Optimal Aisles: A Win/Win/Win
Lives are busy. Universally, shoppers want easy navigation in the aisle and the ability to find the products they want. For them, more aisle time = less life time. The optimal shelf is one that's a win/win/win: it's intuitive to the shopper, increases sales for the manufacturer, and maximizes category sales for retailers.
Four Guiding Principles for Optimal Aisles
In 15+ years of testing across a variety of categories, we've identified four guiding principles for optimal aisles. All of these principles relate to a common theme: creating visibility on the shelf.
1. Higher visibility at eye level: Items placed at eye level tend to get noticed first, and are more likely to make it to the shopper's basket.
2. Contrast creates visibility: Our eyes are instinctively drawn toward contrasts. This is why brand blocks usually beat other arrangements.
3. Category size matters: Arrangement is less important with small categories (4' or smaller) as most or all products enjoy high visibility. With larger categories, arrangement becomes more important to ensure visibility of your brand.
4. Merchandising placement: Shoppers use merchandising/signage in different ways depending on where it's placed. Up high, above the shelf, signage is used for wayfinding by shoppers; down at the shelf level, it's much more effective for drawing attention to specific products or offers.
When the Options Seem Overwhelming
Decision Insight has leveraged our research expertise to further build on testing aisle solutions. Often, clients have trouble narrowing down what to test. For example, a recent client is the category captain in a set that has 4 key product segments. They wanted to know which product segment should lead the aisle. And, within each product segment, they wanted to explore alternative brand adjacencies. They also wanted to test a possible dedicated section for a specific product type versus maintaining pure brand blocks. And, they wanted to understand the impact of alternative signage executions, as well as potential pricing strategies.
Ultimately, there were several hundred possible iterations.
Traditional virtual shopping cannot be used to evaluate hundreds of planograms. But, using an experimental design, we can identify a subset of solutions created in a way that makes it possible to provide a statistically reliable model estimating the impact of every single iteration.
This virtual conjoint approach identifies the arrangement solution that maximizes sales for brands and for the category as a whole. It also delivers guiding principles for each variable tested. For example, the best segment flow may be a subcategory arrangement, while the best brand flow might be a manufacturer block. In other words, we understand the benefit of each action independently. We also know what shoppers like and what meets their needs. This "guiding principle" approach is particularly valuable given that retailer customers all likely start from a different place.
What about the Digital Shelf?
Beyond Brick & Mortar shelf arrangement, we are engaged in ongoing research addressing the digital shelf “arrangement” as well. Online, the retail advantages of product placement, multiple shelf facings and endcap displays are gone — as are adjacent products that give context to size differences — therefore, key to driving sales in eCommerce is optimizing category/search layout, imagery, presentation, and merchandising.
Alex Sodek is Chief Research Officer at Decision Insight.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816) 437-9834.