Platt Retail Institute: In-Store Advertising Clutter

Mar 18, 2011

a special arrangement, presented here for discussion, is a summary of a current
article from the Platt Retail Institute’s Journal of Retail

In-store, or point of purchase (POP), advertising helps trigger
memory recall, effectively introduces new products, promotes sale items and
educates consumers. Yet with the average person facing approximately 3,000
marketing messages each day, it appears as though marketers’ solution to
advertising avoidance is increasing the number of ads. This results in a
high degree of advertising clutter.

In analyzing magazines, Dr. Louisa Ha, chairman
of the Department of Telecommunications and an associate professor at Bowling
Green State University, identified three separate dimensions of advertising

  • Quantity: The number of ads as well as the percentage of space taken
    by the ad(s) compared to non-advertising content in a particular media vehicle.
  • Competitiveness: The extent to which the advertised products are
    alike and the proximity between ads for competing brands.
  • Intrusiveness: The degree to which advertisements in a media vehicle
    interrupt the flow of editorial unit.

At the store level, advertising, particularly when perceived as excessive, can
result in diminishing returns due to several factors. First of all, advertising
clutter can cause negative attitudes in consumers, such as skepticism or decreased
likability. Second, as individuals are unable to pay attention to all messages
to which they are exposed, clutter results in avoidance of advertising messages.
The third point concerns the fact that high levels of clutter are demonstrated
to decrease brand recognition. Another problem is decreased consumer attention.
Finally, research suggests high clutter generates confusion.

It is evident that
in-store advertising plays a crucial role in reinforcing a brand message. However,
a high degree of clutter can lessen the effectiveness of in-store advertising.
For this reason, retailers and marketers need a solution to help increase how
each message impacts the consumer. An integrated in-store communication strategy
may help to ensure optimum consumer impact. The issue of advertising clutter
has been studied in mass media environments. However, interestingly, there
is not much research on clutter in a retail environment. At this point, we
can only assume that in-store clutter tends to have an effect on advertising
effectiveness similar to mass media clutter. This topic certainly presents
an interesting avenue for future research.

Discussion Questions: How widespread is in-store advertising clutter across retail? What are the best solutions to improve the effectiveness of in-store advertising across the store?

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16 Comments on "Platt Retail Institute: In-Store Advertising Clutter"

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David Biernbaum
10 years 1 month ago

Hmmm, I don’t think that most retail chains are using much POP at all, at least not with signs or POP materials provided by the brands. Most of the “clutter” are price reductions and retailer programs.

Charlie Moro
Charlie Moro
10 years 1 month ago

I was lucky to work with Dave Bronstein who some of you may know, one of his many great observations walking stores back in the ’80s was the term “eye pollution.” Sign work that was over the top gets lost, messages make no sense after a while and credibility even at times becomes in question if you cannot make the backup for the claim stick in every situation.

Make the message meaningful, timely and where you really have the story to tell. “Claim by Association” is sometimes the best result. If I see low price or new in places where I believe and understand the claim, I begin to believe the location is the place for low prices or for new and different items.

Chuck Palmer
10 years 1 month ago

This is an age old tug-of-war. When I was a kid, my father had a small corner store and every beer, wine, snack and soda company wanted to give him decor and merchandising fixtures. He understood this issue implicitly. If you put it all in, none of it will matter.

His was a clean straightforward space and his customers knew they were shopping at Palmer’s not Budwiser-Michelob-Pepsi-Coke-Lays-Hershey’s.

Target does a great job of balancing these pressures on behalf of their customers. Sometimes we want to know about the latest flat screen or shaving technology and sometimes we need to just grab some bread and milk.

It boils down to how the brands, retailers and consumers walk along together. I personally am a fan of clean, organized spaces, but a trip to Best Buy can be fun and full of discovery too.

Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 1 month ago

What also needs to be considered is the quality of the products sold in the store and the level of sophistication of the retailer. In a high-level retail establishment the level of in-store advertising is relatively low which is more acceptable. In a lower quality store, the in-store advertising is relatively high making for more clutter in what usually is a cluttered smaller space.

