Challenge of navigating overcrowded store shelves

April 22, 2013By Future of Retail, Views

by Dave Wendland for Chain Drug Review

April 22nd, 2013

It’s been said that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. Change the word “road” to “aisle” and you have the retail world’s equivalent of the familiar adage.

When visiting an unfamiliar store, consumers need a visual road map to help guide them through the assorted goods and services. If consumers don’t see or can’t find what they want, then, for all practical purposes, those products simply are not available for sale.

Beyond the bewildering growth in the number of product choices bombarding shoppers, there has been a dramatic increase in the volume of in- and out-of-store messaging, complex consumer promotions, and loyalty-building options. The high levels of “noise” make it difficult to effectively navigate a retail store.

The goal of in-store navigational tools is to make shoppers aware of the store’s available inventory through visual and physical cues. Most retail operators make concerted efforts to improve high-level in-store navigation, ensuring that destination departments, categories and best-selling products are clearly visible. This applies most to products purchased routinely or offered exclusively from the retailer, newly featured ad items, and existing products sold on promotion. For items purchased less frequently, this is not always the case.

The child-friendly, mix-and-match clothing line called Garanimals offers an applicable model for shopper-empowered health management. According to the company website, “the Garanimals pairing system brings creativity and independence to young children as they select their own clothes and dress themselves. Through these small, successful decisions, children develop early feelings of self-confidence.”

Translated to retail drug stores, this concept empowers consumers to make well-informed product decisions. Imagine signs and visual aids specifically developed to illuminate product options and pairings, while directing customers to healthful choices at shelf.

Four basic elements go into a navigational system that helps shoppers find what they’re looking for:

• Graphics and imagery — Concise, clear and quick visuals help hurried shoppers choose a direction.

• Shopper viewpoint — Shelf-edge solutions need to reflect the attitudes, psyche and desires of the shopper.

• Objectivity — Signs and navigational tools must express genuine motivation to help fill a need, not advertise a brand.

• Accuracy — Claims expressed on shelf-edge signage are of little value if they omit a product’s benefit or efficacy.

One such example was recently introduced by Vestcom International. VitaAisles is a comprehensive, in-store education program designed to support consumer demand for trusted health information regarding vitamins, minerals and supplements. The first-of-its-kind program delivers Food and Drug Administration-based and evidence-based claims for nutritional supplements at the shelf edge, specifically addressing such common health concerns as heart, glucose, joint and bone health.

The goal of such programs is to overcome the confusion facing shoppers at the shelf — especially as they strive to manage their well-being. Based on findings from Vestcom’s exclusive research, the following fueled the program’s introduction:

• 74% of supplement shoppers would like detailed information at the store shelf.

• 71% of shoppers are unable to find relevant information at the shelf edge.

• 60% of shoppers say there is not enough information and feel the need to talk to someone.

• 58% of shoppers are confused by the information on vitamin and supplement ­packaging.

Whether developed internally or licensed from an outside partner, any way-finding program that takes the guesswork out of shopping and reduces the aggravation of finding the right product at the right time will increase sales and develop a deeper level of trust on the part of shoppers.


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