first timers should never be left alone.

6. Being realistic with space

In-store experiences need a safe and comfortable working environment for demonstrations to take place, and enough space for customers and staff to move around the aisles and reach stock.

Relevant stock – the product on display and maybe others from the same brand – needs to be on sale close to the demo, and visible at other points of sale.

Finally, the stand needs to (forgive us for this one) stand out. Putting it in the most visually busy area of the store is seldom a good idea – there needs to be enough negative space around the in-store marketing presence for visitors to register its presence.

7. Key questions for retailers and brands

Your first port of call should be the agency’s previous work history. In particular, you’re looking for evidence of results; how their efforts have paid off in real, measurable, return-on-investment terms, and testimonials from other retailers indicating the indirect impact.

The presentation of the agency’s people and process counts for a lot too. The communication skills you meet at the first contact, and the appearance and confidence of the agency’s own people, should reflect how they communicate, dress and present themselves in-store.

Other specific things to ask for include the agency’s recruitment, training and quality assurance process. How does the agency source teams for in-store experiences? If the answer isn’t “face to face interviews” then look elsewhere.

Breadth of coverage is another key factor: does the agency only work locally or do they have the expertise and confidence to deliver nationwide campaigns? What field support do they offer on activation days – and do they carry out other support work like POS production and design?

 

When planning an in-store campaign, selecting an agency partner and delivering the experience on activation day, the most important thing is to be realistic. A good agency won’t agree to things they know aren’t possible – if they say no, it’s time to reappraise your plans.

The other most important thing is to look for learning opportunities. Nothing is perfect – so at every stage of the process, the best in-store marketers ask how they can do better next time and give honest feedback to everyone involved.

Check out the in-store marketing campaigns we’ve helped brands build – and how they’ve paid off.