Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” This is true in life as well as in the world of retail merchandising. Thorough preparation generally leads to a process that is faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective, while also generating better results and a higher overall return on investment. In today’s post, we’ll share 10 questions you should be ready to answer before embarking on your next display project.
- How many displays do you need?
This is a basic but important question, and it is often used by POP display companies as a way of qualifying customers. If the quantity is too low, you may not be a candidate for a custom POP display and might instead consider a stock display with no minimums or lower minimums. Answering this question also helps to determine manufacturing options. For example, overseas factories might have higher minimum order quantities than a smaller domestic display provider. Even if you don’t know exactly how many displays you will need, providing a quantity range can help to identify the best options.
- When do the displays need to be completed?
This is another basic but important qualifying question. If you need your displays “yesterday” or in a week, chances are you won’t receive a very enthusiastic response from any POP display company. If you have an extremely short timeline, it may be better to go with a stock display that can be ready to ship immediately. Assuming you have enough time to do your next display project, your specific timing needs will help to determine your manufacturing options, most notably if overseas production is an option or if your displays will need to be produced domestically.
- What is your budget?
A lot of customers shy away from this question, particularly inexperienced ones. Either they have no idea what a display might cost or they feel like they will be quoted a higher price if they share what they are willing to spend. The reality is that any customer can get a general idea of what a display might cost by doing some basic research such as looking at similar stock displays online, talking to other companies about what they paid, etc. In addition, customers should understand their own product economics and know how much they have to sell in order to make an investment in a display worthwhile. Not having a display budget is similar to going house shopping without any idea of the price range of houses you can afford.
- What type of display are you looking for?
When it comes to type of display, you should first figure out if you want a temporary, semi-permanent or permanent display. Temporary displays are typically corrugated displays that are designed for in-and-out, seasonal, or promotional programs. Semi-permanent displays are generally designed to last a little longer (maybe 6 months or so) and are therefore made of materials that are a bit more durable. Permanent displays are usually designed to last a minimum of a year and often multiple years.
You will also need to decide if you want a freestanding floor display, a counter display, an inline display, or other type of display. Do you want your display to be 1-sided, 2-sided, or multi-sided? Do you want it to spin? Are you looking for a “glorifier” that is simply intended to showcase 1 product or are you looking for a “stocking” display that holds inventory of your product? These are just a few examples of the questions you may be asked by your POP display company.
- What products and how many SKUs would you like to display?
Be ready to describe your products and the number of SKUs (including colors, flavors, sizes, etc.) that you would like to merchandise on the display. Sharing product photos, spec sheets, physical samples, and planograms are also extremely helpful and can facilitate a streamlined design process. Furthermore, be sure to communicate how many of each SKU you would like to display and how each of the SKUs are packaged (e.g., are they pouches with butterfly holes for hanging, jars that will sit on shelves, etc.?).
- What are the dimensions/weight of your product or preferred display dimensions?
Knowing product dimensions and weights is important as a part of the structural design process. Product dimensions and number of products to be displayed will determine the size of the display. If you are interested in a shelf display, for example, the designer will need to know how big to make the width and depth of the shelf and how much vertical space to allow between shelves.
When giving dimensions, keep in mind the distinction between inside dimensions and outside dimensions. Inside dimensions determine how much product will be able to fit on a shelf, whereas outside dimensions specify the outer dimensions of a display. The weight of your product is also important so the designer can determine the materials that are needed to bear the weight of the product load safely. Finally, if there are any preferences or restrictions with regard to the overall footprint or height of the display, it is helpful to share this information with the design team.
- Do you have any material preferences?
Prior to starting a custom POP display project, think about what materials you prefer. There are a broad range of choices, including corrugated, PVC, acrylic, metal, wood, wood composite materials (e.g., MDF), various plastics, etc. Within each material category, there are a subset of choices. For example, with metal, there is metal tube, wire, and sheet metal, as well as related materials like aluminum and cast iron. There are also various finishes such as powder coating, zinc plating, chrome plating, and more.
