POP -ularity

Sep 7, 2010

As an industry, restylers and manufacturers suffer with the inability to produce any kind of broad consumer awareness for specific products and services. National advertising campaigns are expensive, so don’t look anytime soon for Super Bowl ads creating a demand for aftermarket accessories.

Grass-roots efforts are more in line with a reasonable, effective approach. This can be achieved with the effective use of point-of-purchase (POP) displays.

Some studies report that 60% of purchases are impulse buying. It’s hard to imagine that someone purchases a $30,000 or $40,000 vehicle on impulse, and we won’t even try to convince you that happens. However, what does happen is people buy accessories for those vehicles and that can be big business for you.

Stimulus package

Primarily, POPs are used to stimulate impulse buying. Think supermarket here. A supermarket is a minefield of POP marketing. Practically nobody escapes untouched. There is a lot of psychology at work here. Items are placed strategically to make you reach for them. Stores are laid out in a manner that impels you to visit areas you didn’t intend, simply so you can be exposed to more – are you ready?- POPs!

POP creation, manufacturing and deployment are actually a huge industry. Since the food industry is reliant on a measure of impulse buying, it behooves us to give some thought to utilizing the same tactics.

Over dinner recently, I had a discussion about POPs with a friend of mine, Tom Markey. I asked him whether point-of-purchase displays ever motivate him to buy anything. At first he said, “No”; then he remembered an incident at an outdoorsman show he attended. “There was a display of water-repellant clothing with water running over it. You could stick your hand underneath the clothing that was being flooded with water and feel that it was completely dry underneath.”

“Did you buy anything?” I asked. “Well, yes I did!” was his response. “In fact, I’m glad the display was there because I wasn’t even thinking about buying that kind of clothing until I saw the display. It made me realize that the clothing was a solution to a problem for me when I’m out hunting and fishing.” He told me it was probably one of the best purchases he ever made.

Markey is a perfect example of what good POPs can do for a product. Far more than forcing unwary consumers to buy something they don’t need, they can provide valuable information and stimulate the thinking of a person-helping to jog the memory of a particular need or desire.

Showroom real estate

Brian Torres is a well-known figure in the automotive accessory industry. He helped pilot APC (American Products Corp.) to its position as a leader in the lighting industry. In fact, APC virtually created the clear tail-light lens product category and was a major force in the sport compact craze. Today, Torres is vice president of business development for Vizualogic, Corona, Calif. Commenting on POPs, Torres told me that “good POPs relay important information to the consumer.”

“Making them interactive is extremely important,” he says. “It engages the potential buyer and gives them time to think about the product and recall reasons why it is something they need.”

I asked Torres about the use of POPs in car dealerships: “That’s a very specialized field,” he says. “Real estate on a showroom floor is valuable. A good dealership POP should have a small footprint and it should complement the look and feel of the showroom.

How can a restyler maximize the benefit of getting POPs in a showroom? Torres had some thoughts.

“Good POPs can be expensive,” he notes. “You need to have a dealer get some ‘skin in the game’ because, otherwise, the POP will end up in the corner of the showroom – or worse, out in the service department shoved against a wall.

“Get a commitment from the dealer to purchase ‘X’ amount of product as part of the deal for obtaining the POP. Have an agreement that if they don’t purchase that ‘X’ amount of product by a certain date, then they will have to pay an agreed-upon price for the POP.”

Torres had another suggestion: incentives. “When a parts department or salespeople are incentivized, they will sell product. This will require agreement from the dealership management, but it can help drive sales,” he says. “Having some type of incentive to the customer can also help to spur them into a buying mode.”

Torres also points out how the design and message of a good POP are extremely important. “Everyone has a big story to tell about their product”, he notes. “If a product has a lot of information, it needs to be boiled down to bullet points. The POP should clearly display those points. Remember there are only a few seconds to capture and keep the attention of a consumer. You can’t waste those valuable seconds with a poorly designed POP.”

Longer buying timeframe

Research has proven that accessory sales do indeed take place after the purchase of a vehicle. Jim Spoonhower of Fast Lane Research, Riverside, Calif., is a recognized expert in the field of data reporting in the automotive industry. I asked him if the current market has affected accessory purchases.

“Data suggest now that the average amount consumers spend on vehicle personalization has dropped a little. It’s now around $1,400,” he says. “The big change is when the purchases are made. Before the recession, most of the customizing products were purchased within the first 60-90 days of ownership of the vehicle. Now the timeframe has stretched out to 90-120 days.”

This kind of information can be very valuable. For instance, working with dealership personnel to establish a follow-up system for accessory sales can be a beneficial way to capitalize on the seeds planted at the time of the sale via effective POP displays and effort by the salesperson to introduce the idea of accessorizing at the time of the purchase of the vehicle.

I wondered about prospects for growth in the accessory industry. Spoonhower had this comment: “Interestingly, market research shows more personalization being done with used vehicles than was done before. Consumers either cannot afford to buy a new car and buy used instead, or they keep their existing vehicle. That means there are more automotive performance parts and accessories being purchased for vehicles that are a few years old.”

Spoonhower also had this observation about the depth of the market: “The really big change is that the recession has driven away most of the mainstream folks who were buying product, and left the industry with the core enthusiasts that are the real foundation of industry sales.”

All of this leads to the inevitable conclusion: People who purchase vehicles will purchase accessories. If the purchases are being stretched out longer, it may very well be that they are waiting until their personal cash flow allows for paying the full purchase price. This presents an opportunity for the sale to take place in the dealership since the purchase price of accessories can be included in the financed price of the vehicle.

Technology to change today’s POP

Obtaining POPs can be as easy as picking up the phone and calling the manufacturers you deal with, your WDs or your other supply sources. Often there is little or no charge for them. Naturally, most manufacturers will provide tons of brochures, fliers and other hand-outs.

What does the future hold? You had better be ready! Recently, the SEMA Sport Performance Council produced the 2010 Business Technology Symposium event. Held in the Pasadena Convention Center, in Pasadena, Calif., the program was an all-day series of seminars addressing the rapidly changing technology around us and how businesses can adapt. In the opening general session, Nathan Sacco from eBay Motors gave an in-depth look at mobile devices and mobile marketing.

“Within three years” Sacco told the filled room, traditional POPs will be gone and will be replaced with technology that allows your potential customers to access your message.”

This view of the future includes the use of barcodes on displays to let your customer check prices, as well as QR [two-dimensional bar] coding that will allow a manufacturer to “push” the information directly to the consumer.

Sacco points out that this will allow some amazing things to take place.

“Imagine being able to access setup information for a device or product, or installation instructions. A manufacturer will be able to keep product information fresh and immediately available to potential buyers,” he says.

Sacco also notes that, literally, billions of mobile devices are in use.

“People are becoming used to immediate access to information”, he says. “This helps forward-thinking businesspeople to realize they need to be ready and able to supply consumers with the product information, applications, the product and manufacturer’s ‘story’ if they’re going to capture sales in the future.”

If you’re like many in the restyling industry today wondering how to generate sales and get your message out, you need to start satisfying the desire of potential customers to have information. Traditional POPs can serve a useful purpose now, but be aware, as well, that big changes are just over the horizon. Your ability to move with the changes in delivering information to people will help shape the future of your business.