For impulse buy business, visibility is everything. This is particularly true of any impulse buy item that is not very big in actual physical size – which is, of course, almost all of them.

By their nature, he impulse buy segments of a market share are physically small – because they are usually aimed at a specific price bracket. The bracket in question is one whereby a person already committed to spending money is unlikely to notice a difference in the final cost of his or her basket, trolley or bag if he or she adds one final POS item to the list.

Actually, that’s not completely true. The price is calculated in a way that makes the buyer think he or she will add no significant extra to the overall cost of his or her shopping. In reality, the price of a POS item may add a significant percentage to the original shop – rounding £8 up to £10, for example, which makes a 25% rise on the initial price the person expected to be paying.

The POS display must be eye catching and attractive. It must also immediately communicate to the shopper what he or she might add to his or her basket; and why he or she may wish to do so. To this end, it is necessary for the brand owning the POS item to engage in heavy marketing beforehand. The plastic display on which or in which the item now sits is the final piece of marketing in the equation – but if the brand has not already invested heavily in creating consumer awareness of itself, it may count for nothing.

There are exceptions to this rule, usually in two areas. One is the area of perceived use, whereby a brand may release POS items that have an obvious immediate application – such as pocket raincoats or small umbrellas. The other is the distraction technique, which is usually applied to children: if you can make something colourful enough or weird enough, the casual passer-by is often drawn into examining it more closely – and you create a sales funnel of your own right there at the till.

As a point of definition: the “sales funnel” is a conceptual item recognised by marketing consultants, or people professionally interested in defining and examining marketing techniques. It refers to the journey a person must make to change from potential target audience member to confirmed target audience member to buyer.

The image of the funnel is used to denote the decreasing width of the overall market spectrum, as the person in question travels closer to the buying event. For example: of all the people in a shop, only one may end up buying something from a POS right now. But before all those people reach the POS, they all exist as potential target audience members. Then they join the queue, and those who don’t register or relate to the plastic display of the POS fall out of the equation – and so the funnel thins.

Of the remaining people, only some look harder at the POS: so the funnel thins further. This process replicates itself several times, until those left at the point of the sales funnel – the few who are genuinely thinking about buying – teeter on the edge of their decision.

Obviously, in such a quick moving environment, display is key.

Burton Wildebeest is a business analyst. Click here to see the rest of his research.