We previously wrote about how testing within a virtual environment provides significant lessons that traditional research can miss. Now we want to dive deeper into a few of those lessons, to provide some insights into how they play out in the real world.
When it comes to making changes at the shelf, category managers are often tempted to rearrange products in order to increase sales. Sometimes those changes are based on data, sometimes they’re just a hunch. But one thing we’ve learned from years of research through virtual reality shopping simulations is that most of the time—85 percent of the time, to be exact—just shifting the arrangement on the shelf results in zero, or even negative, growth of category sales.
For example, we worked with a personal care client to determine whether or not switching the shelf toward needs-based merchandising would help or harm sales for the category. They wanted to know which arrangement generated the most category and key brand sales. Through a virtual store study, we found the total category, and several key brands, experienced significant unit and dollar losses with the new needs-based layout.
Surprising? Maybe not. We’ve seen this same kind of result over and over. Learning that your new concept resulted in loss is not ideal, but more often than not new shelf arrangements don’t automatically mean higher category sales. It can be a hard pill to swallow at first, but in the end manufacturers and retailers are happy that they didn’t blindly execute the new arrangement for all stores before learning the outcome.
And that’s why leveraging virtual in-store simulations for evaluating new concepts is so beneficial in today’s fast moving, shopper-focused industry. In the case of the personal care client, conducting their study in virtual saved lots of money and effort, and gave them a base to rethink their approach to ensure success the next time.
Want to up your chances of growing category sales when rearranging the shelf? Here are some steps to try:
- Ideate different arrangements in virtual to get a sense of what they will look like before heading to the evaluation phase. Narrowing down your options to only those that make the most sense is helpful.
- Instead of only changing arrangement, think of other options that could increase sales. Is it in-store marketing? Is it adding signage along with a new shelf arrangement? Try combinations that might help improve shopper pick up.
- Use shopper feedback to your benefit. When shoppers go through a virtual shopping exercise, they also receive a survey asking questions about their thought process. Make informed decisions based on that feedback.
Remember, just because your new concept didn’t result in the sales increase you hoped for, you still saved your company and your partners time and money by avoiding a real-world roll out. Tune in next time when we go over another significant lesson learned from virtual research.