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Measuring the Impact: How to Assess the Success of Your Visual Merchandising Efforts

Visual Merchandising Efforts

In the ever-evolving world of retail, it’s crucial to determine whether your visual merchandising efforts are yielding the desired results. Here are some key strategies to gauge the effectiveness of your initiatives and ensure they are paying off:

Define Success

Success can be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. Consider metrics like sales per square foot, conversion rates, and strategic partnerships established as indicators of success.

Create Metrics to track Early Progress

Establish metrics to track your progress from the early stages. While data from POS systems or door counters can provide valuable rearward-looking insights, find ways to track forward-looking information as well. Look for effective Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that provide real-time decision-making information.

Start Simple

Data overload can lead to analysis paralysis. To avoid this, start by tracking the most important metrics that align with your goals. Focus on key indicators that directly reflect the impact of your visual merchandising in the real world.

Get Help

Seek feedback from the boots on the ground – your store staff. They interact with customers daily and can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your visual merchandising. Additionally, explore technologies or products developed in other industries that may have applications in the retail sector.

Stay Committed

It’s essential to acknowledge that your initial efforts may not always succeed. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks; instead, view them as learning opportunities and stay committed to refining your strategies.

Customer Feedback and Surveys

Engage with your customers directly through feedback and surveys. Their opinions and experiences can offer valuable insights into the impact of your visual merchandising efforts.

Social Media Engagement and UGC

Monitor social media platforms for customer engagement related to your merchandise. Look for hashtags, mentions, and photos shared by customers, as they can provide real-time feedback on the effectiveness of your visual merchandising.

By implementing these strategies, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of whether your visual merchandising efforts are driving the desired outcomes. Continuously assess and adapt your strategies to create impactful and memorable experiences for your customers.

 

Jeff Lo is owner of TGS Elevate, a visual marketing / merchandising company that provides printing, point of purchase displays, and store fixture manufacturing, and in-store build outs for companies that have 50-500 locations nationwide.

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Unveiling Your Up-and-Coming Brand: How to Gauge Customer Interest and Drive Sales.

up-and-coming brand

Launching a new brand in the direct to consumer space is exciting. It’s a crowded and noisy space, yet it’s crucial to ensure that customers will embrace and purchase your products before you hit go. But how do you successfully position your brand in the market and attract loyal customers before taking the plunge? It actually comes down to basics: understand your target market’s preferences, behaviors, and needs, then test it as many times as you need to. Said another way, shoot bullets first, then cannonballs, so you don’t run out of gunpowder. In this article, we will explore a simple approach you can customize as you see fit to assess customer interest and determine if your up-and-coming D2C brand will resonate with your target audience.

Create Your Ideal Client Profile (ICP)

Start by defining your ideal customer. Understand their demographics, preferences, and shopping behavior. Create a detailed profile that includes information such as age, gender, hair color, lifestyle, family status, and other relevant characteristics. In the past, it’s common to give this person a name! This exercise will help you gain clarity on who your target audience is and guide your marketing efforts effectively. If it’s not a skill you currently have on the bench, hire someone or outsource it. Just don’t skip it!

Take a Stand

Based on available data or conducting surveys, take a position on the messaging, style, and overall look of your brand. After all, you have to start from somewhere. Determine what resonates with your target audience and aligns with their preferences. Maybe your space is dominated by cheap knock offs – why does it make sense to go up stream for a more elevated product? Or perhaps the issue with existing products is back end customer service – how would you message your brand differently so that it hits home? Whatever the case, develop a unique brand identity that stands out in the market and differentiates your brand from competitors. To be effective, don’t tell them, show them.

Pilot It

Before fully launching your brand, pilot it in the real world. This is the part about shooting bullets. Offer product testing opportunities with strategic partners, provide free samples to potential customers – whatever makes sense for your product and target demographic to give you the crucial information you need to make a decision. This allows you to gather valuable feedback, gauge interest, and assess if your products align with customer expectations. Similar to creating your ICP, you can also outsource this to take a more direct route.