David Zahn
10 years 1 month ago

Trying to synthesize the above comments, the issue as I see it is that the retailer and manufacturer are focused on their OWN needs and wants and not those of the shopper. Promoting a brand message, a price point, telling the shopper that something is reduced or new does not offer the right information to get the shopper to change behavior. It is up to the shopper to translate that message into a meaningful action. The abundance of messaging serves to cause the shopper to block a good percentage of messaging out (I think pop-up ads on computer screens are a good example…most of us have blocked them from even occurring because they are far too intrusive, inappropriate, and off-strategy for us).

What I think is needed is more focus on educating the shopper as to how products can be used to meet the shopper’s needs (health concerns, recipes, preparation tips, etc.) and more “storytelling” type messaging to create connections. Not just the typical “shouts” that occur in-aisle.

Dan Frechtling
10 years 1 month ago

In DS-IQ’s work with mass merch/grocery in-store digital, we’ve found traditional media clutter definitions such as Quantity, Competitiveness and Intrusiveness aren’t most critical.

Those aspects presume that shoppers are consuming editorial content, and interruption is a nuisance.

With the exception of TV Wall content, this is usually not the case. Shoppers have a trip mission rather than an editorial mission.

Traffic analysis and campaign meta-analysis have uncovered some factors to improve content effectiveness:

1. Spot length. Units should consider shopper dwell time. Shoppers may spend <20 seconds in the front of the store, but more time at the perimeter.

2. Frequency. Programming should ensure a minimum “weight,” perhaps (spot length X frequency)/(loop length). Like many media, there are thresholds short of which advertising doesn’t register.

3. Proximity. Grocery screens may communicate grocery product; health and wellness screens HBA and OTC, etc.

TV Wall (especially at Best Buy) can be an exception because shoppers may be evaluating product and thus care about the viewing experience. Those messages are best when they deliver entertainment value, not just brand communication.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
10 years 1 month ago

The industry sways back and forth on this issue. A retailer will enforce a clean store policy and then move back to POP displays over time. When they become excessive they go back to their clean store policy.

Anything taken to an extreme is not healthy. Eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but 20 apples a day could cause problems. This is no different than how Retailers and National Brands use POP to drive brand awareness and sales. Retailers need to find the right balance and then work with National Brands who are eager to help.

John Hyman
10 years 1 month ago

This conversation is so timely! I was recently in a regional full-line department store and shocked to see a rack of men’s belts adorned with a sign that read:

“This Rack Not On Sale.”

So little merchandise is marketed or sold at the ticket price today and the game of high-low so prevalent that this store felt compelled to call this out to avoid confusion.

My local Kohl’s store is a sea of red toppers because EVERYTHING in the store is “on sale.”

So if 365/24/7 everything is on sale, why clutter up the stores with all this signage and POP?

Michael Tesler
Michael Tesler
10 years 1 month ago

There is a need to better define what “in store point of purchase advertising” is and is not. What Macy’s does most days with product related signage creates a confusing clutter of messages and brings about questions such as what is on sale and what is not. Also, as mentioned many stores are a hodge podge of vendor provided materials in a variety of colors and fonts that clash with each other and the store brand which produces visual clutter and causes consumers to tune out. However, when valuable and important information that contributes to purchase decisions is presented in consistent font, size, and branding as it is done so well in stores like Crate & Barrel, it not only enhances and builds more efficient shopping experiences, it also makes life easier for store staff in that so much valuable information is given to customers quickly, accurately and non-verbally.

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
10 years 1 month ago

In-store advertising is amazing. They build stores with wide isles for ease of shopping and then fill the isle up with displays that block access to products on the shelf and impede the flow of traffic. They place elaborate signs on the displays but cannot keep accurately priced signs on the shelves. The American grocer is the very worst offender and leads the pack when it comes to poor merchandising practices. This is due in most part by the fact that good marketing and merchandising long ago gave way to “who will pay the most” to be advertised and displayed.

