Drive to de-clutter stores raises prospects for digital

October 1, 2009 by Dave Haynes

The Canadian Out-of-Home Digital Association (CODACAN) had its first breakfast event of the season on Tuesday, attracting a solid crowd to a nice little Italian cafe in midtown Toronto.

There were three speakers, the best from my point of view the leadoff man, James Fraser from retail strategist Capital C. His chatter was all about where retail is and where it is going – the good news being that it is going digital in a big way.


Some of his comments:

– Retailers are moving away from what’s good for the brand and migrating to what’s good for the retailer. That means a de-cluttered retail environment with less visually shouting POP fixtures and posters. He cited Walmart’s Project Impact, which is  transitioning all the stores from venues filled with POP and big-spend promotions to a calmer environment in which no particular supplier stands out. If there are no options to stand out with corrugated displays at the end of aisles and the main walkways, Fraser said brands still need to get noticed and the marketing spend will go to one of few remaining options, digital screens. There is a lot of money that will come into the space, he says, and nowhere else to spend it.

– While research suggests people spend only 8 minutes on average in a grocery, that’s an average. There are a LOT of people who spend an hour or more in grocery each week. The data is also suggesting most people actually like shopping.


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– He says it is the job of the industry to come forward with in-store executions that we can all be proud of … but so far there are more bad examples than good ones.

– Think about the 3-4-5 Rule for creative on screens: the ad is probably seen for no more than three seconds; the ad needs to be easily read from four paces away; and it should contain no more than five words.

– Retailers really need to do the research to determine what is happening in their stores, and tune the messages and presentation accordingly. After much testing and revisions, Walmart (who he admires) has settled on five seconds as the maximum spot length for ads at the entry area, 10 seconds at the category level (like health and beauty) and as much as 30 seconds at the product level (like a shampoo brand).

– Interactive, notably things like augmented reality, is where it is at.

– The move to de-clutter will influence many retailers and he expects widespread adoption of screens, because of that, over the next three to five years. 

Richard Ivey, a senior VP with the planning group Media Experts, related his agency perspective and encouraged network operators and creative people to push the envelope and also deliver more on the potential of the medium. He also suggested much of what they hear from ad-based networks is greeted with amusement.

He said they have little interest in the Cost Per Thousand (CPM) model that most networks pitch them on. “We call that Cost Per Maybe.”

Ivey suggested planners don’t want to know about a network’s audience potential, they want the real numbers. “It’s not about how many people we talk to, it’s about how many.” Something the lines of Cost Per Customer Contact appeals to them more.

The last speaker was John Roe, the director marketing and advertising for Sporting Life, a high-end sporting goods retailer based in Toronto.  The chain is small but the stores are big and influential and do well. They started doing screens in stores about four years ago and have branched out into kiosks.

They learned the screens needed to get down in height as much as possible and that portrait mode was more impactful. They also learned that their audience was sufficiently well-defined and attractive that they could be a media buy, and have done campaign runs, for example, with American Express.

Sporting Life is a big newspaper ad buyer but using a combination of database marketing through email, online and in-store means Roe says his media buying patterns will change. “My goal is to be out of all traditional media in two years.”

All in all, good session and it was encouraging that an afternoon planning session for CODACAN, which I went to, attracted a healthy crowd from the new. Fast-developing Quebec chapter.


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