Adjust and Refine

Based on the insights gained from the pilot phase, further refine your product, and if necessary, brand identity. This might be the hard part for most. We’re all human at the beginning and end of the day, and experiencing negative feedback or better ideas hurts. Honor it, take the time to be clear on your goal of a successful brand, and keep moving. Use the information to develop a compelling brand story that emotionally connects with your target audience. Clearly define the unique value your brand offers and create a consistent brand image across all touchpoints.

Launch!

Once you have made the necessary adjustments, it’s go time!. Implement your refined brand identity, messaging, and product offerings to the people. Leverage strategic partnerships from before, your marketing channels to create awareness and generate excitement among your target audience. Collect and track your progress along the way with Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to monitor the market response so you can adapt accordingly quickly and decisively if needed.

Be Open

Stay attuned to market trends, customer demands, and industry shifts. After all, we’re all playing in the same pond together and you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time. Actively seek feedback from your customers, create surveys, ask questions, and remain open to new information and insights. Once you’re out there, the work has only begun. Keep managing and adjusting post-launch to ensure continued success.

Having real, actionable data about products from your up-and-coming brand is a critical factor for success, and your heartache. By understanding your target audience, developing a compelling brand identity, piloting and adjusting your offerings, and staying open to customer

 

Jeff Lo is owner of TGS Elevate, a visual marketing / merchandising company that provides printing, point of purchase displays, and store fixture manufacturing, and in-store build outs for companies that have 50-500 locations nationwide.

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Navigating a high-profile celebrity brand product launch: A tale of tight timelines and triumph.

Navigating a high-profile celebrity brand product launch

Launching a high-profile product line for a celebrity brand is an exhilarating and demanding undertaking. With multiple visual merchandising products that incorporate diverse elements such as graphics, millwork, and plastics, all while synchronizing with a live product launch event, the pressure can be immense. In this article, we will explore a real-life scenario where our team faced the challenge of a tight timeline, working with a new client and starting from scratch. We will delve into the reality they confronted, the solution they devised, and ultimately, the happy ending they achieved.

The Mission

Embarking on a high-profile product launch for a celebrity brand, our team was confronted with a complex set of requirements and expectations: a refined finished product with half the time to produce it. The challenge culminated with a live product launch event featuring the celebrity themselves. The stakes were high, and there were a lot of variables to manage!

The Problem

Adding to the pressure, this project marked our team’s first collaboration with the client, who was undergoing a major rebrand. So, not only were the graphics and fixtures coming together for the first time, so were the colors, artwork, and design. Starting from scratch meant there were no pre-existing templates or established workflows, and when seen together it all had to make sense.

The Reality

With only six weeks to deliver the entire project (from design ideation to delivery), our team had to make the most out of each day. Typically, production lead time alone would take four weeks after final approved art, followed by an additional week for shipping, resulting in a total of five weeks. To make up time, we had to compress four weeks of design work into just one week. To make sure we didn’t skip any steps, we adopted a simple mantra: make no assumptions, and over communicate. However, it takes two to tango, so we also needed to make sure the client was on board with making messy progress (which of course, they were)!

The Solution

Our team rallied together to find a way forward. Our client’s creative team went to work finalizing the digital assets quickly, while our design team collaborated with them constantly to ensure it translated to the final product. Our production team evaluated our existing production schedule and utilized machine down time and our prototype line to get the project in line without bumping out existing projects we were committed to. Our project management team called out milestones, deadlines, and created contingency plans in logistics and delivery. By being on the same wavelength as our client, we were able to maximize efficiency every day to rush specific elements without compromising quality or holding up other parts of the project.

The Happy Ending

Despite the initial challenge, both our internal and client team’s tenacity and strategic approach paid off. In fact, we completed the project ahead of schedule! The products shipped early and arrived with time to spare – surprising even our client! The live product launch event went as planned, reception of the products was overwhelmingly positive, and we were happy to be a positive contributor in the journey.

The successful outcome of this high-profile product launch demonstrates the power of collaboration, adaptability, and creative problem-solving. Despite facing tight timelines and starting from scratch with a new client, we harnessed our expertise and were disciplined in our approach to overcome the hurdles we did see, and those we didn’t. By closely aligning with the client early on and making informed decisions, we beat the target.

