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Reducing shelf cluttering

How easy is it for your customers to find your product? Is your packaging standing out from the crowd? And how do you need your customers to find your product — does it need to “pop out” or should it mostly be easy to find during a search? In this piece, we come with a couple of on-shelf packaging recommendations.

Types of shopper attention

When shoppers visit a store they tend to look for products in one of three ways:

  • They’re browsing — in this state, the shopper is basically just taking a stroll and seeing if anything grabs his/her interest. The shopper will walk through the aisles in a passive viewing mode. Here, different products may stand out purely on their visual saliency or more emotional cues.
  • They are category searching — here, the shopper is looking for something more specific but not exactly the brand or product type. Imagine that your significant other asks you to “buy some whitening toothpaste” — here, you don’t have a specific brand but you are looking for both toothpaste and a specific type of toothpaste. here, the shopper is more directly attending the toothpaste section, and probably looking for salient cues for “whitening”.
  • They are branded product searching — this is the most specific type of search. The shopper is looking for a very specific combination of a brand and product. For example, let’s assume that your significant other asked for “Colgate Deep Clean Whitening.” Now, you’re not just looking for toothpaste or whitening toothpaste. In this case, the shopper often has a clear image of what the product should look like and the task is more to match this expectation.

Store shelves are attention battlegrounds

Walking into many stores, it’s pretty clear that there are more options than you can choose. In many stores, there are even more options than you can comprehend! Your eyes cannot fixate on a single item. In fact, your brain will treat the endlessly stacked shelves as one thing: a wall of one thing.

To overcome this, a few attention tricks are needed. The more tricks you use, the more likely you are in succeeding.

Making the package visually salient

The first thing you need to ensure is that your package stands out in several ways:

  • Shelf saliency — Put the package design versions you have on a virtual shelf and compare different designs. The one that produces the highest attention is likely to also be seen in the store.
  • Distance & angle effects — make sure to test the design on shelves from different angles and distances. Each package design has many lives, and you need to make sure that it pops out both close and afar.
  • Package element saliency — make sure that once the package is seen, the crucial information is among the first to be seen. If you have a strong brand, make sure it’s most salient! Then consider crucial information that people might be looking for.
Heat image
For simple packaging, consider making sure that the brand and the main information is most likely to be seen. Here, a NeuroVision visual saliency heat map shows that the Starbucks brand is the most visible, followed by the term “house.” In coffee purchases, many customers prefer to choose by brand and roast/variety. In this design, the brand gets great attention, but “house” may convey less useful meaning. Perhaps the package design could focus more on that it is a medium roast and decaf.

Context is everything

As brand owners, we tend to be extremely focused on the brand, the product, the packaging, and competitors. But we rarely think about things that can be used to boost the visibility of a product on the shelf. Too often we see that products are positioned on a busy shelf with suboptimal conditions for being seen. These include:

  • Poor lighting — Most stores have ambient lighting, which makes everything have a bland, grey look. To make a package “pop” try to experiment with direct lights, perhaps even some lights that boost the visibility of particular product assets.
  • Shelf background — Many product owners tend to treat the background of shelves as a generic thing that is “just there” — instead, consider using the background to frame and enhance focus on the product itself. Not only do you get more product attention, you will also get a higher willingness to buy and willingness to pay for the product!
  • Framing the product — If you are a product owner with a whole vertical to fill, consider making the shelf stand out itself! Sometimes, even a thin frame around your vertical is enough to visibly make it stand out as something different.
There is a tremendous difference in how products are seen and perceived if the shelves have an unorganized, messy background, or if they have direct lighting and the products stand for themselves. Customers also assign a higher value to products that stand isolated.

Try new ideas! 

If there is one thing that is important in packaging design and positioning, it’s experimentation! What is extremely suited for experimentation? Getting good data feedback! So when working on designing their winner package, designers turn to NeuroVision for early iterations and vetting of their ideas.

You can think of NeuroVision as a safe space for you to test out anything from subtle nuances to crazy ideas. It’s a sandbox for designers, allowing endless iterations and experimentations. To create a winner, ideas are great, but having reliable data is, too!

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