Cube Conversations: We chat with SMP’s Chris Carter about the importance of creativity in the retail space

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Welcome to, what will be the first of many, Cube Conversations. We’ve been banging on about social media being all about conversation for ages, but our blog posts have been a little ‘one way’. So we’re putting our money where our mouth is and getting stuck into conversations with a range of industry people, which will then be shared with you here. It goes without saying that you’re welcome to comment or ask questions to keep the debate going.

To kick it off one of our favourite PR’s, Henrietta Mackenzie, had a chat with Chris Carter, Director at SMP, on the relevance of creativity in the retail space.

HM: So Chris, give me your thoughts on of how creativity affects the retail space?

CC: Developments in the retail space have led to remarkable new creative solutions which make the shopping experience more informative, interactive, logical and, of course, enjoyable. With up to 70% of brand purchase decisions taking place in-store – and research indicating that 25% of shoppers are buying items they didn’t plan to purchase – the advantage of effective ‘stand-out’ is clear to see.

HM: And how do you achieve an ideal retail environment?

CC: Achieving an optimal in-store environment requires satisfaction from all the stakeholders involved: the consumer, the retailer and the brand. The underlying foundation to an ideal retail environment is a clear understanding of how the consumer wants to ‘shop the category’. Understanding the consumer journey and the broader context of their purchase helps to create a logical approach.

For example, if a consumer is looking to purchase a television, there is a step-by-step approach that helps them to understand 1) the technologies available, 2) the placement solutions, 3) accessories and peripherals, 4) warranties and 5) payment methods. If this is laid out as a clear facilitated journey on the shop-floor we get the opportunity to delight consumers and optimise spend.

HM: How exactly does creativity influence consumer activity within the retail space then?

CC: The creative interpretation needs to enhance the journey without confusing the consumer with needless creative clutter. Consumer journey tracking techniques, where the consumer is observed at a macro (whole shop) or micro (category shop) level helps us to reach the optimum solution; a solution which needs to work at a headline level (category enticer) and a detail level (up-sell messaging and simple education prompts to demystify complex product purchases).

HM: What are retailer’s main objectives?

CC: From a retailer perspective the over-riding objective is to maximise return-on-space. How this is achieved will depend on the role the category plays for that retail chain (e.g. Traffic Builder, Image Enhancer, Profit Generator etc.). The degree of creativity will be assessed against the retailer’s policy to in-store attractors, the role the category is playing (a high margin image enhancer category would merit more creative display) and the degree to which creative presentation is proven to drive sell-out.

HM: So what are the brand’s main objectives?

CC: From a brand perspective the objective is to demonstrate retail partnerships that drive category growth. A sound strategic understanding of your category’s consumers, built on qualitative and quantitative research findings that can inform category presentation, is what retailers crave. Overlay this data onto the retailer’s own consumer profile and category sell-out history to create a compelling fixture that 1) occupies the right position in-store, 2) attracts attention, 3) presents the most appropriate range and 4) provides compelling and relevant benefit messaging that will deliver results at the checkout.

In tier one retail stores with high footfall and visibility opportunities (e.g. Heathrow T5) fixtures may warrant a significant investment to create a high impact showcase. But creative solutions don’t need to break the bank. A complementary creative proposition can be rolled out across a retailer’s broader store portfolio using simple magnetic fixture cladding to create a consumer experience.

HM: And is it possible to accurately measure this success?

CC: The key is to develop an investment matrix based on assessment of the retailer’s store portfolio against pre-determined criteria. This should include existing sell-out data, forecast sell-out data (i.e. what can that store and its catchment deliver?) store profile, catchment area consumer profile, footfall and placement opportunities. Cross-reference these with the role in-store plays for the brand; is it a product bought ‘at the fixture’ or a pre-determined brand purchase decision made out-of-store; does the category lack excitement; will excitement entice purchase etc? With this you have the basis for some informed decision making. A pilot measured against control stores would then help you to determine the success of your creative solution and the appropriateness for a broader roll-out. Couple a creative fixture solution with a complementary pack design that embodies the core values of the brand / product while delivering all the necessary information to inform the consumer and assist the purchase. In this way brands can optimise all touch points to ensure that every ‘base is covered’ and deliver a truly compelling brand experience.

HM: Finally, is retail creativity a bit of a pitfall or an opportunity?

CC: The choice is yours. Without doing your homework the pitfalls can be many and varied. Get it right and the opportunity to harness the power of creativity to enhance the shopping experience is huge – and the results will show on your bottom-line.

SMP is a fantastic agency based in Tunbridge Wells. They’ve won lots of awards for their work in channel, experiential, direct, sales promotion and digital marketing. Take a look at their work here.


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  1. Joe Lanigan says:

    I liked the interview very much, I found it informative and has raised further questions on these issues, also. Clearly Chris has an excellent understanding of the marketplace and what makes consumers tick.

    Retail creativity is a strong prospect that, if used productively, should bring an added value proposition for the consumer, whilst being
    seen on the bottom line.. Excellent interview, with plenty of food for thought.

    I agree with Chris when he says that “the creative interpretation needs to enhance the journey without confusing the consumer with needless creative clutter.” This is not often thought about when promoting a product or service.

    Retailers need to look through the yes of their customers more regularly, in order to keep up with an ever changing market place and a growing population of highly sophisticated and diverse audiences.

  2. Stuart Penny says:

    Couldn’t agree more that all stakeholders must be satisfied, which includes the community surrounding the retail environment as well.

    In the example of buying a television, Chris how consumers will logically think when purchasing. But without the value factor, alongside the costing and the costing compared to the internet’s vastly reduced prices, these consumers will often refuse to part with their money before exploring all avenues to getting the best deal in the market.

  3. Chris Carter says:

    To Stuart’s point, Retail Creativity is arguably becoming increasingly more important in a multi-channel world where prices are inevitably lower online and where (to Joe’s point) Consumers are more sophisticated. For the traditional retail environment, Brands and Retailers need to look to creativity to help provide a differentiated and compelling shopping experience that gives Consumers something that they cannot get online. The opportunity to bring a brand alive in a 3D retail space and to enable Consumers to physically interact with their purchase (i.e. to try before they buy) is important in many categories. Once the creative environment is in place, Brands and Retailers need to provide compelling offers and incentives to convert the Consumers in-store as opposed to losing them to the web for the purchase transaction. Here the traditional retail environment has the added advantage of being able to play on immediacy; the ability to take the product home there and then (with no delivery charges…).

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