By Melissa Donovan
Display and point of purchase (POP) signage is more than a banner stand or easel-back sign. Media innovations have grown exponentially within the last decade, pushing brand owners to think outside of the box when it comes to promotional messaging. Digitally printed wallcoverings are one representation, but an example high on the list when it comes to stunning, eye-catching applications.
The right base material, finish, overlaminate, and adhesive all factor into choosing the correct material for the job. For display and POP in particular, it largely depends on the environment and brand intentions.
Above: Dreamscape Black Flash is a highly reflective black-chromed inkjet media.
Engaging with Immersive Graphics
Display and POP is the bread and butter of the graphics industry and constantly competing for space and eyeballs. Digitally printed wallcoverings are just one of many applications used to immerse consumers in the buying experience, however they are a popular option and found in retail to museums.
There are many reasons why digitally printed wallcoverings are used for display and POP purposes. “Digital printing allows for full-color graphics and makes color matching a breeze for printers, which can be very important to brands. Also, digital printing is ideal for small volume jobs and allows printers to provide quick turnaround to their customers,” comments Bekie Berg, product manager, FLEXcon Company, Inc.
“A major goal in POP and custom displays is to engage your audience in new and exciting ways. Digitally printed wallcoverings, whether alone or as part of a larger graphic display, can provide an easy, customizable option that maximizes existing wall space and catches the viewers’ coveted attention, and ideally extra sales dollars as well,” continues Jay Kroll, product manager cut and craft films, walls and outdoor media, General Formulations.
Another consideration is how the in-store retail client has been upended thanks to the recent pandemic. As brick-and-mortar stores fight for every sale with online sites, it’s becoming clear that the in-store shopping experience must become far more memorable for the consumer.
“The success of a retail outlet depends on more than just the products for sale—consumers are looking for a shopping experience that inspires and delights them, brings value to their purchase, and gives them a brand identity. By creating an immersive retail experience, brands can drive consumers into their stores and provide them with emotions and memories in addition to their purchases,” shares Dione Metnick, product development manager, Brand Management Group.
This means creating graphics for limited-time settings like pop-up shops or stores within stores. “Fresh signage and graphics are important to capture attention and keep shoppers coming back, particularly as more consumers migrate from online to in person,” explains Al Bobst, director of new business development, Monadnock Paper Mills.
Another way digitally printed wallcoverings excel is by allowing for both customization to local markets and/or national consistency in imaging/messaging. “For example a national chain restaurant can feature local high school sport teams on their walls, thus giving the feel of a neighborhood pub and at the same time keep their logo and messaging consistent,” points out Michael Richardson, business development manager, print media, Jessup Manufacturing Co.
Print service providers (PSPs) are easily able to “modify the artwork, customize the size of the graphic for the unique conditions of the substrate, and ship it directly to the job site or installer for quick and easy installation,” comments Jill Olson, branding, fleet, and architectural sales account executive, 3M Commercial Solutions.
The combination of a successful wallcovering design as well as placement, “reinforces a brand and brings it to life” for the consumer, says Jason Harmon, East/Southwest sales manager, FDC Graphic Films, Inc.
While retail is a popular vertical for display and POP, other industries benefit as well. “Many verticals outside of the traditional retail space use wallcoverings as a branding and promotional tool, including trade shows, venues, malls, and construction sites,” states Milene Ribas, business development manager, large format digital print, Neenah.
“We are seeing more of these applications being used in schools, churches, fast casual restaurants, micro-breweries, sports venues, and home décor,” adds Ross Burnham, senior marketing manager, Mactac.
In regards to trade shows and museums, Anthony Pappalardo, sales manager North America, Saint Clair Textiles, explains why wallcoverings are popular. “The walls of a trade show booth are a prime area to get a company’s message across without having to hang banners—it is a much cleaner look. We also get a lot of business from the museum display industry, in many cases, the image can be printed and installed in one piece, eliminating the need for seaming.”
Finding the Ideal
Wallcovering media options vary between the base material, finish, and whether it requires overlaminate. Certain ones are ideal for display and POP as opposed to other placements like décor.
In the traditional sense, PSPs are familiar with vinyl- or film-based media for other applications so it is logical that it would be used for wallcoverings. Other base material options include paper and fabric.
