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The Psychology Behind Product Placement


With the pressure from online sales, the retail space needs to work at its best to keep the attention of the customer. You need to keep the consumer browsing happily through your area, finding the products they desire with ease. The study of retail product placement is big business. Even though there is a science behind the arrangement of your products, most would tell you that it is more art than anything.  You need to use part knowledge and part instinct to find the correct location for the products you sell.  Every successful shop you walk around is the product of a manager’s imagination, as they consider precisely the right area for a product.

Retail product placement has become a significant area of research, with the psychology behind the consumer experience being of prime importance to all sizes of shops. However, this area of study is most essential for those shops selling fast-moving consumer goods. Even though these are the inexpensive and everyday products that we all need to stock up on each day, they are also products that need to move off the shelf quickly. Shops holding large stocks of household goods, consumables, medications and the like, need there to be a constant stream of purchases out the door if they are to survive. It is here that product placement is critical.

What is product placement?

Simply put, product placement is the theory behind where you place your products.  Common sense here hides a fair degree of complexity.  Study and application of product placement require detailed knowledge of the psychology of the consumer.  From the moment the customer walks in your shop, they are experiencing the retailer’s planogram.

The planogram is the model of a shop that determines where you should place products based on how the consumer will travel and direct the gaze in the shop.  Your planogram will consider the lighting, the size of the store, the width of your aisles, the size of your shelves, whether you use mirrors – and all this is linked the demographics of your customers.  It is a delicate balance of factors that decides where the bread and milk are placed in relation to the pet food.

Theories of product placement.

It is fine to understand the theory, but really, we all want to know how to apply this to increase sales. Therefore, it is interesting to hear the tips and tricks of the trade focused on improving your retail environment.

Here are some of the best ideas out there:

1. Put the essentials are the back of the store – remember the bread, milk and eggs – sure every customer will want these, so ask them to walk past a lot of other products first. The more you can guide the consumer past your luxuries – those items they know they shouldn’t put in the trolley – the more they will struggle to resist the urge. You need to keep tempting them. Bread in the back far corner means walking by the cake counter once to get there and then once more as the person heads to the checkout.

2. Items on a short shelf life or are highly desirable but low in practicality might be better placed near the front of the store – encouraging an impulse buy may be easier when the trolley is empty, and the individual has yet to worry about the bill. If it is at the bottom of the cart, it is too much hassle to return it to the shelf when the guilt kicks in.

3. Place the most bought items at eye level, so the consumer does not have to search for the things they favour. If you speak to any product manufacturer, they will tell you that the middle shelves at eye level are prime real estate for the placement of their products. Items on the top-most shelf and the bottom shelves will struggle to sell – unless the items are aimed at toddlers – then the bottom shelf is the dream spot.

4. Make the most of the wait at the till by placing potential impulse buys on show. This is an excellent place for sweets at toddler or trolley seat level, as the pressure of a young child in a stressful moment is better than any advertising you can purchase.

5. Make it easier to choose the larger trolley – the impression of how much you are buying changes entirely with a large cart. You may ask the consumer to insert a pound coin to release the smaller trolley – but the larger trolleys can just be grabbed at will.

This is just the beginning of the psychology of product placement. You need to consider so many things – like the use of colour, the width of the aisles and the use of music. This should have whetted your appetite to learn more about the psychology of your consumer.