 

Jeff Lo is owner of TGS Elevate, a visual marketing / merchandising company that provides printing, point of purchase displays, and store fixture manufacturing, and in-store build outs for companies that have 50-500 locations nationwide.

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How to develop and rollout a new store fixture campaign: a quick hitting guide

New store fixture

In today’s competitive retail landscape, a well-executed store fixture campaign can make a significant positive impact on customers’ overall shopping experience and increase sales. To give yourself the best chance of success, a structured approach that incorporates empathy, collaboration, innovation, and iterative refinement is crucial. In this article, we will explore the key steps to developing and rolling out a new store fixture campaign successfully.

1. Gain Empathy for the User(s):

Before embarking on any store fixture campaign, it’s essential to gain a deep understanding of the end-users. Think about their demographic, values, interests, and even give them a name. If this information isn’t readily available, create your own by conducting interviews and surveys. Or, use an outside company to do the heavy lifting for you. The route you take to get the information isn’t important – empathizing with the users is what really matters. Once you have a firm grasp on who you are creating the retail environment for, the better your decision making will be. With that foundation, you’ll be better equipped to meet their expectations and create an in-store experience that will resonate with them to bring them back again and again.

2. Determine Usage and Stakeholders:

Building on the last step, consider how the fixtures will be used in-store. This goes beyond the consumer – we’re specifically talking about in-store sales staff and the visual merchandising team. Engage with both of them to align their expectations and gather valuable insights. You might be surprised at the feedback you get from each level. You might end up with more information than you need – so be clear to differentiate between “must haves” and “nice to haves,” to boil down to a store fixture or campaign that effectively serves its intended purpose. Also, define success at the different levels – some create Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports (showing metrics that aid in making a decision in that moment) – to set a target for all.

3. Maximize Your Knowledge and Network:

Leverage your personal experience, expertise, manufacturing equipment and network, to form guardrails around the store fixture campaign scope. Also, don’t assume you know all the capabilities of your existing suppliers. Lean on them for ideas, techniques and products they’re producing outside of your relationship. Follow industry publications and trends as you advance towards your goal.

4. Take a Stand:

With a holistic understanding of user needs, stakeholder expectations, and industry insights, take a stand on what you believe is the best store fixture campaign. Be prepared to defend your perspective, backed by your research and expertise. Also make sure it solves the problem and is in alignment with company values (ex: initiative for sustainable materials, or diversity / equity / inclusion). This clarity will serve as a guiding principle throughout the campaign development process.

5. Ideate – Start Drawing!

This is the exciting part where creativity takes center stage. Expand your possibilities by generating many out-of-the-box solutions – think beyond conventional boundaries – you never know where the perfect idea or feature will emerge from. Encourage your team to think freely, and create an environment that nurtures innovative ideas, as opposed to treating them negatively as if they are unobtainable or unrealistic. Consider every possibility, pushing the boundaries of what is considered feasible.

6. Share Solutions and Capture Feedback:

Review the multitude of ideas generated during the ideation phase. Analyze the differences, options, and associated costs of each solution. In the end, the decision on what to produce may likely come to a Return on Investment (ROI) calculation. If you don’t know the amount of the investment (the I in ROI), then you’re missing critical decision making information. Share the proposed concepts with stakeholders, incorporating their feedback and suggestions. Embrace open communication to refine the ideas further, ensuring alignment and buy-in from all parties involved.

7. Iterate New Solutions:

Don’t count on grand slams with every swing of the bat. After all, you need to have runners on base first. Plan to receive feedback, be open and return to the drawing board to refine your proposed solution. Embrace an iterative process and mindset, honor yourself and emotions that you may hear things that you don’t want to, and keep the line moving. Boil decisions based on features, must haves and nice to haves, and evaluate the best option on how to get there. This may be the most challenging and frustrating part, so be prepared.

