Have you ever walked into your favorite grocery store, looked around and recognized very little? What happened to the beach umbrellas and flowers? Where is the coffee? And why can’t I find the specials they usually have in the large bins up front? Why in the world does Kroger’s or Food Lion or Piggly Wiggly think it necessary to rearrange their store, just when we knew where everything was located?
There is a reason for this change in the location of our favorite products. There is much thought given to whether or not we should find the hamburger buns near the ketchup and mustard. Scores of studies are done on a regular basis that attempt to assess our moods when we shop, our tendency to pick up this-n-that in the market-when all we went in to get was bananas. Consumer psychology definitely does influence our buying decisions. Retailers recognize, thanks to these studies, that merchandising tactics, signage and packaging, along with product selection, all play into shopper’s purchasing.
Natural Foods Merchandiser, Melaina Juntti, interviewed Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Marketing Nutrition (University of Illinois Press, 2007) and director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Wansink has made a career out of studying how consumer psychology influences buying. I thought you might find some of his thoughts interesting. (At least now we know why we see chocolate near the strawberries.)
NFM: How can retailers use psychology to promote a specific product?
Brian Wansink: One way is to increase its accessibility. There’s a reason why end-aisle displays increase sales by 30 percent even if you don’t change a product’s price—the items are more visible. You’ll also increase accessibility by placing an item in the first two aisles of your store. Shoppers tend to walk slowly through the first two aisles, but after that they start moving more quickly or skip aisles altogether.
Secondly, pair the item with a product that complements it. For instance, if you want to sell a specific tortilla chip, put it next to salsa. Grocery stores in Denmark frequently use displays to promote two items—a primary and a secondary, such as salmon and a food that complements the fish. We don’t see this enough in the U.S., but there are some great opportunities there.
NFM: How can a retailer best use signage to lure shoppers to check out new products?
BW: You want to try to increase the sensory appeal of an item shoppers are not familiar with. This isn’t done by simply saying, “Here’s a new product. It’s 79 cents.” Rather, you want to describe its attributes and potential uses. Have a sign that reads something like, “Goes great with fish,” or, “tastes like X.”
NFM: What about items that aren’t new, groundbreaking or flashy, but just plain good?
BW: Not every item has to look incredibly indulgent, but you want to put enough indulgent products next to non-indulgent items to provide contrast and create a halo for the less-indulgent things. If a tofu is packaged in a heinously ugly way, well, then make sure the complementary products look nicer. This can increase sales of both the primary and secondary items.
Daniel Lohman, CPSA, (a Canadian association that studies consumers and sellers in the retail industry) writes about effective merchandising strategies that win customers. He believes it should be easy for customers to shop in stores. In his opinion, “Proper item placement can be the difference between success and failure for any brand, item and even retailer. Consumers want stores that are easy to shop and sections that are well merchandised.
Busy customers hate scavenger hunts. They appreciate retailers with clean, well-organized and easy to shop stores.”
Like with like
Lohman believes that one way to achieve this is to merchandise like items together with a similar theme or function. These categories appeal to very specific consumers who are typically committed, loyal shoppers, willing to spend more than the average consumer to buy quality products that meet a specific need.
Eye Level Strategy
Merchandising is also how a retailer commits to specific customer needs. A retailer might merchandise certified organic items at eye level and items that are less “clean” above and below.
Most categories allow you to group items into different segments. The different segments make it easier for customers to shop the category. One good strategy is to merchandise items into quality segments: super-premium, premium and economy. Placing super premium items at eye level and economy items on the bottom shelf is a great way to trade a consumer up. Customers want good value for their money and that frequently includes super-premium products.
Grouping complementary categories
Another important strategy of merchandising is to group complementary categories together (spices with baking needs, pasta with sauces, etc.). Not only does this make it easy for consumers to shop your store, it makes it easy for them to purchase all of the items needed to make a cake or a meal.
Okay. Okay. That’s enough! I know…sometimes I get carried away. I am stopping!
Just. One. Last. Note.
We flipped LTD 7. Call us crazy, but we did! It might look a little teeny tiny bit different to you the next time you come in. We would love to know what you think of the flip. And join us Monday and Thursday on our Facebook Sales to get first dibs on the many items we flipped. All items not sold on Facebook will go to Market on Saturday.
See you at LTD 7’s Outdoor Market next Saturday! It is going to be fantastic!
Living the Dream,