Merchandising Retail Shelves Like a Pro: Get Your Product Seen

After months of tireless work, a marketing manager finally won a spot on the shelf at a nearby retailer.  To celebrate this accomplishment, he heads to the store to see the fruits of his effort. Despite searching each aisle for over fifteen minutes, the product can’t be found.  His frustration rises as he reluctantly asks a clerk for assistance. The product sits on a bottom shelf in the back of the store. If he couldn’t find it, how is a customer expected to stumble on his goods? 

While this account is a piece of fiction, it depicts an all-too real experience for many brands looking for a fair shot at product representation.  Businesses of every level know that merchandising shelves takes a significant amount of effort. Yet—in situations similar to the one listed above—this effort often goes unrewarded when products are relegated to hard-to-find locations.  

In this post, we’ll outline nine merchandising techniques to get your product seen and how to win the shelf share to accomplish these goals.


Merchandising Retail Shelving

Effective in-store marketing capitalizes on consumer trends by understanding how shoppers interact with the environment around them.  This can be as simple as grabbing shoppers attention with visible markdowns or putting easy-to-grab product by the register, a typically slow moving location primed for small impulse buys.  While the latter would not apply to products like wholesale paper towels, let's go into the techniques with more universal marketing value.




Take a Data-Driven Approach to Shelve Product   

Seeing is selling.  Place products in locations with high customer visibility.  This means areas with high foot-traffic and accessible locations. Good product positioning capitalizes on the following shopper habits:

  1. As shown in a retail merchandising study, The probability of sales increases by 10% when your product is located in direct customer sight-lines, so prioritize mid-height shelving where possible.

  2. Customers ignore anywhere between a third to half of all products on shelves.  Create exciting branding that demands customer attention.

  3. Buyers pull from the center of aisles nine times more often than on the corners, because the natural flow of foot traffic moves them quickly away from the edges.  

Enlightened Ice Cream leverages smart shelf placement, inserting themselves (literally and figuratively) above their competition.



6 Product Merchandising Tips to Convert Shoppers

Finding optimized shelf placement is a start.  It ensures your product is seen. Displays give merchandisers control over their product’s story.  Let customers walk away with a specific idea about your product. Some displays work better than others. The best displays use the following 6 techniques:

  • Bright colors draw attention.  Interrupt the monotony of shopping, walking, and general life with something exciting and fun.  This friendly approach builds trust and interest, putting yourself in the best position to close a sale.

  • Minimalist designs create intrigue.  Think how Apple accomplishes so much with just bare tables and phones.  Sleek is hip, hip is good.

  • Use your display to further advertise markdowns.  It's a simple one-two punch. Draw them in and build their excitement, then give them a sale they cannot walk away from.  "Buy One Get One" promotions work to the same effect. They introduce new consumers to your product while encouraging repeat shoppers to walk away with more than they usually would.  This is a great way to boost profits while shedding excess stock.

  • Enthusiasm sells.  Build meaningful relationships with store staff to get them excited about your product.  They create face-to-face connections with potential buyers on the floor. If staff feels personally connection to your product, they often are the deciding factor in pushing sales.

  • Take up space.  If you monopolize a wall, you monopolize a customer's focus.  You can hit them with the colors, with the simplistic design and with the sales reps.  If you hit them with physical scope, you are guaranteed to have them walking away with a good impression and a handful of goods.

  • Make them remember you.  A good design sells. The best designs encourage the customers to sell for you!  Give them an experience they need to talk about on social media. A unique display doubling as a photo op quite literally sells itself.  


Luxury chocolate designers BbyB touch on every above point to create unforgettable merchandising, voluntarily advertised by consumers on social media with as much frequency as their own internal ad campaigns.


Get the Retail Shelving Space You Deserve

Despite plenty of evidence stressing the importance of product location on retail shelves, many brands struggle to capitalize on this.  Doing so takes more than effort; it takes a good merchandising strategy and a strong sales pitch. The former is easy (and well covered ground).  But many brands find difficulty in positioning themselves as a brand worthy of the top-tier shelving during negotiations with retailers.

Enter merchandising negotiations with a combination of strong, historic sales numbers and examples of previous successful marketing strategies.  With a complete set of merchandising data, you‘ll be able to prove the sales lift of each campaign and make a stronger case for your placement. Remember, retailers want product moving as much as you do.

To get clean data about your merchandising execution over time, have your field team answer targeted questions in each visit report. For example:

  • Are the displays properly maintained?
  • What competition exists in the immediate area?
  • Do the retailers honor our specified placement strategy?
  • Are we in stock?
  • How much physical space do we have?
  • How did sales grow after certain campaigns?

Pair this analysis with SKU data to establish tangible correlations to show retailers the benefit of giving your brand a prime spot on the shelf.

Peter Manning

Peter Manning is a Content Market Journalist for Repsly. He's a recent graduate from Boston College with a degree in English. When he's not writing for the site, he's almost certainly playing bass, getting second place in trivia, or watching the Patriots like a good New England native.

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