What do ‘lonely’ shelves and beautiful women have in common?

We all know the sensation of feeling intimidated by a beautiful man or woman. Even though we feel immensely attracted to them, the anxiety of approaching them is greater than our desire to engage with them. It may come to you as a surprise, but the same is true for shelves in the store. How? Time and time again in-store analytics shows consumers are afraid to touch your most beautiful shelf. The many heatmaps we’ve seen don’t lie: shoppers do not like to touch a shelf on which all clothes are very neatly folded. They are intimidated and are afraid to leave too much of a mess.

Of course a combination of factors determines which shelf and which part of the shelf gets most attention. Today we’d like to share some insights:

What do we look at?

Visual attention is usually automatically focused on the center of our visual field. What might be more interesting though, is that a recent eye-tracking study found that even when a product is not in the center of our visual field, but is in the center of a product category, it will capture most visual attention and has most chance to be bought. This means that on a shelf with two product categories, the product in the center of each category will likely be most successful, rather than the product in the center of the shelf or visual field.

POP Displays

POP Displays are often used to strengthen brand image and capture attention. Usually, however, success of such displays and campaigns is not measured or only measured by increase in sales. In one more extensive study for General Mills a POP display caused the shoppers stopping for at least 8 seconds to increase by 180%, engagement rate to triple and sales to grow by 17%. These displays can be a great way to promote a new or seasonal product.

The importance of store layout

The level of shelf engagement obviously also depends on its location in the store.  For instance, keep in mind that in a country where people drive on the right side of the road, shoppers will generally move to the right after entering. Moreover, the first few meters from a store’s entrance are known as the ‘decompression zone’. Shoppers still need to transition and adjust to the shop’s environment and will miss shelves located in this area. Once the decompression zone is over though, it’s advised to place a powerful shelf, as this is often a spot where people will pay attention and slow down.

Measuring success

All of these general principles exist for a reason, but how are they applicable to a specific store? Using new technologies, it is easier than ever to assess the effectiveness of a store’s layout and track the impact of changes. Most retailers, however, do not yet make use of these technologies and could do much more to measure the effect of their displays and layout or VM changes.

With heatmap technology, software to track dwell time and the ability to measure the amount of touches it is possible to affordably, continuously and immediately monitor the effect of changes, whereas the earlier described eye tracking study was conducted in a lab and the General Mills study was a one off study conducted by researchers on the ground. The ability of continuous monitoring, which new technology offers, is important. You’re not only interested in knowing the decompression zone exists, but you want to know what part of your specific store can be considered the decompression zone; and you don’t only want to know that POP displays work, but also which display works best. Finding answers to these questions is only possible through constant experimentation, measuring results and optimization,  because every store and consumer group is unique and what works for one doesn’t work for all. Nevertheless, general principles and previous studies are always useful as a starting point, so take the following chart into account when designing your next top shelf.