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How to choose an in-store marketing system for your retail business

The future of retail is still in-store.

The big noise in retail as we all know is eCommerce and digital tech to feed the beast. With mind-boggling amounts spent on harnessing new technology and innovation, every week sees new announcements about AI, metaverses and robot innovations, released with great fanfare as the “next big thing” to drive sales for online.

But on average, 80% of a retailer’s revenues still come from in-store purchases. So why isn’t more available to help drive innovation, cut costs and deliver extra revenues through targeted marketing when consumers walk through the front door?

Well, the good news is, it is.

Why choose an in-store marketing system?

In-store marketing systems can help you deliver demonstrable return on investment from your marketing campaigns, and form a strategic part of your business. 

A good in-store marketing system for retailers isn’t just a tool for your operational staff that improves on spreadsheets and manual processes. It’s the powerhouse that drives your in-store marketing, cuts costs and maximises revenues for your company and your brand partners. All while giving you granular control of messaging and real-time data analysis of store performance. The information and insights it gives you can inform strategic retail decisions as you compare sales numbers against campaigns and react to competitors and market conditions on a store by store basis.

But it’s important to know how to judge what is being offered. Free options will often have hidden costs and limit the strategic insights you get, while large systems that include a lot of functionality often lack the granular detail you need to effectively streamline processes.

Working collaboratively on marketing

What to look for in your in-store marketing system?

Consider information output rather than system features

Many providers of in-store marketing systems will major on features (i.e. what the system does, what you can do in it). And while these are important, instead, consider your needs and the advantages of adopting one. A good system should form an intrinsic and strategic part of the marketing mix in your business.  So, consider what challenges are you having in your business? Will it enable you to solve them? The operational process can save time, but what will you do with the saved time? Does it give you the information to make required changes? And what information will you get out of the system that you can use to inform revenue generating activities. 

Will it generate Return on Investment?

Furthermore, it should pay for itself many times over. There are many things a system can offer you, but the headline things to look out for centre on two things: The ability to save in your workflows and supply chain – time, resource, material and labour costs and it should reduce or eliminate errors. 

If the basics are in place, the system should also help you earn. Marketing is there to drive sales, either for you or for your partners. If your marketing is inaccurate, or missing completely, it is simply akin to burning your budget in the car park.

So the following are the things you should be looking out for:

A single source of truth

The nature of retail marketing is collaborative but remote. Head office marketing teams collaborate with design agencies, printers, suppliers and stores to plan and execute in-store campaigns.

Therefore, you need your system to be a single source of truth. A hub of information, including fixtures and fittings of stores, printing costs, campaign deadlines, creative work, and compliance guides. It’s important that the relevant users can access and update the relevant information too.  

If a system looks mostly good, but there’s one thing that you’ll need to use a spreadsheet for, try to see if the software company will improve that for you. If not, then go somewhere else. Having to supplement the system with spreadsheets defeats the purpose.

Guaranteed accuracy in allocations

One of the key challenges we see in retailers is that with hundreds of stores, spreadsheets simply can’t maintain details on the number of fixtures, fittings and displays available in each store. So ultimately, this leads to over-allocating POS signage to small stores, wasted budgets and detractors from your net-zero targets.

With an in-store marketing system, this information should be accurate, updated constantly, accessible, searchable and granular. There should be no mistakes and campaigns should be quick to set up, so it’s not a huge job for people. Allocations should be controllable to the finest detail (single place in a single store) up to macro level. With this structure, when you go to run multiple campaigns, all the information is there, readily available. You don’t have to check it, and you can be confident that whether you are running campaign activations, visual merchandising, experiential activities or paid media placement, it will be right every time.

Supplier independence

Some systems are managed by your supplier. This can be helpful as it can outsource some administrative work and take that off your plate. However, this very much ties you to a specific supplier, and limits the information available to you. When you consider the importance of your stores to your marketing mix, strategically, can you really rely on third parties to manage such a core competence? 

Our opinion? Your system should own your store data and should survive changes of suppliers. It should work for you, not for your supplier.

Clean user interface

If you currently use spreadsheets, selecting an option that just looks like another spreadsheet or reminds you Windows 97 is a missed opportunity. I know we’re going into features territory here, but hear us out. A good UI design is about form and function. It shouldn’t just look attractive, but should enable users to easily perform the work they need to complete.

The whole system should be intuitive, for your head office, studio or design team and store users. There should be training materials and videos included and a regularly updated help desk. It should require minimal support and there should be no extra charges for this.

