Make It POP

Large format’s advances have led to a growing impact at points of purchase.

There’s more “pop” to P-O-P (point-of-purchase) marketing these days, thanks in part to advances in large-format digital printing.
Print services providers who specialize in point-of-sale collateral report clients are embracing digital’s easy set up and quick turnarounds, short runs, and variable print capabilities for fresh approaches to in-store marketing.

Digital isn’t about to supplant traditional print, they note. Rather, it is establishing its niche as a creative way for marketers to pre-test and refine concepts before a roll-out,to easily cater displays and signage to a region or store, and to support in-store events with special displays and signage.

The good news for PSPs is that many who could benefit from the advantages of large-format P-O-P have not yet embraced the technology. With each successful campaign incorporating digital printing, awareness builds and demand follows.

There are growth opportunities for any PSP who can sell the benefits of digital large format as a key component of P-O-P displays and provide the deadline-sensitive fulfillment services clients demand. Even small shops can make headway with P-O-P, touting digital capabilities to local chains and independent retailers.

Collectively, the prevailing view among specialists in these services is that the success of printing in P-O-P is just a hint of what’s ahead for large-format digital printing inside stores, wherever the consumer meets products.

Comfort Zone
Digital Impact (www.digitalimpac.com), the large-format digital printing division of the VT Group, Yeadon, Pennsylvania, first introduced clients to the digital large-format option in 2004. “Demand has been growing year-to-year as more people get comfortable with digital printing, and understand its benefits and how to use them,” says Robert Mormile, VT Group president and CEO.

With Durst Rho 900 UV flatbed and Rho 1000 corrugated flatbed printers, the company is equipped for P-O-P on a grand scale. One recent project required a total of 6000 displays, with seven different variations of the same concept and a turnaround time of just one week. “It’s the kind of thing you just could not do with litho or flexo,” Mormile says.

He estimates half the company’s P-O-P buyers arenow employing digital large format in some aspect of store promotions: “For many, it’s still not yet in their wheelhouse, but more are starting to understand it as they see and hear about it.”

Those already in the know have made large format a strategic marketing tool for all its advantages. “One of the nicest things about digital is we can take any kind of graphics and print it,” Mormile says. “They can design just about anything.”

The range of materials allows clients more optionswhen designing and building displays. “We run styrene anda lot of plastics for promotional displays,” Mormile continues. “We can even print directly to wood or fabric, if that’s what they want.”

Savvy marketers order a few samples to test a display and campaign in stores before ordering a full production run. When they do, some tap the technology’s variable print capabilities for localized P-O-P. Occasionally, digital is also employed as the most cost-effective way to produce a limited run of additional displays required for a campaign. “Sometimes, [the advantage] is the speed to market of digital,” he adds.

For all of these reasons, he’s bullish on large format’s future in P-O-P production. “In the early days, the technology was slow and the quality wasn’t that great,” Mormile says. “We’re pretty quick now, we can crank out a lot of sheets, and the quality and speed will only get better.”

Fresh Approaches toIn-Store Marketing
At Ingram Express (www.ingramexpress.com) in Nashville,owner Adam Ingram says, “We’re able to help ourclients grow because we can present them with ideasthat just weren’t available before.” Digital printing for the P-O-P market is gaining in specialty applications where production speed, print-run volume, and pricing are not paramount concerns.

In business 20 years as a print fulfillment center, Ingram was outsourcing occasional requests for short-run P-O-P until two years ago. He reasoned that adding digital printing in-house would make his company more appealing to clients as a one-stop shop. He started with a flatbed printer that he thought would give the company that presence.

“I didn’t do enough homework, and learned the speeds of digital printers aren’t always what the manufacturers claim,” he recalls. With demand for these services already seeded, he had no choice but to re-invest.

After evaluating the state of the technology, he decided Agfa’s Jeti TitanX delivered the best performance for his budget. “We found the Agfa very close to offset in print quality, and we can get 800 square feet out of it an hour,” he explains. In December 2013 he installed an Agfa Jeti TitanX UV flatbed. By the following June, he needed another.

Ingram is pleased with how quickly some clients embraced digital printing. “It surprised us in a way,” he admits, “and we’re continuing to see more demand as people discover what we can do.” Some order only a few, even a single display, for placement at retail to gauge effectiveness. Others now localize their P-O-P; one client ordered eight different versions of the same basic display.

“It’s giving them a lot more leeway to do multiple versions and test their ideas in ways it would just be too expensive to even consider with offset printing,” Ingram points out.

In some quarters, these are still new concepts. “Some customers have been very receptive to these ideas, while with others, you really have to teach them about it and show them the kinds of things you can do. That gets them thinking how they can use it.”

In Cincinnati, Corey Buck, national accounts manager for Stevenson Color (www.stevensoncolor.com), agrees. “Many times, the real depth of what we can produce does not sink in until we’ve designed or produced a creative solution,” he says. “Once a customer has this positive experience, they tend to lean into our creative departments for more ideas and that leads to more digital projects.”

