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Effective merchandising strategies that win customers

Effective merchandising strategies that win customers

Proper item placement can be the difference between success or failure for any brand, item and even retailer. Consumers want stores that are easy to shop and sections that are well merchandised. Busy customers hate scavenger hunts. They appreciate retailers with clean, well-organized and easy to shop stores. 

Like with like

One way to achieve this is to merchandise like items together with a similar theme or function, such as gluten-free. These categories appeal to very specific consumers who are typically committed, loyal shoppers, willing to spend more than the average consumer to buy quality products that meet a specific need. According to a recent study done by Boulder Brands, “A gluten-free shopper spends about three times more per store visit.  The gluten-free shopper spends almost $100 and the average American shopper spends about $30.  However, if the section isn’t there, they are going to leave.” These are your best customers and are definitely worth your focus.

A savvy retailer will dual merchandise top items from the sections within regular categories. This strategy invites customers to try new items and to learn about products that support specific needs such as gluten free. For example, merchandise gluten-free crackers in both the gluten-free section and the cracker category. Once your customers try and like a gluten-free item, they might then try other gluten-free items. Then they become one of your committed loyal gluten-free shoppers. 

'Eye level' strategy

Merchandising is also how a retailer commits to specific customer needs. A retailer might merchandise certified organic items at eye level and items that are less “clean” above and below. This strategy works equally well for non-GMO, allergen free and specialty items. 


Most categories allow you to group items into different segments. The different segments make it easier for customers to shop the category. One good strategy is to merchandise items into quality segments: super-premium, premium and economy. Placing super premium items at eye level and economy items on the bottom shelf is a great way to trade a consumer up. Customers want good value for their money and that frequently includes super-premium products.

This is where a strong brand strategy helps. Merchandise your brands into different segments. Sprinkle your private label in next to the top-selling brands. This gives the consumers additional product choices.  

Grouping complementary categories

Another important strategy of merchandising is to group complementary categories together (spices with baking needs, pasta with sauces, etc.). Not only does this make it easy for consumers to shop your store, it makes it easy for them to purchase all of the items needed to make a cake or a meal. 

An often overlooked benefit of this strategy is the ability to co-promote items with a similar theme (holidays, Superbowl, etc.). Co-promoting complementary items stretches your trade budget and draws attention to other products throughout the store. Remember, the goal is to have your customers fill as much of their shopping list in your store as possible. 

Daniel Lohman is the owner of Category Management Solutions (CMS) which provides innovative strategic solutions for natural and organic CPG companies interested in gaining a significant competitive advantage.
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