Regular updates

The rate of change for technology isn’t slowing down. With the updates to security protocols, changing regulations and new emerging technologies, the system you need today is likely to be different to the one you need 5 years from now or even in 3 years.

Therefore, it’s important that chosen technology partner is committed to continuous improvement and innovation of the system you’re choosing. Ask them how frequently they deploy updates and even for a copy of their most recent release notes. For cloud-based software, releases could be as frequently as 2-weeks with new features every 3 months. 

Your system should be constantly evolving and improving to help you deliver the most effective marketing possible.

Compliance tracking

When you execute in-store campaigns, can you run audits to ensure everything is deployed accurately? An in-store marketing system will allow you to communicate with store teams and run audits of their store setup. They should be able to run through checklists to ensure they put up signage accurately and provide photographs and feedback to demonstrate compliance to head office.

No longer will you be waiting for emails with images of incorrect signage, questions or damaged items. Everything should be in the system with a full audit trail of who did what, and when.

Having a complete view of compliance will mean you can align merchandising and marketing efforts to increase revenues.

shopping for an in-store marketing system

Minimised time and complexity

One of the biggest improvements any software can deliver is time-saving. If your software is complicated to use, or requires so many additional steps to your process that it actually slows you down, it should be avoided.

Marketing teams are highly qualified professionals responsible for driving revenues in your business, yet often spend their time managing spreadsheets. Automation can remove headcount from your business, driving cost savings. It can also free those same people to be deployed on higher value tasks, rather than juggling spreadsheets, manually checking plans and installs, and fielding mistakes across large store estates.

Imagine technology giving you the equivalent capacity of an extra staff member? It should. This frees up your team to focus on activities that drive value to your retail organisation.

Easy accessibility

In today’s remote landscape, accessibility is essential. People need to be able to access information wherever they are. This is especially true when head office teams are collaborative with teams in stores.

Does the platform have a low level of access complexity? Can it link in to your own active directory or single sign on? Can you access it through other applications, such as MS Teams? Staff members on the shop floor have too many applications and access passwords. Your in-store marketing system should work with what you already have or replace other software to simplify operations.

Streamlined approval and creative process

Getting the creative work right is critical campaign performance, and having to collaborate in person or via an external platform adds inefficiencies and potential errors into the process.

A good system should have an integrated set of workflows and hierarchies to brief, create and approve artwork, plus variations. Find a platform where amendments can be tracked, approved and delivered to printers and other suppliers in real time, ensuring mistakes can be rectified with minimal or no cost.

Driving revenues in retail stores with marketing

Cost savings

Accurate data and visibility when planning, producing, delivering and analysing your marketing will drive cost savings in time, materials and logistics. A good system can easily save you 20%+ on your budget, which you can reinvest in the front line and drive more revenues from your customers.

Actionable insights

One of the ongoing challenges with in-store marketing is the lack of insights available to you. It certainly doesn’t compete with online or ecommerce analytics capabilities. However, a good in-store marketing system will give you real-time insights into campaign effectiveness so you can be more agile, react to trends and inform future campaigns decisions.

A good system will give you granular detail of campaign performance, including whether campaigns are on-time, in-budget, and compliance. This is how you can manage the quality, cost and delivery performance of campaigns. Additionally, you should be able to link with 3rd party systems including your POS and ERP systems to give you more insights into how your campaigns are impacting product sales and revenues.

It’s important that this information is delivered to your business in real-time, so you can quickly capitalise on trends and rectify any campaigns that aren’t having the desired impact. Being able to give different stakeholders in the business, from marketing directors, campaign managers and retail operations, personalised information views and escalation paths for issues can be a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page, with full accountability.

Paid media

As mentioned initially the true value of your in-store marketing system lies in the information is captures for you. If your system is a tool to order paper and ink, it’s not delivering true value. Up to 80% of a retailer’s transactions happen in store, yet point of sale is often treated as an afterthought, not a driver of revenues for retailers and brand partners.

With visibility of in-store displays and links to sales data, you can identify which placements deliver maximum impact on sales. This helps you plan your own campaigns, and also negotiate paid media placements with brands, while giving them visibility of their ROI with you.

Choosing your in-store marketing system.

Of course, there are many other considerations when choosing a platform and indeed a partner to work with for something that can be so transformational within your business. By making an informed decision with strategy in mind, not only will you save your business significant sums of money and cut errors and admin time, you’ll also drive strategic advantage and future-proof your organisation. You’ll be able to better integrate your in-store marketing with your omni-channel strategy and break down walls between data pools for better insights.

Want to learn more about how an in-store marketing system can transform your business?

Take a look at our platform

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