When it comes to display and POP, each base material has pros and cons. “Always depending on the application, expectation, appearance, and durability,” explains René Bourgeois, VP sales North America, ASLAN Selbstklebefolien GmbH.
With display and POP wallcoverings usually placed in high traffic or outdoor areas, vinyl is a good option as it is more resistant to grease and moisture, advises Metnick.
Angel Georgiou, senior marketing specialist, Imaging Supplies, Canon Solutions America, admits that “some people just like vinyl better because of durability.”
“Vinyl provides a more robust product, a variety of finishes, and thicker options for ease of installation. Furthermore, flammability requirements for interior wallcoverings are important when selecting materials. Typically, vinyl is self extinguishing,” adds Berg.
According to Bob O’Neill, Competitive EDGE Reps, Dreamscape, “when looking for a material to hold up for the long term due to a lot of touches, we suggest using a plastic-based material versus paper.”
Meanwhile, paper-based products are gaining traction. “Paper made from renewable wood fiber may be preferred for many reasons. There is a lot of pressure for brands to move away from non-renewable, petroleum-based materials. Paper substrates don’t require special handling, special inks, or corona treatments,” shares Bobst.
“As a paper manufacturer, I am a big supporter of cellulose-based products. We reinforce our fibers with polyester to get dimensional stability while avoiding the shrinking and stretching with vinyl and film products,” notes Ribas.
Shauna Malgieri, global product manager, S-One Holdings Corporation, stresses that “location, application, and durability are all factors in why someone would choose paper over vinyl or film. Temporary signage, advertising, or graphics may only require paper, while sensitive environments like hospitals or schools may require a PVC-free product that offers special ratings like GREENGUARD certifications.”
In addition to vinyl, film, and paper, fabric-based wallcovering options are attractive. “We are seeing interest in using textiles, particularly textured textiles with lifestyle retailers and commercial designers. They like the richer look and feel that can be achieved using a textured fabric,” suggests Mark Shaneyfelt, director of sales and marketing, Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc.
From gloss to matte and everything in between, the finish options on a digitally printed wallcovering are vast. In display and POP, there is not a one-size-fits-all option. According Pappalardo, every finish has its place. “We had a recent installation that utilized a pearlized sparkle finish that glistens in the light. It was perfect for the design with this high-end retailer. Most of our installations utilize a semi-matte finish, which lets the finished image be the main focus.”
“It really depends on the business type,” adds Brian Ford, sales, Que Media Inc. For example, nail salons might go for a matte finished product with light, relaxing colors, whereas a retail food chain will want bold, vibrant colors that pop.
Wayne Colbath, national sales manager, Continental Grafix USA, Inc., finds that a gloss finish is “desired sometimes for a big, splashy color graphic where the gloss enhances the graphic, but not to the detriment of the person viewing it.”
“A gloss finish—typically vinyl—is preferred by many retailers as it provides a washable surface that can also stand up to wear and tear,” notes Metnick.
A nice in-between is a satin or luster finish. “These have less glare and are easier to read, especially if the room is really bright or if lights are shining on the wall with the graphics. The lower gloss laminates will also be less likely to show the imperfections of the wall,” explains Molly Waters, senior technical representative, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
For any environment looking to avoid light reflecting off the image, a matte finish is a more popular option, according to Shaun Holdom, global product manager, Drytac. “Matte finishes also assist in covering up imperfections in walls.”
“A matte finish helps knock down reflected glare from interior lighting, eliminating hot spots that detract from the image. This helps to capture the attention of the intended viewer to see the key messaging. Matte finishes also help to hide fingerprints that may occur when the graphic is placed in a high-traffic area,” adds Burnham.
High-traffic areas—which is where many display and POP wallcoverings are placed—necessitate a little extra protection and can benefit from an overlaminate to protect against fingerprints and general cleaning. Overlaminates also avoid fading from the sun and can even change an aesthetic.
“It depends on the application need. Overlaminates add durability and can also prevent scratches and scuffs to the underneath graphic. If an overlaminate is used, the ink technology is not as important,” admits Holdom.
Ford argues that with a lot of the ink sets available today, lamination is unnecessary. “If you are going to laminate, the only real reason is for added durability. At that point it would require a cost analysis on exactly how much more durable that would make your wallcovering compared to just using an ink type that is extremely durable right out of the printer.”
