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Fix Your CPG Brand’s Shopability Issues Before You Lose Loyal Customers

Aug 3, 2021

Written By
Kelly Criswell

Lots of CPG brands — particularly large outfits with several sublines — have shopability issues. When shopping, their customers cannot easily and quickly identify the particular product or brand they want. These customers might return home from the grocery store with decaf coffee instead of regular — a mortal sin in the eyes of caffeine junkies everywhere.

If your brand has a shopability problem like this, your sales numbers will probably take a noticeable hit. And the less tangible repercussions — loss of brand equity and loyalty — can be even more detrimental to long-term brand health.

To help you avoid shopability issues, we’re about to break down:

  • What makes one particular brand unshoppable,
  • Two strategies to sidestep shopability problems, and
  • Two success stories of brands that overcame shopability challenges.

Annie’s Shopability Struggle

Sometimes the best way to wrap your head around a problem is to take an example. With that in mind, let’s consider Annie’s serious shopability struggle.

Annie’s is a beloved brand. We’re devoted to their white cheddar mac and cheese ourselves. But unfortunately, it hasn’t traditionally been a shoppable brand despite its popularity. The culprit? Their overabundance of variety.

For example, white cheddar is just one of dozens of Annie’s mac and cheese varieties. They also have yellow cheddar and four cheese, plus mac with broccoli, rice and quinoa pasta options, and even a deluxe line. And don’t even get us started on organic vs. gluten free vs. vegan vs. grass fed.

There’s nothing wrong with the number of mac and cheese options Annie’s offers. Customers appreciate choices! But Annie’s branding doesn’t make it clear what’s what. Their gluten free claim isn’t always in the same place on the packaging, for example. And you can’t easily distinguish the organic white cheddar from the regular. It makes for a frustrating shopping experience, especially when you have a picky toddler at home who will only eat one specific kind.

Sidenote: Annie’s recently rebranded. Fingers crossed they fixed their shopability issues!

2 Simple Strategies to Avoid Shopability Scourges

Even if your CPG brand makes a ton of different products, you’re not doomed to be like Annie’s. In fact, there are surefire ways to make certain your brand is extremely shoppable.

Start with these two tips:

1. Select Your Common Brand Element to Provide a Consistent Shopping Experience

To bypass shopabilty issues, your brand must be easily identifiable and cohesive across flavors, sublines, different forms, etc. In other words, your products should scream that they’re a part of your brand.

How, you ask? Make sure your packaging design includes a common element that’s present on every product in your portfolio.

Your common element could be:

  • Your logo
  • A product shot
  • Your product’s form
  • Your brand color(s)
  • An illustration

No matter what, customers know that when they see that common element, they’re looking at one of your products.

With any luck, you’ll even create a brand block — a strategy that makes your products stand out on shelves — in store aisles everywhere. Ritz Crackers, for instance, jump out in the snack aisle because they’re all in red boxes, their common element. And you know you’ve arrived at the Reese’s section of the candy aisle when you start seeing that signature brown and orange.

2. Make Your Product, Variety, and Flavor Claims Abundantly Clear

Your common element will ensure your customers can pick out your products in crowded aisles. But you still need to help them pick the right version of the specific product they want (the organic white cheddar shells over the regular ones). And this needs to happen fast, before they move on to another brand.

To do so, you have to check that your customers understand the product, variety, and flavor in the order that will help them make their decision as quick and painless as possible. How do you decide on the order? Get in your shoppers’ heads. If they’re shopping for juice, for example, they’ll probably want to know the flavor first, so make that obvious on first glance.

Color plays a big role in making product, variety, and flavor evident, too. If you sell grape juice, don’t make your label orange. That would understandably confuse the shopper — orange universally equals orange juice, after all.

Once you settle on the order of your product, variety, and flavor claims, you need to employ a design system to safeguard their placements (and your other claims’ placements) on your packaging across every version of your product. A design system is basically a communication hierarchy to structure your packaging claims.

For example, the design system for your juices dictates that your logo is always in the top center and the flavor banner is always in the middle. That way, whether your customers are searching for grape or orange (or lemon or kiwi or strawberry) juice, they know to look at the center of the bottle to find the flavor — every single time.

A design system isn’t meant to limit your creativity, by the way. It’s not so rigid that you can’t ever change your packaging. It’s just a way to simplify the shopping experience for your customers. You could easily structure the top portion of your pack with all the pertinent claims and leave the bottom portion to be more fluid with each new product release.

How Two CPG Brands Overcame Their Shopability Issues

Even if your brand currently suffers from shopability issues, it’s not hopeless! Consider how these two brands put their shopability issues behind them:

1. Outshine’s Flavors Truly Shine

Outshine came to us with a serious shopability problem: Their customers couldn’t distinguish between certain flavors.

You see, their old design relied heavily on the images of the frozen fruit bars. It was the only visual way customers could understand the flavor, since the flavor itself was always written atop a generic green banner. But the product images of the bars were too similar in certain cases. Pomegranate and grape were basically the same color, as were orange and tangerine, and watermelon and strawberry. Shoppers were bringing home purple popsicles thinking they were grape, only to realize they had mistakenly grabbed pomegranate instead.

GRO implemented a new system wherein the flavor banners are larger and have varying colors — they finally stand out. We also differentiated the bar colors just a tad to make the flavor varieties even more apparent.

Our work with Outshine has continued. Each time they extend to new subcategories, flavors, forms, or even entirely new categories, we execute a fresh design. And we’re always careful to differentiate using color and sub-brand logos while maintaining the core essence of the original design.

Customers will always know they’re getting an Outshine product — no matter how big the brand gets.

2. It’s Easy to Shop for Ian’s Foods

Ian’s Foods needed to pivot from a gluten-free brand to a “free from” brand. That’s the main reason they came to GRO.

At the same time, we discovered a shopability issue: The actual product form (chicken nuggets vs. fish sticks, for example) was hard to locate among the clutter of claims.

To help, we created a new design system that changed the hierarchy to focus on “free from” while also implementing color coding to make varieties clear. The result is an easier, more intuitive — and shoppable — in-store experience for Ian’s growing customer base.

The GRO Difference

Shopability is a serious issue that warrants an equally serious, dedicated branding agency.

You may think hiring an adaptive packaging or production agency is the way to go. And it may save you money in the short-term. But those agencies don’t generally have enough design experience to recognize and account for shopability problems. The design they give you might look good in the moment, but will it stand up against your company’s future innovations?

When GRO takes on a packaging project, we review your full portfolio of products to ensure we’re creating something fresh and new while safeguarding the original brand — and, thereby, brand loyalty — you’ve worked so hard to build.

Ready to tackle your shopability issues? We’re here whether you’re starting from scratch or extending an established brand. Get in touch.

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