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Grocery retailers may need to redefine the seemingly straightforward concept of a product category. Conventionally, they would establish categories based on the product itself: cereal is one category, coffee is another, and muffins represent yet another distinct category. This straightforward notion has defined the layout and organization of stores for decades, but it also might be overdue for an overhaul.

In particular, if the goal of retailing is to give customers a compelling and enjoyable shopping experience, then product categories might need to become experience categories, and the layout of the store should follow that approach. For example, rather than separate aisles for cereal, coffee, and muffins, all these products should gather together in a single “breakfast” aisle that helps consumers find all the elements they need for a complete meal to start their day.

Kellogg’s has started experimenting with this approach, finding ways to display its various products in appealing combinations of color and package sizes. The proximity of the different products to one another helps encourage cross-sales. According to the initial results, consumers are more likely to consider multiple related product categories when they are presented together on the shelf. In this drive, “Kellogg’s realized they needed to start talking to retailers about aisle management, and not just category management.”

Although these shifts and experiments are relatively novel for grocery retail, there is some precedent in other categories, such as furniture retailers that organize their stores by room. Rather than having to go to different departments to select sheets, a bedside table, and a mattress, consumers can review a bedroom display and choose all the necessary elements in a coordinated fashion.

Discussion Question: 

  1. Using on the “breakfast aisle” concept described herein, how would you suggest rearranging other grocery store categories?
  2. How would this type of strategy work in an apparel store? A home improvement store? A drug store?

Source: Linda Winick, Retail Wire, October 12, 2016.