Activation in-store

Brand activation in-store can so often be a tactic that feels relatively easy to fall back on when sales are looking a little low. And yet it can come with a high price tag, and under such pressured situations it is bound to have high expectations riding on it. So you need to have confidence that the activation planned will be as effective as possible. Of course, you can learn a lot from past sales data, in terms of which campaigns seemed to have the desired effect on shoppers. But unless controlled tests have been implemented (and we all know how difficult it is to create real control situations in retail), sales data can’t tell us which elements of a campaign are driving the successes or failure. So, whether the header, or the fin or the FSDU of any particular campaign were worth investing in or not is often a bit of a finger in the air estimate! And of course, using tactics in a blunt way often just produces a short-term blip in sales, rather than a sustained change in purchase behaviour or brand perceptions.

It is far better to use this tactic in a more measured way. If you include the shopper perspective in the key performance data, to complement the sales story, it can provide a crucial additional layer of understanding: enabling businesses to make important decisions as to which messages and POS are essential for a campaign to work versus what is, quite frankly, unnecessary clutter.

We regularly run programmes for clients to support their activation programmes, helping them get to a greater understanding of the best practice principles that can improve the design briefing process for future campaigns. It isn’t rocket science as it simply involves observing and talking to shoppers, and it’s amazing what you can learn – both in planning a campaign and in evaluating its success:

Firstly, from a planning point of view, you need a clear understanding of the target shoppers your activation is looking to influence:

  • Where do they shop?
  • How do they shop there (what are the shopper missions)?
  • What’s the purchase journey and therefore where are the most relevant touchpoints – in and out of store?
  • Are they frequent shoppers of the category?
  • Are they loyal (to you or your competitors) or repertoire shoppers?

These macro-level shopper insights are easily reached via online research, so can be accessed without having to show your cards too early by seeking permissions for in-store research. And, armed with these insights, it’s possible to set clear guidelines in the design brief regarding:

  • The degree to which activation needs to drive consideration of the category vs the brand – which can inform the communication hierarchy as well as POS placement.
  • The appropriate environments for future brand building activation, and how to tailor brand building communication to fit the channels in which the activation will roll out.

By taking the time to add this different perspective, you and your design agency have a greater chance of hitting the sweet spot when it comes to activation. Which, of course, is more likely to deliver the ROI that releases new funds, and a long term impact on shoppers.


By Danielle Pinnington, MD at Shoppercentric