Tara Prab­hakar

Point of Purchase - - CONTENTS -

Visual Clut­ter can greatly in­ter­fere with a shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. Tara Prab­hakar De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor, R&S, Asia Pa­cific, shares her views on how clut­ter im­pacts the shop­per and how prod­uct place­ments can be done at re­tail in the most ef­fec­tive and least con­fus­ing man­ner.

In my re­cent con­ver­sa­tions with mar­keters and shop­pers one is­sue dom­i­nates – clut­ter at the store. The ben­e­fit of clut­ter-break­through to mar­keters is clear enough but in­ter­est­ingly shop­pers (across in­come seg­ments) too want to man­age clut­ter on their shop­ping trip so as to shop ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively. An anal­y­sis of what mo­ti­vates shop­pers to seek clut­ter man­age­ment re­veals that

Clut­ter is de­bil­i­tat­ing and plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in mak­ing you feel tired at the end of a shop­ping trip. The tired­ness from nav­i­gat­ing clut­ter (shop­pers com­plain of tired eyes and headaches) is dif­fer­ent from the tired­ness of a long shop­ping trip (shop­pers com­plain of body / joint aches). This is be­cause nav­i­gat­ing clut­ter is a visual ac­tiv­ity re­quir­ing con­cen­tra­tion and use of men­tal fac­ul­ties. Some sci­en­tists have even com­pared it to do­ing a Su­doku but un­like a Su­doku it does not of­fer the same sense of achieve­ment. Why?

Be­cause nav­i­gat­ing clut­ter is usu­ally done via a process of ‘de-se­lec­tion’ and the brain is not pro­grammed to ex­pe­ri­ence achieve­ment for avoid­ing bad choices; achieve­ment comes from mak­ing the right / great / ideal choices. So while nav­i­gat­ing clut­ter, shop­pers are in­vest­ing a great deal of visual at­ten­tion and men­tal pro­cess­ing to go: ‘not this, not that, not here, not there’. You can see how that could be tir­ing!

Clut­ter can im­pact judg­ment by pre­sent­ing par­tial choices. Here are a few live ex­am­ples from my con­ver­sa­tions – a great deal is hid­den be­hind a pil­lar so I missed buy­ing the cat­e­gory on sale (Amul ice-cream), the cat­e­gory is stocked in mul­ti­ple places so I bought a sec­ond­choice brand (branded chips), the ex­piry dates of the pieces in the front were too short so I didn’t buy the cat­e­gory (pack of 10 Yakult), the sham­poo and con­di­tion­ers were mixed up on the shelf so I ended up buy­ing the con­di­tioner in­stead of the sham­poo (L’Oreal) and so on... So, as a shop­per the onus is on me to nav­i­gate this clut­ter so that I don’t miss out or make a poor choice.

Manag­ing clut­ter im­pacts a shop­per’s time, bud­get and well­be­ing and ul­ti­mately, the de­sire to pa­tron­ize a par­tic­u­lar re­tail brand.

So what does clut­ter mean? It’s im­por­tant to dis­tin­guish be­tween good and bad clut­ter (yes, there’s “good” clut­ter). A sim­ple way to ex­plain the dif­fer­ence is via a sit­u­a­tion that many of us have faced as par­ent or child – a de­ter­mined mom try­ing to “clean up” her teenage child’s room only to be told that the “pre-cleaned” ver­sion was per­fect be­cause it “says who I am” or be­cause “I knew where to find what ex­actly”. Good clut­ter is not about san­i­tized or or­ga­nized shop floors. Good clut­ter al­lows us to be who we are and thrive on past ex­pe­ri­ence and in­stincts whereas bad clut­ter con­fuses our in­stincts and does not al­low us to re­lax.

In the re­tail con­text this means or­ga­niz­ing lay­out, aisles, shelves, FSUs and cash wraps in ac­cor­dance with shop­per in­stincts (or heuris­tics) rather than mar­ket­ing agen­das.

What do I mean by mar­ket­ing agen­das ver­sus shop­per in­stincts?

Be­cause we think sham­poos and con­di­tion­ers are com­bi­na­tional prod­ucts let us not make them look un­can­nily sim­i­lar to each other and then put them next to each other with no sep­a­rat­ing sig­nage at the shelf. Sales fig­ures tell us that con­di­tion­ers are still niche which means that fewer shop­pers buy con­di­tion­ers and the pur­chase fre­quency of con­di­tion­ers is lower than that of sham­poos. So this kind of stock­ing is de­signed to con­fuse more shop­pers (than pro­vide con­ve­nience).

Be­cause we want to ef­fect a quick turnover of prod­ucts ap­proach­ing ex­piry let’s not place the fresh prod­ucts at the ab­so­lute back of the shelves. For per­ish­able cat­e­gories that they are still get­ting to know (and those that are not ne­ces­si­ties), shop­pers don’t spend too much time pe­rus­ing what’s avail­able on the shelf; a cur­sory stock-tak­ing of the front rows is enough to en­gage or aban­don. They may make the ef­fort to look thor­oughly for a reg­u­lar pur­chase like pack­aged yo­ghurt but not for tofu or pro­bi­otic sup­ple­ments.

Be­cause we think that gourmet foods need shop­per ed­u­ca­tion let’s not plas­ter the aisles with demo staff or sales as­so­ci­ates ea­ger to ex­plain why a spe­cific type of cheese is a great buy. It only crowds the shop­per and makes them feel scru­ti­nized and loathe to ex­plore a cat­e­gory un­less they are keen on buy­ing.

A sim­ple way to cre­ate good clut­ter is to give it pur­pose – for ex­am­ple, one of the Land­mark stores dumped an as­sort­ment of “niche” movies in one large bin (with a sign­board say­ing “odd picks”) in the mid­dle of a few aisles. I see this as leav­ing the choice of en­gag­ing or aban­don­ing to the shop­per (as op­posed to clut­ter­ing up ex­ist­ing aisles and forc­ing shop­pers to nav­i­gate through ir­rel­e­vant prod­ucts to get to their favourites). Some see it as clut­ter­ing the path­way with a bin that shop­pers will have to walk around. All my con­ver­sa­tions with shop­pers tell me that the phys­i­cal ef­fort in­volved in walk­ing around the bin is lower than the con­ve­nience of not hav­ing to en­gage with prod­ucts they are not in­ter­ested in, in the reg­u­lar aisles or the joy of pos­si­bly dis­cov­er­ing some­thing new via rum­mag­ing through a fi­nite set of new prod­ucts in one place. Mar­ket­ing agenda would dic­tate an al­pha­bet­i­cal ar­range­ment of these odd picks. This would ei­ther re­sult in the odd pick get­ting lost or adding to the clut­ter when some­one is shop­ping for the pop­u­lar picks. By putting it all in one bin they’ve worked with shop­per in­stinct. Now the clut­ter has a pur­pose – the shop­per knows what to ex­pect in a col­lec­tion ti­tled “odd picks” and only en­gages with the bin if they want to. Fur­ther­more, in a smaller set of sim­i­larly “odd” movies, these odd picks stand a bet­ter chance of be­ing picked.

If we use the fil­ter of good and bad clut­ter who knows? We may achieve the happy sit­u­a­tion of fewer shop­per headaches and more lib­er­ated shop­ping. That could be prof­itable, couldn’t it?

Tara Prab­hakar, Devel­op­ment Di­rec­tor, TNS Re­tail & Shop­per APAC

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