8. Build and Test:

Having arrived at a solution, it’s time to bring them to life! Build a small quantity of your store fixture campaign according to demographic, geographic location, budget, and scope of rollout. Get pictures and video as they roll off the line to catch any potential issues. See in person and put it through its paces. Conduct testing according to your scope to evaluate each element’s functionality, durability, and visual appeal. Most importantly, does it do what you need it to?

9. Share Solution and Gather Feedback:

After completing the internal testing phase, share the results and feedback on your store fixture campaign with stakeholders and end-users. Seek ground truth feedback from all angles to ensure a holistic perspective, and be prepared to repeat the previous step again. Maintain an open mindset and be prepared to iterate on the solution based on the gathered insights.

10. Rollout!:

The store fixture campaign is finally ready for its time in the sun! Put all your hard work into motion by producing the store fixture campaign and rollout to individual locations. Keep track of what goes where, and compare its performance to the definitions of success defined early in the process.

Developing and rolling out a successful store fixture campaign requires a combination of empathy, collaboration, innovation, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Note what it doesn’t include – shopping around different manufacturers for the lowest price or technique. While most would consider this the first step, it isn’t necessarily. Ultimately however, there are no rules for how to create a store fixture campaign that resonates with users, meets stakeholder expectations, and elevates the overall shopping experience. It’s up to you! So embrace your creativity, learn from feedback, and iterate on your solutions to achieve lasting success in the ever-evolving retail industry.

 

Jeff Lo is owner of TGS Elevate, a visual marketing / merchandising company that provides printing, point of purchase displays, and store fixture manufacturing, and in-store build outs for companies that have 50-500 locations nationwide.

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Why you should prioritize speed over price and quality: it can ultimately save you more.

Speed

In today’s fast-paced world, you would think that prioritizing speed over price and quality is a recipe for disaster. However, this is not always the case. In fact, prioritizing speed can ultimately save you more in the long run. Here’s how:

Speed: Time is money

The saying “time is money” is not just a cliche; it’s a fact. When you prioritize speed, you are saving time, which equates to money. The longer a project takes, the more resources you’ll need to invest in it: design, approvals, re-work, etc.. By prioritizing speed, you can minimize the amount of time and resources you’ll need to complete a project.

Faster feedback loops

When you focus on speed, you can quickly identify and address any issues that arise, have concrete information for the next iteration, and collect real-world data. This allows you to make changes and improvements quickly, get back into the next round of iteration, and get one step closer to the final goal. Like best selling business author Jim Collins puts it, “Fire bullets, then cannonballs.” This means not loading up on a single gamble then spending all your energy on that one shot. Instead, test first, make adjustments, test again until you get the ideal result, then unload all you’ve got on it.

Being open and flexible

Of course, projects rarely end up the way it’s initially outlined. Think about remodeling a house – how many times have you experienced or heard that the buildout went exactly to plan? Not a lot, so you might as well embrace it! That means being open and flexible in your approach and mindset for the unpredictable journey ahead is also very important. 

One way to achieve faster results is by being open to different materials and techniques. With the right mix, it’s possible to achieve the same or even a better outcome than another option, in less time. For example, if you’re building an acrylic point of purchase display fixture, the early prototypes may take too long for custom tooling. Instead, substitute a material like FalconBoard for the first go-around with CNC routing to prove the concept first. 

Avoiding paralysis by analysis

This is a big one. As Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post wrote in his April 2021 article, “Humans solve problems by adding complexity, even when it’s against our best interests,” we innately complicate things. Factor in the easily accessible information we have at our fingertips today, and it’s a recipe for an endless loop of re-thinking and inaction. By prioritizing speed, you can avoid getting bogged down in the details and instead focus on getting things done. It’s also a work around so you can avoid reaction tendencies.

Recognize the human

Prioritizing speed over price and quality can maximize your time, create more opportunities, gain competitive advantage, benefit from faster feedback loops, and avoid analysis paralysis. Understand your natural tendencies to navigate projects thoughtfully – if you’re in control of them, you’ll be able to navigate anything. So, the next time you’re faced with a project, consider prioritizing speed as a viable option.