Wood has even more choices such as solid wood, plywood, wood composite materials, and related sustainable materials like bamboo. There are hard woods and soft woods and dozens of species of wood that are typically used in POP displays such as pine, walnut, cedar, birch, alder, and maple. There are also many finishes to consider such as different stains, paint finishes, clear coating, and pre-finished options.
When it comes to material options, there is a lot to know. If you are working with an experienced POP display company, they should be able to guide you to the right material selections to meet your design and budget objectives.
- Are there any design characteristics/aesthetics you prefer or is there a certain look you want?
Many customers have a vision or idea of what they want their display to look like. Even if you don’t have a specific vision, it is helpful to the design team if you can describe any design characteristics, overall aesthetic, or vibe you are trying to achieve. Are you looking for a natural/rustic look or a sleek, modern, high-tech look? Do you prefer certain colors? Are there design elements that you would like to incorporate such as dimensional letters, LED lighting, or a digital media player to help tell your story? Sharing images of similar displays, finishes, or looks that you find on Pinterest or other sites can often serve as good inspiration for the design team.
- What type of branding or graphics would you like to include with your display?
The vast majority of POP displays incorporate some type of branding or graphics. Thinking through in advance what type of graphics you would like to incorporate into your display can make the design process much more efficient. Do you only want to include a header sign or are you also interested in side signs? Do you want the signs to be removable/interchangeable? Do you want permanent branding on your display to prevent retailers or other brands from hijacking it? There are lots of decisions that need to be made related to your display graphics. Your POP display partner should be able to guide you through the basics and outline options for you to consider.
As you are preparing graphics files to share with the design team, be sure to have high-resolution files ready, ideally in vectored format with outlined fonts. Numerous formats can work, including AI, EPS, and PDF files.
- Will the displays be shipping knock-down or assembled?
It is important to figure out if you want your display to ship knock-down or assembled. In most cases, shipping a knock-down display will save on shipping costs. However, knock-down displays need to be assembled at retail. If your display takes no more than 15-20 minutes to assemble and if it comes with assembly instructions and the tools to assemble, most retailers will accept it. Assembled displays often ship on pallets via LTL freight. Although this can be a bit more expensive, it is easier for the retailer and generally results in less shipping damage. Irrespective of whether you choose to ship your display knock-down or assembled, it is important to decide on your approach prior to initiating the design process.
While there are many other questions that you might be asked prior to launching your project, these are the 10 questions you should be prepared to answer and prepare for that will go a long way toward ensuring success of your next custom POP display project.
Jim Hollen is the owner and President of RICH LTD. (www.richltd.com), a 35+ year-old California-based point-of-purchase display, retail store fixture, and merchandising solutions firm which has been named among the Top 50 U.S. POP display companies for 9 consecutive years. A former management consultant with McKinsey & Co. and graduate of Stanford Business School, Jim Hollen has served more than 3000 brands and retailers over more than 20 years and has authored nearly 500 blogs and e-Books on a wide range of topics related to POP displays, store fixtures, and retail merchandising.
Jim has been to China more than 50 times and has worked directly with more than 30 factories in Asia across a broad range of material categories, including metal, wood, acrylic, injection molded and vacuum formed plastic, corrugated, glass, LED lighting, digital media player, and more. Jim Hollen also oversees RICH LTD.’s domestic manufacturing operation and has experience manufacturing, sourcing, and importing from numerous Asian countries as well as Vietnam and Mexico.
His experience working with brands and retailers spans more than 25 industries such as food and beverage, apparel, consumer electronics, cosmetics/beauty, sporting goods, automotive, pet, gifts and souvenirs, toys, wine and spirits, home improvement, jewelry, eyewear, footwear, consumer products, mass market retail, specialty retail, convenience stores, and numerous other product/retailer categories.