If deciding based on material, Colbath says a smooth vinyl material benefits from a film laminate that will protect from cleaning and damage, film degradation, and fading. The same laminate could add an aesthetic element as well, depending on the client’s wishes.
Another helpful way to determine if laminate should be used is based on how long the wallcovering will be in place. “An overlaminate may not be needed for promotions shorter than two years but could be useful if the graphic is longer term and needs protection from exposure to cleaning products or the environment,” explains Berg.
“For wall graphics that will be utilized for more than a year or located in a high touch point location, overlaminates are a must. This added layer provides protection to the ink from abrasion that can occur during standard cleaning. Overlaminates include UV inhibitors that prevent sun fade and, in many cases, can improve the life of the ink by two times. This protective layer will keep the customer’s graphic investment looking new for many years beyond the typical life of the print media and ink alone,” agrees Burnham.
A film laminate isn’t the only option here either. O’Neill brings up coatings. “For longer term wallpaper applications it’s recommended to utilize a water-based protective coating over your printed graphics for easy cleaning and protection.”
Characteristics like base material, finish, and overlaminate help dictate the best wallcovering material for a display and POP job. Adhesive type, which influences the installation process, is a key consideration.
There are few different types of wallcovering adhesives. Paste is the traditional means of adhering wallpaper. “With paste, one needs a professional installer, table for pasting, and a certain amount of know-how,” says Richardson.
“Traditional paste wallcovering is great for long-term commitment and durability, but when you want to refresh or do a message change it’s a lot of time and labor to de-install and prepare the walls for new wallcovering,” admits Georgiou.
Pre-pasted, water-activated wallpaper is a second option. “There’s no need to handle separate glues or adhesives, and no glue waste to deal with. You achieve strong adhesion, yet with strippable wallpaper, removal is easy,” notes Metnick.
“Pre-pasted non-woven paper products can be applied using a water bath, but then also use water to remove and simply wipe the walls off and apply new material—all with no residue,” adds Georgiou.
For an installer looking to use minimal tools—except a squeegee—peel-and-stick adhesives are ideal. “Special tools and messy components further the need for specialists and makes the install more time consuming up front, as well as when it’s time to change out the graphics,” explains Kroll.
Further encouraging peel-and-stick or pressure-sensitive adhesive materials’ popularity is that they are commonly paired with repositionable adhesive. “Most of today’s repositionable, pressure-sensitive adhesives are forgiving during the installation process, and do not require the clean up like when using a paste,” shares Shaneyfelt.
“A repositionable adhesive is a must. This way the installer or store employee can correct any mistakes by simply lifting and reapplying the graphic. A media that allows air to escape during application also assists with ease of installation,” says Richardson.
Repositionable adhesive can give users sometimes up to 24 hours of cure time, which means the installer has more than enough time to adjust the wallcovering before the adhesive locks in and cures completely. “The adhesive type plays a major role in the ease of use,” agrees Ford.
“We believe a peel and stick that can be repositionable along with the adhesive not weakening or strengthening over time is best. Also a material that does not shrink over time,” explains Walter Gierlach Jr., owner, Photo Tex Group, Inc.
Bourgeois recommends not only a pressure sensitive or self adhesive, but one that is non-solvent. “You don’t want solvents to gas out to your shop all day. Nor do you want a chemical smell. Especially not if shops have invested in a room deodorizing solution.”
Deciding between an adhesive type may “depend on expected longevity of the graphic. Peel-and-stick material is used for temporary or repositionable graphics, while paste or water activated are for longer term solutions,” suggests Malgieri.
In environments where display and POP wallcoverings are applied, the simplicity of a peel-and-stick solution may encourage a beginner installer to attempt installation. However, “the difficulty of install will depend on the size and the location of the graphic. For example, a smaller graphic applied to a front counter would be a much easier install than a wall mural,” says Harmon.
“The smaller, poster-sized POP graphics would be easy to install for most individuals with limited experience. However, if you are doing full coverage on a wall then it would be best to hire a professional installer,” agrees Waters.