 

Jeff Lo is owner of TGS Elevate, a visual marketing / merchandising company that provides printing, point of purchase displays, and store fixture manufacturing, and in-store build outs for companies that have 50-500 locations nationwide.

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The importance of prioritizing quality over speed and price for long-term savings for your visual merchandising fixture package.

Quality: the deciding factor

While speed may dictate who wins an initial job or project in a long term business relationship, and everyone is always trying to reduce costs, quality is truly the deciding factor for every project. Quite literally, quality is execution. Great design doesn’t provide any value when it is executed poorly. Think about it: would you rather have the right product delivered late, or the wrong product delivered on time?

The problem: getting the right quality

In the world we live in today, each project has a sweet spot for where it lands on quality. However, unless you’ve launched something very similar in the past, the sweet spot for quality on any visual merchandising package will be uncovered during the design process – which takes time and effort. Then you’re in a catch 22 between spending enough time in development without overspending

The solution: messy progress

How do you get on the path to success without blowing the budget? The answer is messy progress. Don’t laugh, it’s true! Why spend hours upon hours in design software and then translate it into the world of physics vs. making it and putting it through its paces then making another one with the corrected features? While the impatient three year old in us stops its feet and covers their ears at the time and inexactness of multiple prototypes, how else can you be SURE the product will work in the real world and all the challenges it holds without actually doing it? The reality is, you can’t.

Managing expectations

Let’s be real. If someone promises you something without providing proof of concept, be prepared to be let down. A good supplier will let you know the options you have, and push back on what is unrealistic. Then you co-create your way to something that is both acceptable and achievable. The difficult part about that is you then may have to present the bad news to your boss about a pushed back timeline, which doesn’t look great on you. A way around it? Plan ahead and build in more time. You’ll always be happy you did. 

Pick a partner that will go to bat for you

Bad things happen, it’s a fact. Unreliable supply chains, bad relationships, global pandemics, you name it. And they all affect you, your day, and your projects. So, while nailing each project 100% of the time is great, it’s important to have an insurance policy in case you don’t. That comes down to the supplier you pick. Think about any vendor and how they’ve responded to a previous problem: their speed, communication, accountability, cost sharing, etc. If they’re still with you, it’s probably because they make your life easier by navigating these difficult times together. If they’re no longer on your go-to list, they probably made your life more difficult. So plan ahead, because we’re humans and humans make mistakes, and be mindful of working with someone who you can count on to do the right thing if something goes wrong.

The end game

When you prioritize quality, commit to an iterative process, are realistic with your expectations, and have a partner that can perform under pressure – you’ve got all the ingredients for long-term success. In your company, branding, customers, retail spaces, life…it’s kind of the secret formula. 

But here’s the thing – prioritizing quality doesn’t have to mean sacrificing speed and price. By focusing on quality, you can actually optimize your sales and increase efficiency. This means you can still deliver products and services quickly, while also ensuring they meet the high standards your customers expect. So a win-win-win!

At TGS Elevate, we specialize in wide format printing to 50-500 locations nationwide, design and fabricate custom millwork and metalwork, produce promotional products at a huge scale, and provide quality service every step of the way. 

 

Jeff Lo is owner of TGS Elevate, a visual marketing / merchandising company that provides printing, point of purchase displays, and store fixture manufacturing, and in-store build outs for companies that have 50-500 locations nationwide.

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Why price really isn’t an option when choosing over speed, and quality: it can cost you more in the end.

The trinity of product development

Like nearly everything in life, the trinity of product development revolves around three core choices: speed, quality, and price: pick any two. In this article, we’re focusing specifically on price, and if it’s really an option at all.

Price: lowest is rarely best

Applied to our industry, when brands and retailers spend their time and money with fixture packages (cash wraps, shelving, and various types of displays) in new locations, going with the lowest cost is never really a viable option. Brands have a lot to protect: their values, customer base, look, feel, and recognition among other things. Choosing the lowest priced option as the primary value is the fastest way to throw all that good work out the window. Plus, the direct cost of re-work, indirect cost of lost time, and reality of stress and frustration that comes with it, makes you wonder why you even chose to go with someone on price at all.

