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Tempting shelf – how we do not follow the shopping lists

The shopping list is like a rule. Saved, consistent, permanent. But didn’t someone say that rules are meant to be broken?

„I came here just for bread rolls. I only have them on my list. The fridge is full. How did it happen that I left the store with juice, milk, crisps and a bar?” I think about this after every shopping. And I am “the conscious” consumer. I would even say superconscious because I work in the FMCG industry. Am I not experienced enough? Maybe I don’t have the right qualifications to avoid deception created by retailers. I guess it’s just because I’m a human and as humans, we are governed by the impulse.

Have you ever noticed how many things depend on our frame of mind? What dress we put on or how we work – everything has to do with how we feel. So how can this not affect our shopping? Of course, it does. And the shopkeepers know that. What’s more, the store chains confirm this with numerous tests carried out during every single purchase. They know how impulsive we are by analyzing our everyday choices.

Does this mean that stores control us? Not exactly. They are adapting for us as well as for themselves. The main purpose of running the store is to sell products. In order to do so effectively, one has to know consumers needs well. For what? – To stimulate this already mentioned impulse. Ideally, through a well-designed store space, the right arrangement of the assortment and attractive products on the shelf. All this exists in order to create the ideal shopping path for the customer who will have to follow the key product alley in the store. Such a path that will trigger this impulse. So, in the language of a marketer – the merchandising is used.

The store is not alone in this stimulation. On the other side, he has equally strong partners that are also conscious of the impulse – FMCG manufacturers. They are literally fighting for the customer attention. They create new limited edition series, special packaging, decorate the shelves, rearrange them and also insert additional shop display. Everything is produced the way so that we would always want their SKUs. And how can you not want a candy bar, if it is in every corner that you reach on your shopping path?

Visibility – an important feature for every product in the store

Visibility is, therefore, an extremely important factor that supports sales. Its lack is one of the biggest shopping barriers for customers that “breaks” their shopping lists. It may surprise because it has been assumed that the price influence customers the most.However, let’s look at this from a different perspective. When we want to make someone a really pleasant surprise, does the price play the biggest role then? We deserve a little pleasure in life. So why not reach for this wafer which lies next to me?

Of course, customers are different – That’s why there is a need to adapt the stores space to their various needs. They should be the most important people for store chains, but is it really true? Yes it is, so stores implement custom solutions tailored to different needs. Each store chain uses basic rules of so-called: Category Management. What does it mean? In short – it is the adaptation of activities, strategies of product assortment, prices and shop display in a way that makes purchase decisions easier for customers. The best way to explain is to give examples, so it’s worth following few customers on their paths.

All roads lead to… purchase

Let’s start with customers who go through the entire store looking for only one thing.They will come across a lot of messages – and here the FMCG producers play the most important role, by creating this “consumer message”. People perceive world selectively and are unable to memorize all the information that reach them. The customer must be interested and attracted by the brand, shape or originality of the product to choose it from the shelf. The producer must also remember about such basics as the cleanliness of the display or the proper arrangement of the products. All this in order to trigger the consumer’s impulse.

But there are also specific and consistent customers who approach the exact alley they have chosen in the store. It appears that on this seemingly straight way, they may notice several impulse stimulators. The first one is the appearance of the shelf itself – because believe me or not, nothing happens without a reason. The fact that products are placed on a specific shelf and there are few same products in a row is being called strategy. And it is often well thought out – in accordance with the principles of product category management. The client browses products by brands – so he has to notice them. This is why brand blocks were created. Our vision will find a specific block much easier than a single item on the shelf. Well-planned brand block with the addition of shelfstoppers or wobblers can be conductive to attracting to buy products.

The last and also very important zone in the store is, of course, the cash register zone. Why is it such an important place? Because every client will have to pass through this way. This should not come as a surprise if I say that visibility here is also extremely important. This is where the customer may feel the impulse the most. Checkout zone is intended not only to be waiting for the payment but also to buy the last thing that comes to our mind. We do this because of unrestrained human impulse. Because we deserve it, and above all – because it is available at our fingertips. The cash register zone is, therefore, a vital point of every store which maintains the principles of category management.

Omnichannel customer – the challenge of the 21st century

It may seem that the proper arrangement of specific zones in the store is a simple task – The point is just to trigger an impulse. But in reality, it becomes more and more difficult work. We are literally bombarded with the stream of information and messages and we are not able to pay attention to all of them. Both FMCG Manufacturers and Store Chains face this challenge. In addition to this, everyone should watch out for the e-commerce market in FMCG. Taking an example of Poland, almost 40 million inhabitants country in Central Europe, Poles still do not buy food online and are used to stationary stores – according to Nielsen data for 2017. At any given time, this convenient situation for shopkeepers might be reversed – as it was the case in other European countries.

In my opinion, despite numerous challenges, impulsive human nature is one thing that won’t ever change. However, the approach to category management and merchandising itself might change. The combination of various information channels gives us as many opportunities as threats. It allows to understand the consumer even better and create a store space perfectly fitted for him. However, this information can at the same time block customer eyeshot if they are exaggerated. And that’s why we should always put the customer on the first place, because, in the end, it’s all about the customer.

Laura Lipska

Customer Marketing Specialist