Focus on Quality Assurance to transform regional POP investment

By | Leadership, Point of Purchase, Quality Assurance, Shopper Marketing, Value engineering | No Comments


Brands and retailers invest in Point of Purchase materials to influence shopper behaviour and to encourage the customer to choose a specific brand or product at the precise time that they are making a buying decision. The type of investment will be highly dependent upon the opportunity available within the retail store. Each store will be different in some way and will influence the type of POP investment that can be made as well as how it is installed and merchandised. Influencing factors will include level of space available, the shop floor layout and how this influences how shoppers navigate the store as well as other factors such as the retail design and branding of the retailer. It is also likely that there will be differences in the range of items stocked by the retailer, which may also be further influenced by seasonality and climate.

All of these factors create differences from one store to another and these differences can be significant when you start to compare the retail environment from one country to another. Then add in the fact that the consumer has different needs and expectations from one market to another and combined these reasons go a long way to explaining why marketers state “BUT … my market is unique and different”.

This provides the rationale for marketers to go it alone and do their own thing from one country to another. When it comes to POP investment the result is that each market develops its own programme with its own unique set of materials, just for their one market. In almost all cases, they work with local suppliers who provide both the design as well as the sourcing and manufacture of the materials. Having seen this from both a client and a supplier perspective, I can say hand on heart, that the end result is significant waste with average quality materials supplied at inflated prices. Not only is it an inefficient use of funds but more importantly the level of shopper influence achieved is poor and in many cases, not even assessed.

BUT there is a way to overcome this challenge and to deliver better outcomes regionally at significantly lower levels of investment and waste. Brands need to decouple design (how they are seeking to influence) from manufacture (the efficiency in how they translate design into actual materials).

Here is an approach to consider: 

1.) Establish a core purpose for what you want to achieve and ensure complete alignment on desired outcomes on a regional basis.

2.) Identify a representative from each market and create a “design team” that want to work together to create a regional programme that will set them apart from their competitors. Remember “Collective wisdom outshines individual judgement” evert time!

3.) Build a real understanding of every market. Conduct research, undertake audits and interviews and share the results across the team. This will build everyone’s skills and expertise and enable a very strong sharing of best practice, based on own as well as competitor activities.

4.) Find a great company who really understands shopper marketing and work with them to design a range of concepts, agree on key prototypes and work towards the development of a range of materials that, through customisation, will work in every market.

5.) At this point you will have a set of technical drawings for a range of materials that are fit for purpose and will give your brand differentiation in-store.

By focusing on Quality Assurance (QA), you have ensured that your investments will work. The actual sourcing is now easy. Whether the markets want to produce the materials locally (through their local suppliers) or actually aggregate with the other markets becomes highly objective. Any supplier briefed has to quote on the same specifications, “apples with apples as they say”, as all quotations are now 100% comparable. The sourcing becomes a science rather than a decision based on relationships, locality and subjective preferences.

If brand teams can work together across markets to agree on QA then the way that POP materials are currently sourced will be transformed with significant benefits accrued. Just think of what can be achieved:

  • More consistent, on-brand execution across different countries and retail formats
  • Greater innovation through sharing of best practice (more people participating)
  • Greater understanding of retail environments and trends
  • Materials fit for purpose (supported by testing in-store)
  • Improved execution with regional retailers
  • Less duplication of effort and less waste
  • Better prices through aggregation of production runs and tooling etc.
  • Control and ownership over design and Intellectual Property
  • Ability to tender and source materials from any supplier in any location

Come and talk to us at LeanPie if you wish to understand more. With 80+ years of combined experience in the leadership team we understand the challenges and can help brands cut through the complexity to achieve great results.

Engineering: The beautiful swine

By | Engineering, Value engineering | No Comments

Value engineering

A hardly popular choice for students when it comes to deciding their professional future, but certainly engineering is one of the most absorbed practises in the UK; it is embedded into all activities that imply a level of complexity. In the UK, we just seem to add the suffix “Engineer” to many careers or jobs simply to add a buzz word and create theatre behind it, like a technology implied activity that tells those interested that there is an intricate structural and mathematical work attached to it. For many this is considered the boring stuff, the better-you-than-me thing, the weirdo matter.

But what is engineering? If you Google it, the most common definition is “The branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures.” This is clearly not an accurate view and more assigned to the Victorian times, however there is one definition, published by experts at WIE (What Is Engineer), that truly tackles the current feel; Engineering is the application of scientific knowledge to solving problems in the real world. That’s more like it.

Engineering is incredibly time consuming, no matter which branch of science or applied activity it is used for. This is because of its scientific, methodical and rigorous approach to problem solving. It is exactly that thoroughness what makes it an enormously effective practice for any company, not just to those who specialise in tangible products but in services too. It eliminates the chances of error and narrows down the potential solution outcomes of a particular problem.

We could create sophisticated tools to make it easier and speed up its processes, but it will always fall back into one question; “how much value do they really add to products and services?”

Let’s consider for a moment the concept of Value Engineering (VE), the brain child of Lawrence Miles and his team at General Electric in the mid-1940s, who realised that by changing materials and improving specifications without modifying the functionality of their products, they could significantly reduce the costs of manufacturing. That’s value added at its best.

And who is to say that this same principle can only be applied to manufacturing products. The  key to VE, also known as Value Analysis (VA), is to understand tasks and processes with absolute clarity so they can be described in two words, literally. For instance; the function of a drill is “making holes”, or the job of a priest is to “save souls”. To say this without entering heated debates requires us to identify the purity of a functionality in two words. Achieving this opens up possibilities to alternatives to drilling holes or saving souls, and therefore to truly breakthrough thinking on problem solving.

Engineering is a science and a practice, boring and exciting in equal measures, and if well implemented, it could become one of your best core business services and unique selling points.