Designing Point of Purchase Displays That Influence Consumers’ Impulse Buying Decisions

2014 June Whitepaper

Any consumer who has ever entered a retail store is familiar with Point of Purchase (“POP”) Advertising. They have seen their grocery store’s giant colorful cardboard display of Easter candy, for example, urging them to grab some jelly beans when all they really came in for was a jug of milk. Or perhaps it was the display of fun summertime products at their local big box store that convinced them to buy a kiddie pool, in addition to the garden rake they initially planned to purchase. Whatever the product, POP marketing is a crucial element of any retailer’s marketing mix. 

Contemporary Advertising defines POP advertising as “materials set up at a retail location to build traffic, advertise the product and promote impulse buying.”1 According to Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI), 82% of mass merchant purchase decisions are made in the store.2 The following is an examination of how to create effective point of purchase displays that influence consumer’s in-store, impulse purchase decisions. 

Consider Your Consumer

Understanding how to create a POP display that attracts your customer’s attention and interest begins with understanding the customer. A display that clearly communicates how a product answers a customer’s needs is more persuasive than simply listing a product’s benefits. 

There are seven basic categories of shopper needs: 1) Convenience and comfort, 2) Financial security, 3) Esteem, 4) Love and belonging, 5) Safety, 6) Self-actualization and 7) Enjoyment.3 Determining which need is most compelling to passing shoppers is a good place to start when deciding the POP display’s key message. 

Consider Your Design

The physical set-up of a display is as much science as it is art. 


Researchers have determined that the average human’s visual field ranges 50 degrees vertically and 60 degrees horizontally. And the typical shopper’s gaze rests between 3½ and 4½ feet. Understanding these parameters helps display designers understand where to place the key message to maximize its legibility. Another element that contributes to a shopper’s ability to read the display at a glance is font size. Marketers have developed a simple formula that works for determining the appropriate type size: Distance x 0.472 = size of font.3 


Use bold, high contrast colors for maximum impact. This can be accomplished by a) selecting colors that oppose each other on the primary color wheel (red, blue, yellow) or b) altering the saturation of colors or the lightness and darkness of the hues (this technique also helps marketers stick to a brand’s color and style guide). 


A customer should be able to grab the product from the display using one hand. Over-designed displays that get in the way of easy access can actually have a negative impact on sales. 


Most grocery and packaged good stores are bright and well-lit, making it easy for customers to read a point of purchase display. Some stores, however, choose to keep lights dim as part of their overall ambiance. In such cases, marketers ought to consider adding lighting to the display if the retail location allows it. If not, position the display in the most brightly-lit section of the store possible. 

Consider Creativity

Even within a brand’s often stringent style guidelines and a retail store’s restrictions about product displays, there is still room for exceptional marketers to go the extra mile and infuse their display with an added dose of creativity. Creative displays are especially effective because they cut through a store’s clutter to attract a shopper’s notice and also engage the shopper long enough to prompt him or her to pick up the product. 

Create an Experience

The best POP displays use storytelling and compelling visual images to create an experience for the shopper. For example, fans of the Harry Potter books and films will appreciate the latest DVD release being displayed in a large-scale, medieval castle. Even products that do not seem to be a natural fit for extra creativity can still build inspiring displays. Pellegrino’s product display of sparkling water fashioned an old-world style, filigreed shingle-hanger, from which hung a basket of fresh lemons and limes. This extra touch accomplished two things: first, to remind consumers of Pellegrino’s Italian origins by evoking a romantic, cobblestoned street in old town Italy, and second, to visually depict the fresh flavor of Pellegrino using real lemons and limes.

Make It Interactive

But capturing a shopper’s attention is only half the battle. If the display can also engage the consumer through interactive content, it can drive conversion rates much higher. For example, when Tide detergent unveiled Tide Pods—compact, self-contained balls of detergent, stain-remover and brightener in one—they knew they needed to accompany this unique new product with consumer education. To do this, many of the display cases added a small TV screen with a product demonstration activated by the consumer’s touch. 

Engage a Shopper’s Senses

Many marketers only consider how to engage a customer via their sense of sight when designing a product display. But what about their other four senses? For example, scent marketing is a new frontier in engaging customers. Because scent is processed in the limbic system of the human brain—the part of the brain also responsible for memory and emotion processes—it is believed that scent plays a powerful role in building an emotional connection between the product and a consumer.4 Retailers could capitalize on this by adding a timed scent dispenser to their product display. 

Engage with Additional Mobile Content

Encouraging shoppers to use their phone to access more information about a product is especially effective. A recent study conducted by Deloitte Digital reported that digital interactions influence 36 cents of every dollar spent in a retail store. Further, the study reports that shoppers who consult their phone during their shopping are 40% more likely to purchase a product than those who do not. Naturally, these compelling statistics make it imperative for savvy marketers to include content—such as QR codes or the addresses of the product’s social media feeds—on their displays to prompt a shopper to get out his or her mobile device.5 

Today’s retail stores are packed with competing products. Marketers can help their product stand out by creating point of purchase displays that consider their customer’s needs first, utilize a design that is clear and compelling and also making their display stand out with a dash of creativity.

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1. “Contemporary Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications.” http://www.rakuten.com/prod/contemporary-advertising-and-integrated-marketing-communications/241373464.html?listingId=1&scid=pla_google_rakuten.com&adid=17260&gclid=CLHy_OnGlL4CFVEOOgod3xQASg 

2. “POPAI’s 2014 Mass Merchant Study Results.” http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/02/prweb11572195.htm 

3. “The Magnificent Twelve.” http://www.artisancomplete.com/principles/ 

4. “Scent Marketing: Deepening Customer Connections.” http://www.scentmarketing.org/trends/ 

5. “The New Digital Divide.” http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/deloitte-study-digital-influences-more-than-1-trillion-in-retail-store-sales-256967501.html


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