Wednesday 20 February 2019

How to utilise the all-encompassing power of point of sale

Alan O'Neill, The Change Agent Contact Alan if you'd like support with your business. Business advice questions for Alan can be sent to (Stock photo)
Alan O'Neill, The Change Agent Contact Alan if you'd like support with your business. Business advice questions for Alan can be sent to (Stock photo)

Alan O'Neill

Last week, we discussed the role of marketing in an organisation. We described the different channels, such as advertising, PR, social media and so on, and how important it is to have a joined-up approach to your campaigns.

One particular element of marketing that has an impact across many B2C industries, such as retailers, hotels, pubs, restaurants, banks and post offices is POS (point of sale). POS is a collection of collateral, such as signs and display stands placed in appropriate locations along the customer's journey. Their purpose is either to inform the customer or to inspire them to buy.

The Delta Group

The Delta Group, based in Ballycoolin, in Dublin, is a company specialising in providing POS services to retailers and manufacturers. The largest in Europe, it employs 30 people in Ireland. Customers include Musgraves, Three, Carphone Warehouse, B&Q, etc. Their most recent in-store summer campaign, 'Grillin' and Chillin'', for Tesco, is a perfect example of what it does. It designs and produces in its own premises and then installs the POS collateral in stores around Ireland. This includes signage, floor stickers, shelf-edge labels, and hanging mobiles, for the foyer and store.

"Retailers, manufacturers and cinemas all recognise that once the consumer enters the premises, there is a challenge to convert them from browsers to shoppers. Great POS is a critical ingredient in supporting that objective," said managing director Peter Mahon.

Challenges with point of sale

I was in a financial services outlet recently and I counted 13 different messages at the cashpoint. Some were designed and printed by a professional printer. Others were handwritten while others were clearly printed using Microsoft Word and an in-house printer. The language was inconsistent and it was impossible to see what the succinct message was. Not only that, there were several messages being conveyed in the one space. Some were to promote products and others were to give instructions. If this total confusion sounds like an exaggeration to make a point, it's not. You too will have seen variations on the same madness.

"Far too often consumers are bombarded with all sorts of mixed messages and clutter. That just does more to confuse and annoy than it does to inspire. If I was to summarise the challenges in the world of POS, it has to be consistency and clutter," said Mahon.

Point of sale tips

1 Plan your objective. Think about your objective and decide what is a realistic outcome. Choices include to increase sales, to increase footfall to a location, to inform about an event or promotion, or to create awareness. "For this promotion, the objective was to convey the message that Tesco was the destination for summer," said Mahon.

2 Think of your customer's mindset. Each campaign requires a tailored approach. Customers think and behave differently in summer and winter. When you focus in this way, it will impact on your choices for placement of POS, on the language you employ, the mood or theme, and what colours and style are most relevant. Remember, you want to connect with them, at an emotional and practical level. "We worked with Tesco to better understand the customer, their lifestyle and their motivations at this time of the year," said Mahon.

3 Be consistent. Get your messaging right and ensure consistency across the estate of collateral. This applies to your signage and your display stands (and don't forget your website and advertising). 'Less is more' is a guiding principle here as research shows us that customers tend to only read three to four words in a sign anyway.

4 Get the location right. Location, location, location is an appropriate adage here. The hierarchy of messaging needs to be considered. For example, the message in a newspaper ad is to drive footfall to the store. Radio advertising will highlight a price offer that might be limited by its duration. The message in the car park and foyer of the store is to direct you to specific offers in the store.

In the relevant aisle, the message is to ensure that you are aware of the offer or to cross-sell a product to you. Finally, don't place product signage at the checkout. The customer is not going back into the store to buy something else having paid their money. The corporate message needs to be consistent, such as reiterating what the campaign is about. Also consider the customer journey through your premises. Make sure your message is relevant to where they are at a given time. When they're in the cereal section, they're not thinking of barbecues.


In my experience working with retail clients over the years, I have developed a healthy respect for the sector. I believe retail is a very sophisticated industry that uses a combination of science, theatre and emotions more than most other sectors. Yet there are not many school-teachers that encourage schoolchildren to embark on a retail career. In fact, some teachers use retail as a threat for underperformance.

"If you don't work harder, you'll end up working in a shop." Well bring it on, I say! POS is a perfect example of how retail has advanced. Although POS is a concept born in retail, there are lessons to be adapted across every other sector. Estate agents have to drive sales too and so do hotels and pubs. Don't forget too that many B2B companies book stands at exhibitions where POS plays a part. Websites too can be guided by POS principles. Try some retail POS thinking in your business. I'm convinced you'll get value from it.

Alan O'Neill, The Change Agent Contact Alan if you'd like support with your business. Business advice questions for Alan can be sent to

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