"Point Of Purchase Magazine"
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Growing Markets Drive Activity In Automotive POP
New customers, a variety of store formats and the nations
continuing love affair with cars spur brisk POP business.
By Gail Walker
Producers/suppliers of automotive POP are busy these days. Where just
a decade ago the market for automotive products was comprised almost
entirely of blue-collar males, an influx of new customers, including
white-collar consumers and women shoppers, has created a different world
for aftermarket retailers and the brands that supply them with goods and
services not to mention for auto makers and their retail
As the countrys fascination with cars continues, the increasing
diversity of markets and a huge range of products along with the
growth in do-it-yourself, do-it-for-me, tire and auto accessory retail
has created the need for more effective in-store displays. While
the bulk of aftermarket POP is still temporary and tied mainly to brand
promotions, permanent informational POP is showing up more often on
these retailers floors and in other venues as goods manufacturers
vie for consumer attention.
Auto Makers Add Multimedia POP
At the beginning of the vehicle marketing chain, OEMs (original
equipment manufacturers) themselves have added POP to their marketing
Since the success of Chryslers groundbreaking 1995 program,
which took its message directly to car buyers via interactive cart
displays rotated to regional malls throughout the country, other
manufacturers have followed suit.
In partnership with Exhibitgroup/Giltspur, New York City-based Planet
Theory, which specializes in interactive and multimedia, has developed
seven different exhibits for General Motors/Pontiacs booths in the
North American International Auto Circuit, including this years
Detroit Auto Show. In a program called Build Your Own Pontiac, kiosks
allow consumers to select the model, color and features of their dream
car. Onscreen, a huge robotic machine assembles the vehicle. The dealer
locator identifies the closest showroom by zip code. The custom car, its
price and dealer information is printed out for the potential buyer to
"GM had never invested in three-dimensional on-screen graphics
before," says Judith Keenan, a Planet Theory principal. "But
when we showed them the prototype they realized what a powerful
entertainment experience it is. You have sound. You have visuals. You
have a touchscreen with 3-D imaging. So you have much more entertainment
value by the very definition of multimedia than you have in a static
"Auto makers are interested in interactive displays for the same
reason a lot of retailers and consumer product manufacturers are
interested: they are looking to have consumers participate in their
brand," Keenan continues. "Multimedia is a very involving
medium by which to convey your marketing message; you are getting the
consumer to actively participate in the brand. When you are building
your own car, you are quite literally involved in the brand."
Another kiosk called The Accesorizer features a catalog of
Pontiac-branded merchandise with an on-screen order form. After browsing
products, such as coffee cups, watches, caps and jackets, users can
print out their order and send it to Pontiac. According to Keenan, GM
opted not to make the kiosk transactional because of security concerns
involving the use of consumers credit cards on the show floor.
"The hard-core marketing back-end of [interactive displays is
that they allow] information gathering," notes Keenan. "If we
make these installations provocative enough, then customers give their
names and addresses voluntarily." A Lichtenstein-inspired comic
book is the theme for Pontiacs Customer Service Experience, which
encourages users to complete a customer survey, add themselves to a
mailing list and e-mail Pontiac with suggestions. "Using a comic
book theme for the customer service pod was a clever and cute way to
entertain people and invite them to give this information," Keenan
Dealerships Upgrade Showrooms
"As with many retailers, automotive companies are not
necessarily using more POP, they are just using it differently and more
effectively than in the past," notes Paul Bloom, director of
marketing for DCI Marketing. The Milwaukee-based firm has recently
completed dealer showroom projects for Acura and Subaru, and last year
won gold OMAs for development of permanent floor displays for Buick and
Chevrolet see (Point Of Purchase Magazine, May, 1998).
"There is a lot of branding going on in the dealerships,"
Bloom continues, "and we are seeing more complete retail
environment design as opposed to the stand-alone pieces of POP here and
there that you used to see." He explains that auto dealers want
their showrooms to be customer-friendly, while taking advantage of the
customer-contact opportunity to build image and define or reinforce
brand. As a result, says Bloom, "Instead of using a mix of various
types and designs of POP, automotive manufacturers and their dealers are
creating entire retail environments consistent with the image they want
to convey for their given brand.
