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Understanding the buying habits and behaviours of customers is key to developing the most effective marketing strategies that will lead to sales. Even with the increase in online shopping, the majority of UK consumers today prefer purchasing from physical stores. Key to this trend is the way in which sales displays are presented in-store and how they can influence customers to make a purchase. In addition, a successful sales display promotes brand loyalty and can bring in even more customers through word-of-mouth promotion. To understand what makes a sales display successful, it is useful to understand what POS and POP displays are, how they work, and how to plan one to achieve the maximum marketing effect.


image of store display with acrylic a5 frame

POS & POP explained

The most effective forms of sales display in stores are POS and POP displays. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some key differences between the two.

What are POS Displays?

POS stands for Point of Sale and refers to promotional displays found near or at the point where a sale is made, such as the cash register. POS displays can include display racks or cabinets near the cash register as well as banners, signs, and free-standing displays. The idea behind POS displays is to encourage the customer to add additional products to their overall purchase even if they believe their shopping journey is concluded. If effective, it makes the consumer question whether they have truly collected everything they need, and perhaps they need the additional product featured on the POS display. This is often known as a “problem recognition response”, which puts these products at the top of customers’ thoughts even if they weren’t being considered for purchase before.

What are POP Displays?

While there are similarities between the two terms, POP stands for Point of Purchase. POP Displays can be found throughout the store, from the entry point to a centralised location within the store. Basically, anywhere that the customer is likely to make a purchase but before a sale is made. POP displays can often be found in special product placement zones and can include eye-catching displays that provide information on the products and their unique selling points. For example, to sell the products of a confectionary company at Easter, a special easter display with bunnies and easter eggs will catch the eye of children and parents, while a sophisticated display of a beauty product line is perfect for boutique stores.

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Planning Your Store’s Sales Display Layout

Before you begin planning the design of your displays, you need to understand the layout of your store. First, stand outside the entrance to your store and consider things from the perspective of a potential customer walking in.

  • What are they going to notice as they enter your store?
  • How can you best place your displays to immediately get their attention?

Then consider how the rest of the store is laid out:

  • The aisles
  • Ends of the aisles

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Central Focal Points

From eye-catching posters to floor stickers that direct customers to specific products, visibility is key if you want to create an effective display layout.

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Consider Consumer Buying Habits

Each type of customer has its own buying habits, and marketing that works for one group may not work for another.

There are 11 main types of consumer buying habits, and understanding these is key to creating a successful sales display.

  • Habitual – Makes quick purchasing decisions based on factors such as brand familiarity and lower prices.
  • Complex – Research products extensively before deciding on a purchase, including online reviews and the opinions of friends and family.
  • Dissonance-Reducing – Will choose the product that is most readily available to them, regardless of brand.
  • Variety-Seeking – Will decide to try a new product over their regular purchase to add some excitement to their daily lives.
  • Limited Decision-Making – Where a product is only supplied by a few brands, this buyer will compare the features of each product and choose the one that offers them the most benefit.
  • Impulsive – Makes spur-of-the-moment purchasing decisions often based on promotional methods such as colourful logos and celebrity endorsements.
  • Spendthrift – These care less about how much a product costs and more about how much value it can get out of it. Values established and trusted brands with good customer service.
  • Average Spending – Balances the value of the product with a set budget for how much they are willing to spend. Will compare quotes from different companies to make the best choice.
  • Frugal Spending – Cares more about saving money than about the value of the brand or product. Competitive pricing and returns on investment are some of the ways to appeal to this group.
  • Analytical – Researches products extensively and will weigh up different factors before deciding on a purchase. Case studies and statistics are useful in influencing this type of buyer.
  • Expressive – Values the overall customer experience when making a purchase. By establishing a positive relationship with this type of buyer they can become long-term loyal customers.

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Pricing Display Products

Once you have an idea of the buying habits of your target audience, you can begin looking at the types of displays that will appeal to them. Look at each product type you are trying to sell. Consider what they are, what they look like, and what their purpose is. With this information and knowledge of your customer’s buying habits, you can begin looking at how to promote your products and how to price them.

A colourful and eye-catching display of cosmetic items, for example, will appeal to impulsive and variety-seeking buyers, while habitual, frugal and dissonance-reducing buyers will likely be attracted to a display that promises reduced prices on familiar products. At the same time, displays that offer information about a brand’s history or a product’s features will appeal to more discerning buyers over ones who may simply purchase based on impulse.

In any case, remember to create a display that is easy to change with shifting buying habits or when new brands and products come out.

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Promotional Displays

The purpose of any promotional display is to draw attention to a specific product while making the most of its position in the retail setting. How this is achieved depends largely on the type of display used. There are many different types of promotional displays you can use in retail, but here are some of the more well-known ones:

  • Free Standing Displays: These are the most common form of promotional displays. They can be placed anywhere in the store and are great for highlighting new products.
  • Counter Displays: A cost-effective form of display, these are small displays near the Point of Sale. These are best for small consumables such as beauty products and snacks.
  • Dump Bins: Another cost-friendly promotional display that can be reused for different products. Best for discount and surplus products.
  • Shelf Talkers: Cheap but effective signage that is placed on shelves and product displays to help them stand out. Very effective for encouraging customers to make last-minute buying decisions.
  • Pallet Displays: These work well for highlighting popular and best-selling products to customers so they can locate them easily.