Redefining the importance of price

So if the lowest price option is out, where do you choose from? This is exactly where design and manufacturing interests intersect. However, typically these two important roles are part of separate teams (ex: architect and builder interest in building a home), and syncing vision and real world costs across a variety of materials and techniques is challenging. The sweet spot, we’ve found, is getting the best possible quality at the most you can afford. Our honest opinion: if you can’t afford to do it right, don’t do it.

So if we can’t afford a fixture package, what do we do?

Renderings, shop drawings, materials, and techniques are quite different from printing – software, education, and general career path to name a few. Compared to printing, these specialized skills are more involved in the design process, and it makes more sense to rely on outside fabricators to manage and develop these assets vs. coming up with your own design only to find that it doesn’t scale due to material availability, special machines required, or time. So, if you have architects on staff, you’d be fine to tackle in-house. If not, best to collaborate and lean on outside suppliers to create the final product.

Design for print and store fixture packages are different languages

The ideal output depends on the right input. Wide format printing and store fixture production have different inputs: software, techniques, suppliers and timelines to name a few. Just like with language, you’ll need someone fluent on your team that speaks each language – and if you’re lucky, someone that speaks both. However, what if you don’t have the resources to do this? The manual way is to lean on your vendors’ knowledge. Ask their sales teams to educate you about your options, and do our own research to validate it. While this can be time consuming, it is very effective. Just be clear about your vendor’s billing policies surrounding design services.

Is it even possible to do anything?

The ideal output depends on the right input. Wide format printing and store fixture production have different inputs: software, techniques, suppliers and timelines to name a few. Just like with language, you’ll need someone fluent on your team that speaks each language – and if you’re lucky, someone that speaks both. However, what if you don’t have the resources to do this? The manual way is to lean on your vendors’ knowledge. Ask their sales teams to educate you about your options, and do our own research to validate it. While this can be time consuming, it is very effective. Just be clear about your vendor’s billing policies surrounding design services.

 

Jeff Lo is owner of TGS Elevate, a visual marketing / merchandising company that provides printing, point of purchase displays, and store fixture manufacturing, and in-store build outs for companies that have 50-500 locations nationwide.

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Visual Marketing – Manage In-house or Outsource?

Custom store fixtures

As your company grows and evolves, it’s important to have guidelines around where you apply your time, money, and company resources. Case in point – in-store visual marketing (the visual elements in a brick and mortar store that encourage purchase of products). When should you outsource it vs. take on in house? Then, once you’ve made the decision, how do you split the tasks and why? All good questions that we’ll tackle step by step here to help you find some clarity.

This is intended to specifically address visual marketing, however some points can be carried over to apply in other areas of marketing, or general business.

What is Visual Marketing?

First, a simple list of general tasks and definitions surrounding visual marketing:

  1. Design – where is the brand now, where is it headed, and how is that communicated consistently to each element?
  2. Asset Creation – making the actual artwork, taking photographs, etc. to be reproduced at quantity
  3. Testing (aka prototyping) – testing different materials, techniques, visual mockups to see the design idea in person and make tweaks to get just right
  4. Production at scale – optimizing production at scale
  5. Project management – managing cost, timeline, distribution list, shipping and freight logistics, storage, coordination between departments, replacements
  6. Feedback and improvement – revisions, fixes, closeout

It’s all about the people

Whether you produce one or one million items, these general items need to be addressed in order to have a successful outcome. Does your company have the people and technology in place to perform at an acceptable level at these milestones? If so, keep things in-house for better control, consistency, and build it into a process that increases the company’s overall value.

Another way to get at the answer is to ask where your in-house experience ends? Often, when a new product comes to market, marketing typically ends with product packaging. This would draw the line at #2 above: asset creation. Making a great product and creating a recognizable brand is one thing – optimizing and supporting the product in-store to increase sell-through is another. So in this case, it may be better to keep the design and asset creation process in house, then partner with another company to execute from there. This is what we usually see across brands and retailers and it makes total sense. The most important thing in any marketing effort is to protect the brand, and keeping things in-house gives the best chance of doing that.

