December 6, 2013

Three Ways Your Packaging Affects Your Shelf Placement

Three Ways Your Packaging Affects Your Shelf Placement

In supermarket, drugstore and specialty store shelves, there is a definite hierarchy among products; certain products are placed very highly, while others are placed on the bottom shelf with the off-brands and the canvas sacks of grains. Products that sit on the shelves at the easy eye-level of the consumer are significantly more likely to be purchased than the products right at the very top or bottom where almost no one would notice them. If we were all either the size of Yao Ming or Vern Troyer, then the stats would be very different.

Now, how do we ensure our products have perfect shelf placement? Well, one way is to manufacture and package products that are already so incredibly popular that the retailers know that customers desperately want them. If we’re not quite at that level yet, then knowing how to choose your packaging solution will certainly help your product achieve the most appropriate and beneficial spot on the shelf.


You can’t shove a huge, 20-lb parcel into an 8-oz mason jar, nor should you package a small volume item into a large, bulky box. In order to secure prime store shelf real estate, you must know how to choose your packaging so that it is suitable for the optimum space for your product’s category.

Eye level shelf placement is generally reserved for items that can be grabbed with one hand, and weight is a factor that must be taken into consideration. If the product is inherently quite heavy, a lower shelf placement is best, since it gives the consumer a bit of leverage so that it can be safely lifted. Moreover, other comparable products won’t necessarily overshadow your product strictly based on shelf placement, since they will all be similarly situated.

However, the natural size of the product shouldn’t be enhanced or exaggerated to an extent where the item becomes unnecessarily difficult to house. For example, certain beverage bottles that are too tall for high shelf placement will automatically be shelved on the bottom where there is usually more height, effectively robbing the product of instant identification and access.


The better class of store will shelve items attractively, and the extremely OCD store will coordinate their shelves via shape and color. That same store won’t shelve products that aren’t packaged in gingham and tied with twine.

Remember, retailers are also consumers – if they see a beautifully packaged product that they find appealing, they will shelve it in a prominent fashion, simply because they believe that it will be purchased. Even if the product is new, that product can be packaged in a way that indicates quality, which will entice retailers into displaying it well. Choosing the right color is critical to achieving that all-important initial eye appeal.

Color can enhance brand recognition by as much as 80 percent. The customer will devote only a few seconds to scanning a product shelf, and the package design and color must be eye-catching enough to appeal to the consumer while not being offensive.


We’ve often talked about differentiating your packaging from what is typically found on the shelves, and that conviction has managed to garner us industry recognition even, but going to such an extreme that it makes it difficult for the retailer to place the product in a prominent fashion, then originality may be doing more harm than good.

If the product packaging is unwieldy, shaped awkwardly and difficult to shelve in a compact fashion, then it will be banished to the bottom.

Stack-ability whenever possible is, as Martha Stewart would say, a good thing. We’re encouraged by ecological pouch packaging when appropriate, but if the pouch can’t stand alone, and if the other products are packaged in a structured way, then the pouch will disturb the line of the rest of the items on the shelf, and it will get moved to where it isn’t noticed.

We’ll conclude by stating emphatically that you possess a great deal of control in where your item sits on store shelves. How you choose your packaging can determine whether or not your product is plucked from the shelves enthusiastically, or left to linger at foot level with the brand-less sacks of meal and corn-syrup flavored wines.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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