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The Sweat/Soup-Shelf Connection

By Jun 01, 2010

A sheen of perspiration and small eye movements recorded among a group of consumers helped lead to the redesign of the Campbell Soup Cos. popular gravity-fed shelving system.

The sleuthing involved people watching the dots of sweat and monitoring heart rates as shoppers browsed soup shelves. In marketing speak, it’s the use of ethnographics and biometrics.

The ethnographics in-volved watching people shop the “old” shelf and then interviewing them both in and out of the store, which elicited very different emotions. Out of the store people had nurturing thoughts around family. In store, if they found what they were looking for quickly, it was a good feeling; otherwise, the search became frustrating.

“Consumers spend about 60 seconds in front of that shelf, and that didn’t change much whether it took them 20 or 50 seconds to find the product,” says Andrew Brennan, vice president and general manager of Campbell’s U.S. soup segment. “The advantage for us is that if we can help the consumer find the product faster, they spend the rest of the time browsing to see what else we have.”

The biometrics monitored heart rate, skin temperature, body and eye movements, perspiration and other reactions to the shopping experience to determine whether it was helpful, motivating, confusing or frustrating.

This intricate, microscopic view helped reshape the shelving system into four categories that can include up to 80 soup varieties. The systems are now being installed at 24,000 retailers nationally and are credited with vastly improving the shopping experience.

“Do the research,” Brennan says. “Make sure you know what you’re doing when you make significant changes, and that’s about listening to the consumer and also the customer. There shouldn’t be any change made that you don’t know will help.”

Got a retail marketing tip to share? Contact Patricia Odell at patricia.odell@penton.com