Supermarkets are complicated businesses, that people outside the trade often underestimate. From the color scheme to the lighting, from product grouping to aisle flow, every aspect of the modern supermarket is carefully planned to provide the best possible service to your shoppers. The amount of research that goes in to developing a supermarket layout would probably astound the average person popping in to just get milk and wondering why they’ve come out with half the store.
Although different brands might pay to ensure that they have pride of place or to be able to run marketing campaigns at the end of the aisles, it seems to be the grocery section that has been the focus of many supermarkets’ development plans in the last few years
Supermarket Layout Design
It is hardly surprising if you think about it, that the layout of supermarkets makes it so easy to find certain items, or that certain foods are grouped together. Putting the flour and sugar in the same baking goods aisle means people are more likely to suddenly remember that they are out of chocolate chips as well as being out of sugar for their coffee.
Many stores have played with different layouts and different product groupings to find the best (most profitable) system for their customers, and the range of socioeconomic groupings in an area produces a different target market for different products.
However, with the increasing awareness of healthy living, eating more fruit and vegetables, and our obesity epidemic are meaning that stores are increasingly looking how supermarket produce stands are not only placed within the shop, but how they are designed, and how they present the products to the customer.
As the prime source for the majority of food in our modern societies, supermarkets are at the front firing line for how they present food, and how they encourage healthy or unhealthy eating is becoming more of a concern not only to psychologists and health advocates, but to the consumers they serve.
This means that supermarkets put time and effort into ensuring that produce is always displayed to encourage customers to buy large amounts of fruit and vegetables, which not only encourages bigger spends but also encourages faster turnover of fresh food stock, which in turn minimises wastage – and reducing wastage also increases profits.
Healthy Eating, Wastage & Marketing
Movements to ensure that food is not wasted are gaining momentum around the world, with food rescue groups collecting food that supermarkets consider unfit to sell (but is still perfectly edible), and many supermarkets are starting to sell produce that is not quite perfect – often at a discount price. All of this provides an opportunity for supermarkets to influence the eating habits of their shoppers. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140919-the-mind-games-of-supermarkets
Of course, while they are influencing healthy eating habits of consumers, they are creating excellent marketing opportunities for themselves with promotion of their philanthropic activities. Although this may seem a little cynical, most people on the front line of the increasing number of the middleclass experiencing food poverty and those in the health arena that are increasingly treating people for obesity and diet related illnesses are generally happy that a supermarket gets a little extra marketing boost as a trade off for increasing healthy eating habits of shoppers.
Does Shelving Matter?
In short, yes! A dusty, poorly lit book or antique store may create an exciting adventure for treasure hunters, but it is not something people want to associate with their food. Research shows us that how high or low a product is placed influences shoppers about its perceived value, with products placed within easy reach being considered the most desirable.
However, shelves must be clean – a bag of sugar that has split and been spilled on the shelf lowers the desirability of the products in the area. Whether produce is displayed in solid plastic moulded stands or whether it is stored in transportation crates can also influence value versus freshness.
Creating the idea that a supermarket is at the centre of family food and healthy living encourages shoppers to use supermarkets as their one stop shop rather than returning to specialist greengrocers or farmers markets. One of the ways that supermarkets have been doing this is by moving the produce section to be at the front of the store, so the first impression a customer gets is of fresh, healthy, fruit and vegetables.
There is a great movement that encourages children to take a piece of free fruit that is offered in a specially marked stand, and signage increases interest in the produce available by providing information about the nutritional rating, vitamin and mineral content, as well as the origin.
Other things that many supermarkets do to help increase their influence on shoppers eating and purchasing habits, is to provide free recipes that can be easily made from products purchased in store. Whether targeting the busy family that wants to be able to make a dinner in under 30 minutes, or the shared housing with friends living together who want to prepare cheap (but healthy and tasty) meals. The free recipes that are supplied have the ability to include fresh ingredients that encourage consumption of fruit and vegetables – and this can include deserts, lunchbox ideas and healthy snacks.
Other Influences for Shoppers
Another area that has been well researched is the influence that background music has on shopping habits (you can learn more about the research undertaken by clicking here). Although, as yet, there appears to be no research that specially looks at whether different types of music have any influence on the types of products purchased, we do know that within a supermarket situation, playing music that has a slower tempo encourages shoppers to take more time in making their selection. This usually results in consumers buying more, and spending more, but there is the possibility that slower music combined with more informative signage are two more aspects that can work together to encourage customers to linger longer in the produce aisle.