Point of Sale, The pandemic and beyond

The big focus in recent months for retailers has been on online sales, keeping many – big and small – from dramatic profit loss and in some cases, going under completely. But what about in-store? Obviously during the pandemic, getting customers into stores hasn’t been possible for all, but with the news of vaccine roll-outs it’s worth being ready when eager customers return.


While digital advertising and social media has been the mainstay of retailers looking for their share of the online pound, POS has also had an important part to play during the pandemic.
Used mostly for promotional purposes pre-Covid-19, during the pandemic, large retailers, in particular, have used POS to quickly get customers’ attention and communicate vital health and safety information.


Social distancing is of course entirely different to promoting the latest KitKat flavour with an eye-grabbing POS. But the critical role it has played during the pandemic in providing a safe customer experience underlines POS’ ability to quickly connect with people.


The power of POS isn’t just recognised by marketing types. Research backs up the fact that POS marketing can have a pretty big impact on customer behaviour. For example, advertising a price reduction or special offer increases customer response by six times in store. What’s also really compelling here in making the case for POS is that in the grocery industry for example, traditionally 70% of purchase decisions are made in-store. And if that’s not enough to get you excited about the potential of POS, 68% of in-store purchases are impulse buys, meaning there’s everything to play for with in-store promotion.


It would be naïve to say that consumer habits won’t change at all post-pandemic of course and that all customers will soon return to stores. However, footfall will undoubtedly be much stronger post-vaccine, with POS front and centre of the in-store experience and key to increasing all-important spend per customer.


Recognising this, household names are keeping POS as an integral part of their new product launches and marketing campaigns. In late 2020, Ribena announced it has invested in a significant campaign across all marketing channels – including POS – to launch its new sustainable bottle. And POS remained an integral part of retailers’ promotions during restrictions between lockdowns. Costcutters’ Halloween campaign in October, for example, included opportunities to connect on social media and online but a strong POS presence in-store underpinned it.


POS in action
Of course, it would be all too easy if simply having POS was enough. To engage people, it needs to be creative, stand out and be positioned in the right place to capture people’s attention – no mean feat then!


Let the POS do the work
One of the most straightforward benefits of investing in quality POS is that it helps customers find things more easily and helps busy staff out as they are asked fewer questions about where things are. Sounds obvious right? But it’s often overlooked and isn’t just for bigger retailers. Hopefully smaller retailers who have had to invest in POS for the first time for COVID related reasons around safety and ensuring a one way/safe flow around the store will have realised the benefits and keep using it to their advantage post-pandemic.


Act on Impulse
We’ve all experienced the trip to IKEA for a new bedside table, only to leave with a couple of potted plants and a new picture frame, via the café for a hot dog! Fortunately for retailers, impulse buying is a national habit we’re not going to get rid of anytime soon, and POS was made for it. Research shows that 80% of people admit to impulse buying in store compared to just 6% online. With this in mind, it’s worth considering where you place your POS (by the counter, end of aisles etc) and what products lend themselves to being purchased on the spur of the moment.


Topicality rules
Another sure-fire route to getting the most out of your POS is making it relevant to what people need or want at that point in time. Beyond the obvious like Quality Street tins at Christmas and Jiff lemon and eggs on pancake day, there’s plenty of opportunities to get creative. Evergreen Garden Care, for example, recently teamed up with ex-footballer John Barnes to encourage a new generation of gardeners to earn their Green fingers during lockdown. With garden centres remaining open, POS led the campaign and was sold out in days.


Start a conversation
POS is also a great way to get customers involved in your campaign across marketing channels. An eye-catching piece of POS in-store that features campaign hashtags, QR codes or competition websites allows people to get their smart phones out and start interacting with your brand there and then. Popular toy brand Schleich did just this with its Christmas campaign, after downloading the app, children were encouraged to upload toys at in-store POS to their Christmas wish list and be in for winning one of 20 raffle prizes.
Parents might not be as keen on this one as the children, but it’s a great example of a fully integrated campaign with POS at its heart.


COVID keepers
While we’ll all be glad to see the back of COVID-19, changes to how we view the world and some of our newly acquired habits will likely remain. This plays out in the retail arena too of course and with it brings new opportunities.


When it comes to POS, the revival of click and collect is one such opportunity. Pre-pandemic it never really took off as experts predicted, but now it’s soared in popularity. Sainsbury’s has doubled its click and collect stores in the past six months alone. Naturally, some of this demand will wane, but this new enthusiasm is bound to stay for many whom, having dipped their toe in the water, have now become accustomed to it. With this in mind POS in large retailers’ car parks to promote brand awareness and upcoming offers using bollard covers, exterior posters and mesh screens shouldn’t be forgotten.


Indeed, we mustn’t forget about smaller retailers – many of which have been the worst hit by the pandemic. Fortunately, it’s not only the supermarkets and household names that can benefit from customer behaviour changes brought about by lockdown. As we mentioned, this could be through clever use of instore POS to keep customers moving through the store – originally used for social distancing, but now a useful tool in making sure once inside, they see all you have to offer.


Another great opportunity for smaller retailers is people’s desire to shop local and help independents and smaller chains recover from the pandemic. In a recent study, 67% of shoppers said they are going to shop at local businesses more for this reason. When footfall returns to the local high street, having eye-catching POS displays in place – both outside your store to entice people in and once inside could help secure some of this spend.