SymphonyIRI Group: Focus on in-store merchandising continues to bear fruit

CHICAGO — According to “Merchandising Trends: Driving Consumption through Shopper Marketing,” a new report published earlier this week by SymphonyIRI Group, merchandising continues to play an important role at retail. In 2011, 47% of consumer packaged goods categories enjoyed increased merchandising support, including displays, feature ads, feature and display combined, and price reduction only. While this reflects decelerating growth versus 2010, when 58% increased merchandising support, trends continue to indicate the presence of a highly promotional environment that seeks to drive purchase behavior in spite of the current difficult economic state.

“Price will continue to have a very high profile in the hearts and minds of consumers in the coming year,” said John McIndoe, SVP marketing at SymphonyIRI. “As such, price-related strategies — both everyday and promotional — must be honed with surgical precision from this day forward. Pricing strategies must be consumer-centric, enticing consumers to buy, while still allowing achievement of corporate and partner goals.”

Across grocery, drug and mass channels, 53% of categories experienced an increased lift from merchandising activities during the past year. This is a notable improvement from 2010, when 46% saw an increase. Merchandising performance within the grocery channel is in line with average industry trends, while the share of categories seeing lift within the drug channel lags industry average by eight points. However, the drug channel’s merchandising focus is on the rise, so lift may accelerate in the coming year, SymphonyIRI projected.

Food and beverage categories are well-represented among the ranks of those categories seeing the biggest jump in merchandising support during the past year, reflective of retailer efforts to play to economy-driven rituals around home-based eating and drinking. Another powerful trend marking CPG-related behavior these days is the pre-planning of shopping excursions. Today, three-quarters of consumers are making CPG decisions before entering the retail environment and an equal number enter the store with a shopping list in hand. Despite the high numbers of consumers following these practices, feature and feature/display combined support — tactics which begin to impact the shopper before she enters the retail environment — have each shown decelerating growth trends during the past year.

According to the report, 63% of consumers looked at store circulars before heading to the grocery store. And 49% of categories achieved lift of 100% or more from feature-only merchandising efforts during 2011. When backed by display activity, 84% of categories achieved lift of 100% or greater during the same time period. Despite these results, feature only and feature/display combined support is much less prevalent versus other, less powerful tactics, the report noted.

SymphonyIRI is offering a free webinar, entitled “Merchandising Trends: Driving Consumption through Shopper Marketing,” at 1 p.m. EST on Feb. 15. To register for the webinar, hosted by Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, click here.