Avoiding the Overlook
by Dan Calabrese for Pet Age
Let’s talk about an aspect of merchandising that’s often overlooked, which is the danger that merchandise may be overlooked.
There is a subtle but important distinction between putting products on display and really making them pop in the eye of the customer. Consider the ads you might see in a newspaper or the billboards you might see as you’re driving on the highway. There are plenty of them but you don’t especially notice them all, let alone remember them.
The ones that stand out to you grab your attention in particular ways. Maybe there was something unique and memorable about the way they were presented. Maybe they were in just the right location. Or maybe the choice of words and/or images was just right to engage with your consciousness.
Whatever did it, they got your attention more than the other ones that were vying for it.
Merchandise requires much the same strategy in order to get the customers’ attention. It’s fine to say people will find the merchandise they’re looking for—although plenty of bewildered and frustrated consumers would dispute that— but it’s a huge missed opportunity when retailers don’t do everything possible to make sure products catch their customers’ eyes.
There are a lot of ways you can draw attention to your inventory but let’s focus on two today.
First, consider the relationship between consumer recognition and eye level. This is an inexact science to be sure because people’s heights obviously vary widely. But extremely tall or extremely short people are exceptions. For the most part, eye-level strategies designed to get the attention of people between five-foot-six and six feet will connect. And much taller or shorter people are used to having to look down and/or up anyway.
Of course, any pet retailer will have too much merchandise to be able to put everything at eye level. That’s when decisions have to be strategic. How can you choose the products that can most drive sales by getting customers’ attention? Which products can have the potential not only to sell themselves if they’re noticed but also to drive the sales of nearby products that perhaps could not be situated at eye level but may be
noticed by customers in connection with the more prominent items?
And before you conclude that you can only fit so many items into eye-level displays, think creatively. Are there ways to make displays more three-dimensional? To make better use of available space? To use more versatile types of shelving or nontraditional display materials?
Just because you’ve always used a certain approach doesn’t mean that’s the best approach.
Second, think of your signage strategy in this way: How can particularly powerful words help make your products pop?
People don’t walk through a pet store looking to read novel-length product descriptions. They usually have a particular benefit in mind. Quick. Clean. Easy. Simple. Affordable. Effective. Dependable. You know your customers, so you should know the words that get their attention. Maybe a certain product is connected to an unusual attribute. Shiny. Milky. Multichromatic. The point is that signage can help get attention if it uses the right, powerful words, as opposed to using too many and trying to tell a complex story within the split second that the customer might be inclined to give you his or her attention.
Color and other design elements matter, too. The type face, the boldness of the font, the size of the letters within the framing of the sign will all help determine if it gets the customers’ attention. This is probably not the time to be concerned with high artistry. White space with tiny words in the middle might win design awards but bold, noticeable type will get the message across.
Often, product manufacturers already have signage available to help you with merchandising and they can even help you with suggestions for how best to display it. Ask your vendor what’s available and what the guidelines might be for its use.
You’re certainly right in thinking your customers come into the store knowing what they need and that they’re willing to put some effort into looking for it. But it still makes sense to make it as easy as possible for them to find it.
Consider these issues: If they are on a tight schedule and they find their must-have items quickly, they might use the time they save to shop for other items.
If they get frustrated looking for something, they will remember that the next time they need to run out for something and might consider other options.
If they’ve never considered buying a particular product but good display strategies draw their attention to it, you’ve just achieved an upselling triumph.
Good merchandising is as much a matter of smart thinking as it is a matter of working harder or spending more. Think it through now and enjoy the rewards on an ongoing basis.