Newsflash: The Shopper Doesn’t Even See The Display You Spent Millions On

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” So says Henry David Thoreau, American writer and philosopher. If Henry’s got it right, what are the implications for the hundreds of millions, billions, of dollars spent on in store displays? Turns out the answer is: abysmal.

Especially if it’s also true that eye-tracking shows the average shopper spends three tenths of one second looking at an in-store sign. That’s literally the time it takes to blink your eyes. Let’s also consider that at the recent Shopper Insights in Action Conference sponsored by IIR USA, POPAI, The Global Association for Marketing at Retail, cited only 13% of eye fixations by a shopper in the store were drawn to in-store displays. And by the way, on average there are 150 pieces of P.O.P. observed in a store and only half of customers remembered observing even 1 of them.

POPAI also presented a segmentation of shoppers in four categories. Which of these are looking at displays?

  1. Time stressed (26% of shoppers) – “I need to get in and get out.”
  2. Explorer (29% of shoppers) – “I want to be inspired.”
  3. Trip planner (23% of shoppers) – “My trip is always planned.”
  4. Bargain hunter (22% of shoppers) – “I’m looking for a good deal.”

You probably guessed the Explorer. That’s my guess too. They skew all the numbers because they’re the ones who enjoy seeing new products, browsing the store and looking for meal inspiration (who are these people?). On the other hand, the Time-Stressed are trying to keep an eye on their kids and buy 70% on impulse. The Trip Planner knows what they want and are trying to stick to the plan. They aren’t really shopping. They’re hunting for the things on their list. And then there’s the Bargain Hunter. They pretty much know what they want. They’ve used a circular, have coupons in hand and if they look at any display or signage it’s to find the price.

There’s one more factor that needs to go in this equation. Of the billions of dollars of in-store P.O.P. created by CPG companies, 50% or more never gets to the store floor. That’s right. It gets designed, produced, planned and shipped but it never gets placed.

I’m not sure I can do the math on in-store merchandising. If I spend $1,000,000 on P.O.P per year, half of it never gets displayed. And of the half that does get displayed, likely only 29% of shoppers, The Explorers, may take the time to see it. Combine that with the fact that only 13% of eye-fixations are on displays (it’s probably those Bargain Hunters looking at the price) for the time it takes to blink your eyes (0.3 seconds). And even then, there’s only a 1 in 150 chance half of shoppers will remember seeing any in-store display. So, what’s the ROI on the money you spent attracting shoppers to your product?

It’s high time companies admit they’re throwing a lot of money away with their conventional in-store approach. The entire process needs to be redesigned. Henry got it right. It’s not what shoppers look at that matters. It’s what they see. And they aren’t seeing much.