There are no absolutes in retailing. (Except for change, of course.)
However, there are a few rules of thumb that are good to follow, even if they might seem counter intuitive. We know this because we have extensive experience in conducting shopper research, and have the data to prove it. Based on the virtual store studies we’ve conducted over the years, we've noticed common themes when it comes to what works and what doesn't in merchandising, arrangement and assortment.
As you’re planning your next in-store marketing campaign, category decision, or whole store strategy, here are three tips that could help boost sales.
Less is sometimes more
What if providing shoppers with FEWER choices made it easier for them to decide what to buy? We've seen it time and time again: cluttered categories with a plethora of SKUs are often ripe for weaning. That's because shoppers want an intuitive shopping experience—our test respondents have indicated they want to find things easily, and will walk away if a shelf or category is cluttered with too many choices.
By leveraging virtual simulations, you can not only test different SKU facings, but you can also create realistic images and videos—with data—to convince retail partners of your recommendation. Helping retailers rationalize SKU selections, eliminate low performers that waste space and free the shelves up for innovations and/or more facings for popular products creates a better experience for shoppers and can increase sales.
Displays work double duty
Displays are often good drivers for purchases from the display itself. But that's definitely not their only purpose. Sales from displays can be an important driver of those products’ sales, but displays also serve to increase awareness by acting as a reminder to buy that category today, which generally increases sales.
Our research indicates that the most important aspect of a display is the clear communication of the deal offered and the products included in the deal. And they don't need to be fancy to be effective. In fact, the most successful displays tend to be simpler and more direct, counter to what many marketing teams may think. But to be sure, conducting a quick virtual test is your best bet.
More sales can come from almost anywhere
The key is to define the right strategy.
Is your goal to expand your customer base? Then you want to bring new shoppers into the fold by increasing penetration with new positioning or new products that fill white space in the portfolio. Ideate on what new concepts could bring them in the door with virtual prototyping, instead of spending time and money on developing real-world concepts that might fall flat.
Is your goal to increase the number of units the average shopper buys? Then you want the right variety on the shelf to encourage purchase of additional units. This is where virtual evaluation comes in handy. Create and test multiple concepts to know which assortment ranks best with everyday shoppers.
Is it to cross-sell the brand? Then you’ll want the right adjacencies and to be sure the brand is communicated well by different products in the portfolio.
The takeaway here is that what you think to be the best strategy or concept actually might be hurting sales in the end. Iteration and testing ensures you're making the right decisions before going to market. Want to learn more about how virtual can give you an edge when it comes to boosting sales? Read our report, The Virtual Research Difference.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in June 2014 by Joanna Gueller and has been updated for freshness and to reflect our latest solutions.