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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Commercial Printing: Point of Purchase (POP) and Point of Sale (POS) Displays

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Think about the last time you went into a grocery store and saw—in spite of all the other competing signage—the signature green color of a Starbucks kiosk. No matter what else is going on visually (the overload of images), this particular green plus the double-fish-tailed siren of the Starbucks logo are immediately recognizable. Such is the power of branding.

In-store, large-format print signage and similar advertising products catch the potential buyer where seventy percent of retail store purchases are decided: right in the store (according to “What Is a Point-of-Purchase Display?”, Shari Waters, 07/27/20). This signage (plus a number of other options we will discuss) fits into the advertising category called “point-of-purchase” or POP displays.

You may have also heard the term “point-of-sale” (POS) display. Based on my research it seems that the only distinction between the two is where the display is positioned in the store. Point-of-purchase displays can go anywhere in the store. Point-of-sale displays are the ones at the cash register, where the actual sales transaction occurs. (These are also associated with the concept of the “impulse buy.” A properly positioned POP large-format print sign can encourage buyers to add items to their planned purchase at the last minute.)

What Is a Point-of-Purchase Display?

A physical description of such a display would range from a sign to a banner stand to an actual free-standing cardboard shelf or box holding or not holding the branded products in question. It can even be a floor graphic describing the specific branded products.

A marketing description of a POP display has more to do with its effect. If store shelves are full of competing brands’ products, how can you distinguish yours from theirs? Moreover, if you want to sell complementary products (let’s say two different kinds of beauty products made by the same company), how can you motivate the potential customer to look for the other product(s)? Point-of-purchase displays do exactly this.

(In light of this two-part description, the standees my fiancee and I assembled for almost a decade in movie theaters would be point-of-purchase displays. They were cardboard constructs used to promote current or upcoming movies. Their purpose was to pique the viewer’s curiosity, to entice her or him to buy tickets for multiple movies over the next few days or weeks. And they used startling colors, typography, and die cuts (plus in many cases their gigantic size) to grab the moviegoer’s sole attention in a sea of movie posters, banners, and perhaps smaller standees. “Eyeballs,” they call it. Advertisers want your attention.)

(As a further aside, if you enter a grocery store, you may see point-of-purchase displays that are not made from cardboard but rather are electronic devices. Digital displays fit this marketing product category as well.)

The Specifics

Here are some relevant terms pertaining to point-of-purchase displays:

    1. Shelf talker: This is a sticker, small poster, or any other graphic placed on a product shelf to draw additional attention to a product. In CVS, for instance, you’ll see small posters of fashion models attached to the cosmetics shelves. These catch the customers’ attention as they travel down the aisle.


    1. Dump bins: These are cardboard displays into which products have been dumped: like fruit-and-nut power bars just piled into a box on a printed display structure.


    1. Freestanding displays: These are more organized versions of the dump boxes.


    1. Vendor shops: These would include the Starbucks display I mentioned. If you are a brand owner and you can pay for a store within a store (essentially), your customers will have no trouble finding you. On the other hand, if you display your products on the regular shelves, they may not be as visible to buyers. If buyers have to look for something, you could lose a sale.


    1. Endcap displays: These are like the other displays, but they are placed at the end of an aisle (prime marketing space). This means the signage has no competition (when compared to regular shelf storage space). They also make buying easier in that customers don’t need to go down an aisle to get a product. The products are all right there at the end of the aisle.


  1. Banner stands: These don’t hold any products. They just hold signage at the proper height.

Why Are Point-of-Purchase and Point-of-Sale Displays Important?

First of all, these large-format print display products add to a brand’s visibility without costing much, compared to other kinds of marketing. Think about the cost of an ad in a publication or the cost to rent a billboard.

Also, they catch the customer’s interest when she or he is already in the store, presumably ready or almost ready to buy.

They can be placed anywhere in a store that will direct the customer to a particular brand or a particular product. Moving point-of-purchase displays around in a store is usually easy.

Point-of-purchase displays offer more space than custom labels to describe products, show people using them, and/or provide any other useful information. Or they can be used to let customers know about discounts, related products, etc.

Floor graphics, which are relatively new, allow product brands to lead customers through the store and directly down the aisle to their products (like “Follow the yellow brick road” from The Wizard of Oz).

If your potential customer doesn’t know what your product looks like, seeing it on a sign along with the brand name will make the product easier to locate on the store shelf.

All of this can have a dramatic effect on purchases (up to a 20 percent increase, based on my research for this article).

How to Increase the Effectiveness of a POP Display

Here are some thoughts:

    1. Use bright colors in the design.


    1. Make everything large, especially the logo, brand colors, text, and name of the product.


    1. Include large photos showing the products in use by happy, excited people, and/or photos of the lifestyle associated with the products.


    1. Consider how the point-of-purchase display will be most effectively positioned. How do you want to move your potential customer around the store, and how will the POP display help make this happen? The location of the POP display in the store can make it either extremely effective or absolutely useless. Something as simple as placing the display at eye level might make all the difference.


    1. Place POP signage for one item next to something complementary. For example, if you’re selling supplies for a barbecue, you might want to produce a display that holds shish kebab skewers, charcoal briquettes, and such, and place the large-format print display next to the fresh beef customers will use for the barbecue.


  1. Experiment with different graphics, unusual POP display materials or shapes (such as a giant version of your product), and in-store positioning. Then track your results meticulously.

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