Quantity and complexity – the main drivers

Quantity typically drives the next factor when considering outsourcing your visual marketing – in a few ways. Are you making five graphics, or five thousand? How many art versions are there? How many final locations will be receiving them? Are the locations owned by the company, or wholesale at a third party location? Is any special kitting involved? Does thinking about it make your head spin, or are you rearing to tackle it head on?

Generally, if your marketing can all be produced in bulk and shipped to a single location, you’re probably best managing it in house. You’d be able to choose the supplier with the best price, and likely won’t need much customer service. A recent example we had was a laminated floor graphic with adhesive for a client tradeshow. Our client needed two with the same art version, which they provided. Our price was 10x more than an online printer. Both could hit the timeline, and it just had to last for two days. Makes total sense to go with an online printer, as in the worst case scenario the graphic just needs to be reprinted.

On the flip side, if you have multiple art versions, graphic sizes, locations, and different footprints that require special kitting – it’s time to engage with an outside company that does this sort of thing everyday. Note that not all printers are created equal. Direct mail is different from large format, vinyl is not the same as fabric, and typically supporting services are also quite different. While graphics are more straightforward, it’s a little different when it comes to store fixtures.

Printing and store fixtures – the core of Visual Merchandising

Renderings, shop drawings, materials, and techniques are quite different from printing – software, education, and general career path to name a few. Compared to printing, these specialized skills are more involved in the design process, and it makes more sense to rely on outside fabricators to manage and develop these assets vs. coming up with your own design only to find that it doesn’t scale due to material availability, special machines required, or time. So, if you have architects on staff, you’d be fine to tackle in-house. If not, best to collaborate and lean on outside suppliers to create the final product.

Cross departmental functions matter

Taking a step back, how often are deliverables for each of these areas produced? Do they integrate with a separate department (purchasing, store development / operations), and is it managed by the parent department? With one to ten stores, a small team could conceivably manage all the details. Beyond that, it’s probably best to split out the team creating the new store locations vs. those optimizing it from there onward. Fortunately, this more or less follows our previous print / fixture guidelines of where to delineate tasks. Something to think about – when you’re at this point, you’ll start to think about additional supporting suppliers: software, warehousing, freight, overseas production, etc. to find the sweet spot for what the company will need for years to come.

In the end, when to manage in-house vs. outsource is relatively simple – manage it until you can’t!

 

Jeff Lo is owner of TGS Elevate, a visual marketing / merchandising company that provides printing, point of purchase displays, and store fixture manufacturing, and in-store build outs for companies that have 50-500 locations nationwide.

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You Matter More than the Machines

Imagine that your goal is to increase product sales. Specifically, increasing sell-through at retail. You’ll need signage, displays, promotional items, or other creative products that effectively communicate the essence of your brand.

Maybe you have a larger budget for the holidays—your highest annual revenue for the year—and you want to take your store windows to the next level.

A standard Google search will link you to zillions of possible ideas and suppliers. Sometimes the easy choice is to go to any first-page-result printer or fabricator with an existing product close to your specifications. But will you really get the best possible result, at the best price?

Unfortunately, you probably won’t.

Two not-so-secret secrets in the print, POP display fixtures, and promotional products industries:

  •      Suppliers base the products and services they offer on the specific equipment and people they have on hand.
  •      When your needs don’t align with what their machines and people can do, they’ll often sub out the project for trade work, but still tell you it’s all in house.

These realities mean that supplier recommendations—for everything from design to materials to assembly and installation specifics—will be based on a) which machines they own and expertise they employ; and/or b) who they know in the industry.

As a result, the solution you’re offered may not be the most durable, creative, timely, environmentally friendly, or affordable—in short, it might not hit the “sweet spot” for your project or your priorities.

Let’s take a deeper dive into this issue and investigate alternatives to get exactly what you need.

Feeding the Machine

Things like wide-format printers are expensive. As in millions of dollars each.

