Boost shelf appeal

Retailers would be wise to consider the following three tips when developing the “sell at the shelf” strategy.

1. Know your marketing strategy.

Before retailers can really even think about selling at the shelf, they need to establish and define their private label marketing strategy, says Stephen Birtsas, senior manager, packaging practice lead for Beachwood, Ohio-based Kalypso. He says retailers should ask themselves: Is this product, or line of products, part of a value, national-brand-equivalent (NBE) or premium tier? Knowing the answer to this question will greatly impact how the product should be marketed at the shelf, he adds.

For example, if the product is NBE, Birtsas believes it makes the most sense to mimic the key traits of a national brand such as packaging shape, colors and claims. This treatment will increase the likelihood that the consumer will pick up both the national brand and the private label product to compare them.

Of course, retailers then need to make sure the NBE product can withstand consumer scrutiny; significant differences will result in a disconnect that could spur the consumer to purchase the national brand and ignore store brands in other categories.

However, if the product is a unique premium-tier item, instead of mimicking the national brand, the packaging, colors and claims should also be unique and different, he notes.

As part of their strategy, retailers must also ask themselves if they will create a very strong line look across the store or a unique look and even brand name for each category, says Deborah Ginsburg, CEO and founder of Strategia Design, Oakton, Va.

Pros and cons are associated with each of these choices, she says. For example, retailers that go with a strong line look are able to quickly roll out new products and line extensions, since the template for the packaging is already established, whereas products sporting unique category-specific packaging can take significantly longer to get on the shelf.

However, in certain categories, consumers might be “put off” buying a product that is so obviously a store brand, Ginsburg says. She gives the example of Giant Foods — a banner of Ahold USA, Carlisle, Pa. — and baby diapers. About 10 years ago, Ahold USA created the Cottontails store brand to be a warm, cozy and baby-specific brand that parents would feel comfortable putting on their child, she says, because “Giant brand” diapers didn’t convey that feeling.

2. Use effective shelf signage.

“Retailers have a unique opportunity to change shopper behavior at the point of decision while the shopper is in the store looking at the product, and there is no better way to do this than through a shelf tag or shelf sign,” says Jeff Weidauer, vice president, marketing and strategy for Little Rock, Ark.-based Vestcom.

But to do this, retailers can’t view shelf signs as just a vehicle for pricing; instead, they must view them as an opportunity to educate and inform the customer, he adds.

Ginsburg agrees. Instead of trying to sell customers on low prices, create shelf signage that speaks to the customer’s challenges and needs — use it to connect with the customer, she advises. For example, a sign that says “Do you have a stuffy nose today?” draws attention to store brand cold medicine and is going to be much more effective than a sign that simply compares prices between the national and store brand.

Effective signage will vary by category, Weidauer states. For example, a customer shopping for wine wants information that will remove some of the angst that goes along with the decision, so providing her with a Wine Spectator score could be incredibly helpful.

Shelf signage doesn’t have to be only about words; it also can include a visual element to help pique the consumer’s curiosity and convey the product’s value, says Jim Lucas, executive vice president, global insights and strategy for Des Plaines, Ill.-based SGK. For example, Nivea used a shelf sign to advertise its invisible deodorant product simply, clearly and effectively, he says. The shelf sign showed a picture of the package and featured bold block text at the top reading “No more deodorant stains.” It also included a picture of a shirt that was half white and half black with text reading “No white marks” and “No yellow stains.”

3. Create packaging that pops.

As a consumer walks down a store aisle, the first thing they notice is the products’ packaging, Birtsas says. A consumer takes about three seconds to make up her mind about what she’s going to pick up and look at, so the packaging really needs to attract her attention, he adds.

For example, if the national brands are all using rich, bold colors, then the store brand could use a softer, lighter color to stand out, says Glenn Pfeifer, executive creative director, Galileo Global Branding Group, Daymon Worldwide, Stamford, Conn. Or if the national brands have very busy-looking packaging, the store brand could go with an uncomplicated look.

Lucas adds that consumers are increasingly interested in where their food products come from and in the quality of those products, especially premium-tier items. One retailer that has responded to consumers’ interests here is Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., which created a dedicated webpage for its premium Private Selection range, he says. The webpage discusses where the products come from, shows videos of how they are prepared, and provides coupons and recipes to help encourage trial.

Additionally, the packaging is a primary means of communication between the retailer and the consumer, Ginsburg says. So to communicate most effectively, retailers need a strategy that defines a specific hierarchy of information. For example, do retailers want to first emphasize the brand, appetite appeal, nutrition or ease of use? Once the marketing hierarchy is established, then it can be translated into a visual hierarchy the consumer can understand.

And often what works best is packaging that is clear and simple, says Charisse Jacques, partner in the retail practice at Kalypso. Consumers have to deal with information overload in store, so a simple, clear message is really able to grab their attention, she notes.

“Usually a simple and bold communication like an eye-catching product photo or photo with an illustration can visually drive the personality behind the language of a brand,” Pfeifer adds.

And don’t forget to align the packaging materials with the product message, Ginsburg advises. If the product is supposed to be all-natural or organic, then you can’t put it into a non-recyclable package — that wouldn’t make sense or support the brand’s message, she says. Additionally, the packaging should support the retailer brand itself. Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans, for example, has a corporate feeling of “fun” and “approachable,” from customer service personnel to the checkers and stockers, and its packaging also embodies that same attitude, she says.

“When you can convey the feeling of the store in your packaging, then you’re aligned,” Ginsburg adds.

Pfeifer agrees.

“Personality and engagement both play a much bigger role [in store brand packaging],” he says. “In the end, it’s all about getting your brand ‘noticed’ and to do that, you have to create a personality and voice that is all your own.”