During a market research class last semester my prof shared the basis of a project she had worked on. She revealed that for one project a lab created mock grocery store shelves and invited participants to test displays. This particular project tested the organization of the shelves of the baking aisle in chronological baking order. From what I could gather a rather large amount of resources was invested to design the baking aisle in such a manner.
It seems like large investments are made by companies every year in establishing the “right” retail environment and positioning of products. I have sat in and participated in numerous class discussions over the reasonings of specific product placements instore and techniques used to plan and execute the researched placements. I remember after reading of some Paco Underhill findings my trip to the local grocery store turned into a quite interesting trip as I compared his findings/suggestions alongside that of the current layout. In general I had felt that the research was being employed and applied at the store level as intended.
I always do my grocery shopping on Tuesdays now that the local Metro offers a 10% student discount. I always pick up the necessities of the week in the same order, baby carrots from the produce section, greek yogurt from the dairy section, and then juice from the edge of the refrigerated section. But last week I almost left the grocery store without the greek yogurt and the juice despite taking the exact same route as usual. I had walked past both the juice and the greek yogurt.
Two of the stock boys had decided to reposition the entire refrigerated section of the back wall. The greek yogurt and juice were now placed quite far away from their original spots. I was curious as I am quite often a believer in “why fix what ain’t broken” , especially when familiarity is an important factor (it is in my mind when grocery shopping is done in a rush!). The curiosity took over and I just had to question the two boys as to why the display was now entirely repositioned. The answer? “We don’t know, it’s because we’re idiots and felt like it”.
Now, I’m not sure how much the chain may have invested in research to establish the most revenue maximizing positioning scheme but the lesson that I learnt is that expensive research is useless unless applied and employed at the storefront level.
FYI, I almost walked away from the grocery store without greek yogurt during this week’s Tuesday trip when I couldn’t find the familiar blue tube at first glance.
Also, I wonder how suppliers feel when they realize the product placement spot they pushed hard for isn’t where their product actually lies. #disconnect