Technology is also advancing rapidly. That means, today, new equipment is purchased more often than ever before. Redundancy is necessary to insure against breakdowns, so most suppliers buy multiple machines that can “do the same job.”

All told, we’re talking big money here. And because companies must be profitable, they strive to maximize the return on their huge investments—ideally, the machines are running non-stop.

A company with laser cutters will, therefore, tend to recommend constructing a display out of a material that their lasers can cut. A company with dollars sunk in CNC machines, on the other hand, will recommend that fabrication technique and the materials to make use of their equipment and expertise.

Have a tricked out 3D printer? It starts to look like the right tool for almost any job!

This situation has many implications. Let’s say your goal is to purchase a tabletop display to hold a graphic. A plastic display company may suggest an acrylic, heat-bent angled sign holder. A woodworker, in contrast, might suggest a wood base with a slit—at 5x the cost and 2x the lead time!

While there is no right or wrong, the best option depends on your specific need, which neither shop may actually meet.

A Hidden Middleman

What happens if you have a project that doesn’t feed the right machines? Many suppliers will still bid on the job, but then you are relying on them to serve as a middleman, outsourcing to and managing other shops.

How transparent and effective are they in this role? How hard will they (and can they) negotiate price on your behalf? Will you pay a large markup? Does this handoff introduce potential problems over project management coordination or quality control?

In these cases, you may end up with a half-measure solution, with a full-measure investment of your time and energy.

Or as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

A Materials Agnostic Approach

None of the above sounds terribly client-centric, does it? But what’s the alternative?

At TGS Elevate, we call it a “materials agnostic approach.” By that, we mean recognizing that each project is unique and requires a tailor-made solution. What’s more, it means understanding that the client is in the best position to choose which option meets their needs.

With a materials agnostic approach, a supplier will typically engage with clients earlier in the process. They can serve as a partner in concept, design, and prototyping and take the project all the way through production and installation.

In other words, they can start with your idea, design and explore various avenues, and reach a result that checks all the boxes.

Why pursue a materials agnostic approach?

  •       When the machines aren’t driving the decisions, creativity is unleashed. Want a design that curves and bows, features engraved and painted text, and is made light, modular, and easily assembled for shipping to your outlets? With a materials agnostic approach, that’s a “yep, can do!”
  •       When the machines aren’t the primary consideration, the client’s priorities take center stage. For instance, many brands are increasing their sustainability and social justice aims. Such objectives affect the materials to be used, production locations, and more. A materials agnostic partner can present corresponding options.
  •       When company-owned machines aren’t a limitation, projects can be bid out to an array of pre-vetted, reliable partners, which maximizes price leverage and helps to stay within your budget.

The keys to making this model work are transparency, collaboration, and technology. With the right mindset and project management tools, a provider can work hand in hand with the client from concept to completion. End-to-end coordination and service enhance the experience and minimize the burden on your team.

Turn to TGS Elevate

If this sounds like an entirely different approach than the one you’re used to—well, you’re right!

The materials agnostic model is our response to the often unquestioned, “old school” way of doing things in our industry. And it’s fueled by innovation at every step.

Your creative products are meant to attract, engage, inspire, motivate, and captivate human audiences. Don’t allow decisions about them to be driven by the needs of the machines.

Want to explore how a materials agnostic approach can transform your creative capabilities and output? Check out our website at www.tgselevate.com

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Good, Better, Best

holiday tree with gifts, graphic illustration

Life is all about options. In order to find the sweet spot for each project, our team provides good, better, and best options for you to choose from, as well as a recommendation based on our extensive experience. Let’s say you’re looking to integrate the clean aesthetic of white oak into your space. A good option would be to print a white oak pattern onto an inexpensive material like paper or sintra. This gives you the look, without breaking the bank. A better option would be to use a wood laminate, then mount it to a less expensive material, like MDF or styrene. The best option then would be to produce out of actual white oak.What other supplier in your arsenal can move fluidly between graphics, design, materials, wood, and metal? When you work with TGS Elevate, all options are on the table. That’s what we mean by materials agnostic, and you’re supported with white glove service every step of the way.Are you ready to up your game?