"Additionally, auto retailers are doing much more to create a
showroom atmosphere aligned with their customers interests and
shopping behaviors," says Bloom. Acuras new showroom, for
example, includes a logo wall and reception area, a technology wall and
a customer center, which together allow car shoppers to browse and
gather information independently, while at the same time, provide
salesmen with a strong selling tool. "For todays busy
consumer, the shopping experience is as important as the purchase
itself," states Bloom.
Interactive Displays Gain Ground
Interactive POP is assuming a larger role in this product category
more rapidly than in some others because it is particularly suited to a
variety of automotive applications. Shelf-mounted and countertop
electronic catalogs, for instance, can contain the entire range of
offerings from a variety of vendors complete with parts numbers and
pricing information. Easily updated and easily accessed by employees
(and in self-service formats by customers), these units are replacing
bulky printed catalogs that employees used to haul up from below the
The availability of automotive software programs also may increase
the role of interactive POP in this retail segment. One product on view
at last Novembers Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) in
Las Vegas was popular with attendees because it enables customers to
test accessories on a vehicle electronically, before physically bolting
them on. Dubbed Customize-It, the computerized, interactive sales tool
from JBR Marketing allows consumers to preview virtually any combination
of automotive accessories on a specific vehicle. The customer chooses a
specific vehicle make, model and color, along with the accessories they
would like to see on the car or truck. The screen displays the results
and offers the option of a color printout or CD-ROM to take home.
Promotional POP Proliferates
The popularity of motorsports in general, coupled with its explosive
growth in recent years, has fueled a proliferation of temporary POP
linked to automotive brand promotions.
Motorsports is currently the No. 1 choice for sponsorship dollars
across all industries, estimated by the IEG Sponsorship Report at $1.1
billion in 1998. Established names like NASCAR, along with leagues like
CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) and IRL (Indy Racing League), have
millions of fans and hundreds of product licensees. And
thats just one reason for the increase in contest and giveaway
POP, such as standees, floorstands and ballot boxes.
Another reason is that the demographics of motorsports watchers are
the same as for many vehicle aftermarket accessory/service shoppers, so
store-level advertising shares an equal focus with other elements in
many automotive product producers programs. And still another is
that brands find aftermarket retailers are eager to use this POP because
their customers like promotions involving the sponsors of their favorite
race drivers and they buy those products. "Racing fans are
the most loyal when compared to all other sports," according to
Bill Furtkevic, corporate communications director for Pep Boys.
"And with 81 percent of the spectators male with an average age of
40, and 63 percent of viewers who are male with an average age of 38,
they match Pep Boys target demographic perfectly."
In addition to a multi-million-dollar title sponsorship of the IRL
series, last year the Philadelphia-based chain committed $1 million to
the IRL championship team and became the official auto parts store of
the IRL and of the Indianapolis 500. One of the chains related
promotions, called the MCI/Pep Boys Million Dollar Driver Sweepstakes,
included floorstands and ballot boxes in all 635 store locations where
customers could pick the IRL driver they thought would win three races
out of the series.
According to Furtkevic, Pep Boys believes its IRL links will not only
drive additional traffic through its doors but also will provide
promotional and brand-building opportunities that are not feasible via
electronic and print advertising. He says Pep Boys is experimenting with
several POP elements, including floor graphics and window banners in
concert with promotional events like car and driver appearances, to see
what mix has the best effect in its stores.
New Store Concepts Incorporate POP
Consumer trends driving other types of retailing are also affecting
automotive store concepts, design and display.
Last July, a "cool stuff" automotive store called AutoFun
opened its doors in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The superstore is
exclusively dedicated to aftermarket accessories, electronic and
communications systems that add vehicle entertainment, comfort, safety
and convenience. Shoppers are entertained with multiple interactive
features including a wall of sound for "test-driving"car
stereo systems and an interactive security system. Other displays
feature classic and show cars, an AutoFunMobile (a 1998 VW Beetle)
accessorized with products sold at the store, and an area for shoppers
waiting for installation of the products theyve purchased.
AutoFun President Jeff Abrams says response to the store has been
"phenomenal," and notes owners of trucks, vans and SUVs spend
an average of $1,000 to $2,000 on aftermarket products. Plans are
underway to open three additional stores by this summer.
Suzette Hill,Steven HallandAndrew Stoycontributed to this report.
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