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Store Layout Planning

To maximise the revenue potential of a store, it is best to create an effective layout. Here are the steps needed to create an efficient store plan.

  1. Choose a Layout

There are multiple layouts that can improve a customer’s buying experience depending on the space you have, and the products being sold.

  • Grid layouts display products in long aisles, are very easy to navigate, and encourage customers to browse displays. A good choice for grocery and convenience stores.
  • Loop layouts direct customers along a set path effectively maximising space and exposing customers to as many display products as possible.
  • Free-flow layouts allow customers to explore products and displays easily. Great for small and boutique stores.
  • Diagonal layouts are like grid layouts, but the aisles are placed at an angle, creating better visibility and a more open feel.
  • Forced path layouts guide customers through a single pathway through the store, creating a controlled shopping journey.
  • Angular layouts feature table displays that encourage customers to engage with a curated selection of products.

These are just a selection of the layouts available, and you can always combine them where needed.

  1. Traffic Flow and Customer Behaviour

Consider how customers are likely to flow through your store and try to factor this into your layout. Aim to create an area within the entrance where that is clear and uncluttered, so they won’t feel overwhelmed. Also, keep in mind which direction they are likely to turn first within your store and plan that area out accordingly.

  1. Checkout Placement

This is the last step of a customer’s shopping journey within your store and should be placed at the natural end point of their path. Make sure your checkout area does not take up too much valuable retail space but is still large enough to process items efficiently.

  1. Smart Product Placement

Place your products in locations where they are most likely to catch your customer’s eye. Find out what your most popular products are so you can display them prominently. Also, create space for display items and limited-edition products.

  1. Fixtures and Displays

Consider ways to optimise your fixtures (permanent elements such as rooms, lights, counters, etc) and displays. Make sure your fixtures are of the best available quality and that displays are flexible and can be repurposed where needed.

  1. Customer Amenities

Making customers feel welcome and not overwhelmed is also key to improving their overall shopping experience. Amenities such as seating, customer service areas and dressing rooms are a few ways to encourage shoppers a more enjoyable experience.

  1. Accessibility and Compliance

Ensuring your store is accessible to all customers is important. This includes everything from disabled parking and wheelchair-accessible ramps to navigable bathrooms, dressing rooms and lifts. Make sure your display areas are wide enough and unobstructed so that it is easy and safe to move through them.

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Planning Seasonal Displays

When it comes to promoting seasonal holidays such as Christmas and Halloween, it might be tempting to extend the promotional period for as long as possible. While the obvious aim is to maximise sales, in truth this can have the opposite effect. While you might get a few sales putting out Christmas merchandise in October, most people won’t be purchasing such products this early, particularly when they are more likely to be in the Halloween spirit. As such, it is important to time your seasonal promotions so they can meet demand when it is at their maximum.

Another factor to consider in promoting seasonal products is how much space should be allocated in your store and how much seasonal stock to purchase. Determining how much seasonal stock you need is crucial. Too much and you could lose money from wastage as unwanted seasonal products continue to take up space. On the other hand, too little stock means you will sell out quickly, costing you sales as you wait for more orders to ship. There’s also the issue of not having enough space for seasonal products, leading to unpurchased stock idling in the back room.
To plan out your seasonal displays effectively and make the most of your sales period, keep the following points in mind.

  1. Create a Seasonal Display Calendar

One of the first things to work out is when your seasonal promotion period should begin and end. In addition, you need to determine when demand is at its highest compared to at the start and end when it drops significantly. Keep an eye on demand forecasts as well as past purchase histories to create a calendar that will help you make the most of each seasonal period.

  1. Allocate Space

You will need to have enough space set aside for your seasonal products, but not so much that will lead to wastage. Refer to your calendar and adjust your space accordingly. At first, you will only need a small amount for your seasonal merchandise, ramping up your displays as the season moves into full swing, and then reducing it as things wind down. Consider moving any excess stock to discount sales displays at the end of the season.

  1. Plan Your Display Layout

The primary purpose of your seasonal displays should be to bring new customers into the store and encourage them to make purchases. This can be done by mixing contrasting colours and well-placed display objects to entice buyers. However, the displays should also be used to direct customers to the products you wish to sell most. Examine the buying habits of your customers and the sales methods they are likely to respond to.

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In this guide, we have discussed the difference between POP and POS displays, how to lay out your store for maximum sales, and the different buyer profiles you are likely to find in your store. Please refer to this guide whenever you need extra guidance on how to plan your retail and merchandising displays to create the most positive shopping experience for your customers.

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