Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication

Winning at Shelf : Visual Codes

Are you exploiting visual codes?

Having talked about what it takes to win in E-Commerce recently, we are now turning our attention to the real shopper fundamentals.  The things that are crucial to winning at shelf, in whichever channel that shelf may be.

As the shopping environment gets increasingly complex, more products come to market, and new sub categories emerge, cutting through at shelf may be the difference between winning and losing.

Crucial to this are ‘Visual Codes’.  These are simple visual cues, usually based around colour and shape, that shoppers use to navigate around the store, orientate in the aisle, and filter and select products.

They are the shopping equivalent of the visual codes that exist throughout the rest of life.  How do you know whether to stop or go at a traffic light?  Which way is hot or cold on the tap? Which line to use on the London Underground?

Visual codes make life simpler and they make shopping simpler.

So, how do visual codes work in store and how can you make visual codes work for you…?

Merchandising.  Visual codes help shoppers navigate a category.  Sainsbury’s have recently applied visual codes to fresh meat merchandising. They are using big, bold colour signage to segment the category.  Want Beef? Look for Red, Want Lamb?  Look for Green.  Quicker navigation means less time searching, more time engaging.  More engagement means more buying.

This can be particularly important when you are trying to establish or develop sub categories.  What is the visual code for Premium Beer?  Healthy Ready Meals? If there isn’t one for your sub category, you might benefit from one.

NPD.  Visual codes are key for new products.  The launch of Compact Deodorants is a good example.  All cans had a green band on them and the TV ad said ‘look for the small cans with the green band’.  This is a great way of linking what you do out of store with what you do in store.  It acts as a visual prime for the shopper.  Would Gillette Fusion have worked without orange & blue? Yes.  Would it have worked as well? No.

Packaging.  Protecting visual codes is crucial for established brands.  Tropicana sales nosedived when the picture of the orange was removed from the pack.  Knorr chicken stock cubes sales dropped when the chicken visual was removed – even though, the pack clearly said ‘chicken’. Both brands sales returned to normal once the visuals were reinstated.  This doesn’t mean never change your pack, but it does mean take the visual code with you in any re-design.

Promotions. We’ve talked before about the role of colour as a value trigger.  However, if all you see when you walk down an aisle is yellow and red, how do you navigate through the promotional jungle?  A good example we have seen recently is Majestic Wine.  Red = 33% off, Green = 25% off, Purple = 15% off.  This gives the shopper a simple way to judge value and make a choice.

So, visual codes are crucial to the shopping process.  As shopping gets more complex their importance will only increase.  Do you know what the relevant ones are for you?  And are you exploiting them as well as you could be?

Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.