Ninety percent of the company’s business is in production of P-O-P materials, and most projects involve large-format digital printing in some way. As demand has grown, so has the company’s investment in digital printing. Stevenson has a pair of HP Scitex 10000 flatbeds for printing on a range of substrates, and the HP Latex 3000 printer for roll-to roll material used for floor graphics, backlit banners, and other signage. “Even though our capacity has increased, we continue to see increasing demand,” he reports.

Buck says clients are turning to digital for its creative options, short- and quick-run projects, the ability to easily test and use a range of substrates, and, on some projects, cost efficiency over litho. “All lead to the demand for more creative and just-in-time services,” he says.

Like other P-O-P specialists, he says it’s his company’s ability to offer digital routing, die cutting, hand assembly, and kit packing services as complements to digital printing that make it such a practical, attractive solution. “This combination has proven to retail customers we can provide manufacturing options that match or exceed their creativity,” Buck explains. “We also have in-house graphic and structural design, which complements our digital capabilities and allows customers to be more creative in producing impactful P-O-P.”

Partnering for Mutual Success
Because some marketers aren’t yet fully aware how digital printing can enhance P-O-P campaigns, the most successful PSPs see the need to partner with clients and advise them on how to use the technology and media to capture shoppers’ attention in stores. “There can be a lot of counseling that goes on, a lot of touches,” notes Brandon Clark, VP of business development for Corr Digital (www.corrdigital.com), Jacksonville, Florida.

“A lot of our success comes from having salespeople who understand the technology, are excited about it, and can show clients options, whatever their budget.” Seventy percent of the company’s output is in P-O-P materials, produced on a mix of Océ, HP, Epson, and Konica Minolta roll-fed and flatbed printers. The diverse capabilities of these systems and the creativity that digital allows can stretch the definition of what constitutes effective P-O-P. “Some people don’t fully grasp that P-O-P today can be much more than displays or counter cards,” Clark notes. “There’s so much more we can provide them with.”

Leading clients combine displays with digitally printed graphics and signage to create an experience at retail settings where everything works together to grab the eye, create excitement around a product, and, when it works, motivatea purchase.

“Environmental design comes more and more into it for creating a full effect,” Clark says. He cites food trucks as an example where the P-O-P – the graphics on the truck – are the entire branding of that business. “It’s what makes one truck stand out from all the others in a line.”

For multi-site campaigns, he says that digital is especially effective for producing local versions of regional or national promotions. For example, in Florida, with three NFL teams, Corr Digital can break up a single order for P-O-P into thirds, each printed with logo, text, and graphics highlighting the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, or Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “Instead of treating these as three separate orders, we can easily make changes and give our customera volume discount on a single run,” Clark explains.

“With digital printing they can swap things out more frequently and easily, take some risks and experiment in ways they just couldn’t before,” he adds. Consequently, he sees more clients putting a local face on national promotions. They are also designing and ordering P-O-P in limited quantities for test runs and specific in-store events or promotions.

Some new materials are also encouraging clients to rethink P-O-P as something easily recycled when the need arises. Corr is touting the advantages of a non-adhesive reusable window cling for ongoing events and promotions, and is also talking up the advantages of digital printing on magnetic material for highlighting daily or weekly specials and changing menu items throughout the day.

No Limits
In Minneapolis, Imagine Print Solutions (www.imagineps.com), a full-service print provider, installed an ambitious mix of large-format presses to meet the varied demands of its regional and national accounts for P-O-P production. The line-up includes a pair of HP Scitex FB7600 flatbeds; a pair of Agfa’s M-Press series Tigers, as well as a Leopard; several Durst presses; two Fujifilm Acuity flatbed units; and a Vutek flatbed.
“We tell our customers there are no limits to what we can do,” says VP Craig Mandery. “If they can dream it, we have a way to make it happen.”

With such diverse capabilities, clients trust the company and its retail specialists to match their project with the right material and system, and digital figures in some aspect into many marketing campaigns. The size of the graphic, material, and run length all determine which printer gets used.
Digital is the preferred solution for P-O-P prototypes and in-store testing, shorter runs, and specialty materials. Clients are “doing a lot of versioning,” he says, incorporating special regional pricing or graphics into displays which otherwise appear identical from location to location.

They’re also receptive to the company’s suggestions on new materials for new types of P-O-P. In particular, Mandery reports growing interest in soft signage with dye-sub printing on fabric and textiles becoming increasingly popular. He also sees more interest in digital printing on magnetic-receptive material where there’s the need to frequently and easily change the message.

In general, “Digital is still basically used for shorter runs,” notes Mandery. “When the run length is over 500, screen printing may enter into the job.” On the largest orders for thousands of pieces, traditional printing still rules.

That could change in the relatively near future. When he spoke with Big Picture in late January, Mandery indicated that the company was exploring the feasibility of a hybrid print system combining the speed and volume advantages of lithographic printing with the creative versatility of large-format digital.

It could debut late this year, giving large-format digital an even greater presence in P-O-P production.

 

 

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