Joan Treistman
10 years 1 month ago

“Clutter” is in the eyes of the beholder. What does the consumer see? And of that what is processed? It’s possible to answer those questions directly with appropriate research. You don’t have to suppose. However, the string of commentary suggests that most retailers arbitrarily display stuff with the hope that some of it will have an impact.

Think about your own trips to the office and back, perhaps a daily experience. What signage have you seen? What have you processed? Take a long hard look next time you’re out and you will be surprised as to how little you’ve absorbed. Why should it be different in a store?

You can have material that has been created to grab attention and influence shoppers. However, if it’s placed in an environment with many pieces that are equally well executed, your material is at a disadvantage.

Sometimes less is more. But you already know that.

Jonathan Marek
10 years 1 month ago

Retailers ought to remain firmly in control of POP ads. Obviously, the standards should vary by brand, and there should be a maximum accepted level given the brand’s standards. Within that, though, significant POP ought to be tested, with the mantra that if you can’t prove it works, it shouldn’t go in the store.

Anne Bieler
Anne Bieler
10 years 1 month ago

There is so much to be that could be done by some retailers to simplify the shopping experience. For many, in-store advertising seems like “add-ons” placed by a vendor that can make shopping more difficult. Pricing can be hard to find, out of date or missing, then covered up by specials and promotions. For shoppers, trying to find and select the product can be a real effort as the shelves are crowded and displays are difficult to navigate.

For in store ads to be effective, they have to start with the shopper. They have to work with shelf sets that are easy to scan from the aisle. They have to be easy to read from the aisle, with a clear message. There are many ways to do it right with clear aisles and display plans; with technologies for electronic shelf tags, interactive kiosks (conveniently placed); with well designed retail ready packaging coordinated with primary packaging and POP–as well as great execution.

Herb Sorensen
10 years 1 month ago
The shopper walks into a supermarket, to buy 5 items (the mode). The supermarket has helpfully screened the million items in metro warehouses down to 40,000. The fact is that the shopper is more skilled at eliminating/ignoring the 39,995 they don’t want, than they are at finding the ones they do want. It’s their “clutter filter,” that allows them to automatically ignore all that money making signage the retailer is paid to put up, plus the insane, everything is on sale approach. (Why would this need to be noted? This is a store, isn’t it?) And the fact is that shoppers are NOT moved by price, mostly, they buy what comes conveniently to hand. The shopper’s autopilot doesn’t interrupt the shopper and say, “Oh, look! Here’s something with the price marked down. Shopping is NOT a highly cognitive process, and those of you who walk through a store, carefully evaluating, are probably self-delusional. The objective fact is that you don’t even understand how you shop yourself. The fact that you are using a self-referential base… Read more »
Steve Montgomery
10 years 1 month ago
We ask our retail clients what is their in-store customer strategy? In many cases they don’t have one. We then start asking questions. The first one is whose store it is. The answer is always “it’s mine” or “ours.” Then we start by asking sign by sign why it is there. Generally we find they fall into three groups–those required by law, those provided by vendors and those the retailer sent out. Those required by law are easy–you got to have then and some times where they are placed is even regulated. The best you can do is to make sure they meet the legal requirements and are neatly displayed and not shop worn and/or tattered. Those the retailer sent out require a lot more questions. How many? What size? Is this where they are supposed to be? Etc. The discussion then moves to why this number? Etc. Generally we find retailers either over or under communicate the message they want the consumer to see. The last group is also easy. Unless they are something… Read more »
Ken Goldberg
Ken Goldberg
10 years 1 month ago

I would tend to agree with Dan Frechtling of DS-IQ in terms of what the variables related to effectiveness are. His company is steeped in terabytes of empirical data which they have analyzed, and the three factors he mentions make intuitive sense.

We should differentiate between price point signs, “Sale” POP signs and straight advertising. Straight advertising presents a specific product, and some kind of mix of benefits, pricing and call to action. Price point and Sale signs are non-specific “look here” communications. Both can be effective when used properly.

An in-store media strategy is an important step not just to prevent perceived clutter, but to increase effectiveness of video/digital, print and audio communications with customers. Reach, relevance and the ability to tailor localized messages should be an overarching goal.


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