How do we look for things?
Chances are that if you are like me at some point you will have lost something such as your keys and have had to try and find them. You will have gone first to the most logical places such as the key hooks by the door or the counter top in the kitchen; but if your keys don’t show up there you’ll try elsewhere, working through a mental list of all the possible places that your keys might be. As the search goes on you’ll probably feel yourself getting more and more frustrated and possibly start thinking about how much time you are wasting and how you need to be moving on to do something else. But you don’t stop, you need your keys!
Looking for products in a supermarket is no different. We all visit a store with the intent to buy something, and often, although we may not know precisely what that something is, we at least have an idea. So we look in the most obvious places and through a process of elimination find the products we are interested in. But what if we can’t find what we’re looking for? Well, just like when we lose our keys, we will begin to feel frustrated and that we should be doing something else. But, unlike when we lose our keys, the consequence of not finding what we are looking for is often less critical and we might give up; So we can’t find the toilet paper – there’s still enough at home to tide us over until the next trip, we can’t find the eggs – we’ll have pasta and not an omelette for lunch, we can’t find the chocolate – perhaps it’s better we didn’t buy it anyway.
Although, putting things in a logical place helps enormously, it is also useful if the thing we are looking for has some form of distinctive characteristic that enables us to identify it in amongst the visual noise. It gives us a focus for our search and enables us to more readily dismiss the irrelevant, so just like in the popular children’s book, Wally has a distinctive red and white striped jersey and hat, so supermarket products need packaging that will help them stand out from the crowd.
But even if we do eventually find what we are looking for, if it’s taken too much time and effort, we will have become frustrated and feel like we need to be getting on with something else. In this situation we are far less inclined to hang about and buy other things that perhaps we don’t need, just like if we lose our keys and after an eternity searching for them forego that cup of coffee before leaving the house to get to work.
Ensuring products are easy to find in a supermarket through both placement and packaging is therefore critical to both closing the sale of staple items and capturing the discretionary wallet; and measures of the time it takes for shoppers to make product selections and the degree to which they walk away are fundamental to evaluating retail performance.