A. G. Lafley drove success at P&G in large part through his focus on the two key “Moments of Truth” that consumer packaged goods must win in order to survive and thrive. The first moment is when the consumer makes the decision to buy the product, and the second is when the consumer actually uses the product. In the first moment, the product must beat the competition on the shelf; in the second it must meet or exceed the consumer’s expectations in order to compel them to buy it again.
Imagine a new great tasting organic fruit juice that has no artificial ingredients, is naturally low in calories, refreshing, thirst quenching and actually gives you a sharper mind. This new juice may even be advertised on billboards, in Superbowl ads and on a viral video. Unfortunately, if a customer finds this product on the bottom shelf in a market – in one low stocked facing, non-descript bottle – chances are, he or she will favor a competitor in an attractive glass bottle on a well-stocked shelf at eye level. In that moment of truth, the best product doesn’t win unless it is presented in a compelling and appealing way.
There are several basic strategies to winning this first moment of truth. You don’t need to spend millions on a Super Bowl ad, but you do need to invest in the 3 F’s of Retail Execution.
Your product must be Fresh. Even those with a long shelf life need to look fresh. Test your product's ‘Freshness Appeal’ with a focus group. You may be surprised to find how subtleties, such as font, color combinations, and even the shape of the packaging, can greatly affect how consumers perceive freshness.
In addition to packaging, the stock level of your product has a tremendous impact on the perception of freshness. No one ever buys that last lonely loaf of bread. The perception is that there must be something wrong with it; it is the last one left, so it must be the lowest quality. Work to get multiple facings of your product on the shelf, and be in tune with the velocity that your product moves so you can keep replenishments coming at the right pace.
Secondly, your product must be Featured. Ideally, your retailers will agree to let you run in-store promotions, and give you prominent placements in multiple locations. You should always be pushing for these opportunities. Realistically, your product will have to feature itself without the benefit of promotions much of the time. We’ve already touched on packaging, but I’ll add that when you test your packaging, include testing to determine which packaging stands out from the competition without alienating the consumer. Packaging needs to balance being sensible with being edgy in order to appeal to the broadest market. Outside of packaging, the location of the product relative to the competition is very important at winning the first moment of truth. Expect your competition to be working just as hard as you are on winning this battle. It may not be a clear cut decision for the consumer; in this case, the consumer is often inclined to select the product that is easiest to pick up. The ideal location (assuming you can’t get an end-cap or aisle blocker) is just below eye level, towards the middle of the aisle.
The final F that you need to focus on is making sure that the consumer can Find your product; even when they don’t know that they are looking for it! All of the things we have talked about already play into this: your packaging needs to stand out, you need to be in a shelf position that is readily visible, and you need enough product facings and stock to make a reasonable impression on the scene, but there are couple additional aspects to consider. Think about how your product is used once the consumer gets it home.
Toothpicks are a great example. Where would you find toothpicks in a grocery store, and who goes to the grocery store for toothpicks? Toothpicks are used for many things besides picking teeth; they make great hors-d'oeuvre servers, baking testers, Martini olive skewers and science project thingamajigs. So where would you look for toothpicks? They should be in the paper goods aisle so those people that put them on their shopping list can find them (I have yet to find a ‘toothpicks’ aisle, and paper goods makes the most sense somehow), but they would also do well in a small shelf hanging display next to the olives, and in the kitchen utensils aisle, and probably even near the glue and other ‘hobby’ items. These locations will drive up impulse buys.
The same strategy can be applied to many other products: BBQ Sauce in the meat department, Rolls in the Deli, Natural Fruit Juices in the produce section, Onion Soup Mix near the Mayonnaise. Think about how your product is used, what it is used with, and the personality of your target consumer. Then, lobby for secondary locations in the store near compatible products. This is how your product gets found even when the consumer isn’t looking for it.
Think about the three Fs of Retail Execution and how they will help your product win that first moment of truth. If you’re right about how great your product is, winning this first battle is the only thing standing in the way of tremendous success!
Check back next week. I’ll be talking strategies that you can use to make sure that your field reps fight to win the First Moment of Truth as fiercely as you do when you are in the field.
Mat Brogie is part of the founding team, and CEO of Repsly, the world's leading solution for high performance retail execution teams. Mat has spent the past 15 years of his career focused on bringing technology enabled business solutions to the consumer goods industry, having implemented solutions for tens of thousands of field reps at companies such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Pepperidge Farm and hundreds of others.