Full-scale wall graphics generally mean multiple panels. This heightens the difficulty level. “You must consider alignment and stretch of the material, continuity of color, borders, and other items on the walls like outlets and switches. Most retail environments will have these areas identified in the design phase, but even if not, these areas are typically easy to cut around, and installers are able to make adjustments on the fly,” admits Kroll.
“A typical graphic panel is 54 inches wide and can be overwhelming for the first-time user. Experienced installers understand how to evaluate the project needs. This includes wall surface preparation, tools needed for the project, and a plan to install the graphic correctly the first time,” shares Burnham.
Ribas says it’s important to “keep in mind that designers are investing more time creating display solutions that are innovative and multi-dimensional so the retail space can get more enticing. Depending on the project, it can be a very complex set up and will demand expertise during installation.”
Brand Owner Expenses
With designs becoming more complex in response to heightened demand for fully immersive shopping experiences, a brand owner’s reputation can be on the line. Display and POP wallcoverings are often seen as high-end pieces of art—albeit art sending a pointed message. In many scenarios, a brand owner will spend more to have their wallcovering professionally installed. This is a major upsell for a PSP.
“Brand owners do pay extra for professional installation, especially for permanent and long-term wallcoverings. This is needed to insure they see a return on investment (ROI) on their durable graphics,” advises Holdom.
Indeed ROI is key—and can be negated quickly if a failure occurs. “The expense of replacing a ruined panel during install or repairing a graphic that was not properly installed would cost the owner more in the long run. Doing the project correct the first time will provide the end user with a great looking and long lasting mural,” notes Burnham.
“A brand can’t allow themselves a bad reputation because an install isn’t done properly. Perfect installs can be inspirational, shared on social media providing free marketing for the brand. Instagram-ability is something shop fitting is taking into account,” suggests Bourgeois.
The quality of the install is just as important as the quality of the print. “Store employees may be able to handle applying simple projects but as a brand you should make sure your signage is flawless and represents your message in the best way possible,” recommends Ribas.
Ford notes that while it is common practice for brand owners to spend money on professional installation for display and POP wallcoverings, as a manufacturer, Que Media strives to develop products with a store employee in mind. “Our mission statement is to make wallcoverings easy enough for a cashier to handle and not stress out about installation.”
“A small job, a single wall, or contour cut graphics can probably be done by an employee if they adhere to all instructions. If it is a multi-wall application or a longer term paste application our experience is that it is worth the added expense of hiring a professional installer,” adds Shaneyfelt.
Topics to Note
It’s important to keep a few trends in mind when preparing to work with wallcoverings in the display and POP space.
First, designers leverage space beyond the traditional wall. “Designers have discovered that they can wrap architectural features and fixtures for more impact. Brand owners are pushing what can be wrapped to create excitement. Every day we see proposed designs that are incredibly exciting and out of the box,” shares Olson.
Utilizing different elements in an environment gets brand owners really thinking. Waters challenges end users to consider how their graphics can “create zones for purposeful engagement, trigger more efficient shopping if space is a limiting factor, recommend retailers take full advantage of their square footage to use bare walls as means of advertisement or retail decor to spruce up their appearance or to modernize their store, and provide interactive opportunities.”
One way brands are thinking out of the box is through more temporary shopping experiences. “POP displays that function as mini shops are trending. Stores that have special pop-up temporary displays are becoming more popular. These kinds of displays rely on easy-to-install-and-remove wallcovering,” explains Metnick.
Sustainability is top of mind. “Retailers are looking for more sustainable solutions for their stores. Materials with recycled content are popular. There are a lot of renewable, fiber-based substrates that can replace vinyl, PVC, and styrene without compromising performance,” says Bobst.
Reusability is tied to sustainability. “Retailers and brands are rethinking material choices in terms of recyclability or, in the case of self-adhesive backed products, the reuse of the product. This is where the design comes into play—making a display area renewable with chalkboard or dry erase overlaminates, for example, to reduce waste and disposal of graphics,” notes Berg.
To stand out, PSPs need to take advantage of the hottest applications and wallcoverings are certainly one of them. Wallcoverings in the display and POP space are soaring in popularity as brand owners look for ways to offer patrons new, memorable branding experiences.
If you are interested in learning more about wallcoverings in this segment, visit digitaloutput.net/webinars to view an archived broadcast on the topic.
Oct2021, Digital Output