Differentiating, influencing at the shelf and online


Emmet Dennis of Sundial Brands, Paulette Heller of Conair and Jonathan Rhyan of Edgewell

Laura Hyland, Henkel, Craig Dubitsky of Hello and Jody Pinson of WalmartThe retail store is an ecosystem, according to Dan Mack, managing director of Mack Elevation. “More than ever before, all of us are investing in the shelf. That experience matters. It is as much a part of the brand as your brand is [part of] the category.”

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To better understand how top retailers and CPG companies are using the shelf and the shopping experience to appeal to a new generation of consumers, Drug Store News and Mack Elevation hosted a special panel as part of the New General Market Forum in April.

With eye popping in-store traffic levels and a sea of items, improving shop-pability and the in-store experience is a challenge and a goal for Walmart. Jody Pinson, VP merchandising, beauty, said understanding and improving the store experience is “one of the most frequent conversations we have.” She said it helps when packages are simple and that launches are kept focused. “We are looking for brands bringing fewer, but bigger [launches], so we can enable the shopping experience to be better.” The company also is sifting through the mounds of data to build a better shopping experience.

For Sundial’s Emmet Dennis, making the shelf “talk” was essential right from the brand’s debut. “We’ve been pretty consistent. When you had the humble beginning that we had and there was virtually no money for advertising and marketing, everything had to resonate [with shoppers] at the shelf,” he said. The package needed to convey to the shopper the experience they could expect in terms of what was in the packaging. Dennis said the packaging had to be clear and created with an “astute” shopper in mind. When it delivers on the promise, it becomes “shareable” and helps brands thrive.

The shelf is critical to communicate the features, separating its appliances from the competition. Paulette Heller, VP marketing at Conair, explained that the nature of the business encourages consumers to do research before they visit the store — especially in the case of millennials who actually often do their investigation on phones in the store.

“Most of them are shopping and using their phones, so we have to figure out how to bridge that gap between digital and physical space,” she said. “We really try to engage them from a visual standpoint so that when they come to the store, the visuals they see are consistent with what they saw online.” In addition, the company has found that the use of videos in the store has been very effective, as well as touch-and-feel displays, which “can increase sales by about 20% to 30%.”

OGX has won millennial approval with exotic ingredient stories that are on trend. “The shelf has really been one of our biggest assets. We had to stand out at the shelf,” said Courtney Connelly, senior brand manager at Vogue International. The short, playful colored bottles of OGX helped accomplish that. “We broke the category codes to make sure the product stood out.” Going forward, she wants the brand’s stories to “come to life on shelf.”

At Edgewell, shopper marketing manager Jonathan Rhyan explained the need to balance consumer information, especially concerning feminine hygiene and life stages, with the issue that women don’t like to hover too long in the feminine aisle. That’s been done with shelf information that’s concise, but mirrors online content.

Suncare is another category where the shelf can be used to convey information, Rhyan said. Edgewell integrates tools to help shoppers know what SPF they might need on a particular weather day. That cuts through the confusion in the sun care category. “We are reinventing the aisle and integrating technological tools to help consumers know what to buy,” Rhyan said.

At Henkel, the high attention to product detail is translated on the shelf, too. The company is committed to focusing on the shopper and making her in-store experience easy to find what she’s looking for as quickly as possible. The old idea of putting milk at the back of the store to keep shoppers in aisles longer is passé, said Laura Hyland, VP shopper strategy and e-commerce. “All of our research shows that the quicker and easier you make it to find [what they want], the better,” said Laura Hyland, VP shopper strategy and e-commerce. Even physical shelf sets need to be created with the digital experience in mind. “Even if she’s shopping for hair color, she goes online looking for reviews,” added Hyland.

Emerging brands in particular need power at the shelf. Craig Dubitsky, founder and CEO of Hello Products, continues to tweak the packaging because, he said, “the decision to purchase is still made at the shelf.”

Dubitsky’s vision is to ensure that his designs and copy are interesting, especially since he competes against a sea of blue and red banners from the two behemoths in the category. “Our package conveys that it is new so much that we didn’t have to say it was ‘new” with a violator. I think that anything called a violator is something wrong,” he joked. Hello packaging is fresh and enticing thanks to a clever UPC code made of little brushes.