How to Evaluate an In-Store Merchandising Partner - Part One

Part One:

In-store merchandising is an integral, tangible representation of a brand and a reflection of the retail environment for which it is created. It is unassailable that the partner you choose to bring your project to fruition can impact factors like design, speed to market, project cost, user experience and so on -- things that ultimately determine success. So, how do you make sure you’re applying the right criteria to the evaluation of the merchandising partner that will translate your objectives into a tangible, customer-focused, handsomely-branded, solidly-performing solution.

First, you should approach your choice with more than a one-and-done mentality.  Look for continuity. Ask how far back the longest-running client relationship goes and how many clients have been around for a decade or more. Our oldest client relationship at Frank Mayer and Associates began over twenty years ago.

Though not an exhaustive list, there are at least three qualitative areas where you can focus your evaluation of an in-store merchandising partner. We can talk about being creative, and nimble and detail-oriented in a theoretical way, but real-life examples illustrate the true value, so I asked our account executives to provide some. Today’s submission focuses on creativity. We’ll get to being nimble and detail-oriented in Part Two.

Creative

Everyone in a creative business says they’re creative. You’ve probably heard the adage, “Don’t tell me. Show me.” When you’re evaluating an in-store merchandising company, does creative talent come through strongly in the completed projects they showcase? There is more to creating effective in-store merchandising than designing to stated objectives.

Ask yourself if creative capabilities shine through in their work in a way that sets them apart.  At GlobalShop 2013, we had a visitor to our booth who saw an electronics display we’d done for a competitor. Without reservation, he exclaimed, “I’ve seen those everywhere. I love them, and I wondered who did them.”

Find out about the depth of creative talent and how it is deployed. Does your potential retail merchandising company have the capability to put more than one designer on a project when necessary. Be sure they’re not stretched so thinly that multiple viewpoints and fruitful collaboration can’t be employed.

Ask to see examples of display-enhancing features that the client never thought to ask for. As an example, at FMA we were asked to designed and produce customer-facing lens demonstrator kiosks. When we did our research we realized not all of these kiosks would be placed against a wall in optical shops, and we designed the back of the display to hold a mirror that added value for the retailer and the customer.

Investigate the creative process. When we were asked to design a collateral piece for a display client that included a sliding feature, we didn’t research just within the product category. The category was eye care, but our creative team decided to look beyond the obvious. They studied the construction of candy boxes to understand how slide-out trays were designed.

So after you've determined how creative an in-store merchandising company is, how do you evaluate whether they're also nimble and detail oriented? Look for part two in my next blog.


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