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The Complete Guide to In-Store Product Placement

The consumer market is a brutal battlefield where seemingly trivial details can drastically affect your sales and even your whole brand. While most people walk into a store with a clear intention of exactly what they intend to purchase, most people are equally aware of how easily a list of twelve items can turn into a full trolley. This phenomenon is a result of product placement.

What is Product Placement?

Product placement is a discipline of field marketing that determines how products are arranged on a retail store’s shelves to maximise sales. Stores aim to maximise sales, particularly as many of their high margin products for each category. Each brand or distributor needs to determine where to place their products within the store through planning, negotiation and design. Field marketers who are involved with product placement use shelf space analysis and planograms (visual representations of product shelving) to ensure they maximise the utility of the space available to them.

When planning product placement, it is essential to pay attention to several factors including foot traffic patterns in the store, store size, available shelf space and the competing or complementary products in your products’ categories. It is also essential to have personnel that keep shelves stocked, track available stock in the store’s warehouse and organise placed products.

Why is Product Placement Important?

Product placement is simultaneously an art and a science. An effective field marketer understands how the general consumer thinks and acts when they are in a retail store. Effective product placement can boost sales, increase brand awareness and unlock departmental crossover.

How Is Effective Product Placement Achieved?

Three fundamental factors go into effective product placement: the actual shelf positioning, product visibility and product differentiation.

Shelf Positioning

They're generally four strata of shelves and it is essential to know which one your product occupies and how that impacts your product and brand.

  1. The Bottom Rung (below 0.9m): Products at this level will generally receive the least amount of attention. They are outside the field of vision for most customers and present the extra step of bending over to access them. Often this level is occupied by heavy products (for safety purposes) and low-margin products.

  2. Lower Prime Level (0.9m – 1.2m): Products at this level are directly within the children’s field of vision, making this ideal placement for products that are targeted towards that demographic.

  3. Upper Prime Level (1.2m – 1.5m): Products placed at this right at this level sell the best with adults. They are conveniently within adults’ reach and field of vision.

  4. Reach Level (Above 1.8m): Products placed on this level receive very little attention from customers. They are outside most people’s field of vision, and most will struggle to reach them.

Product Visibility

The visibility of your product refers to both the number of visible faces your brand and product have on a shelf and the proportion of visible faces relative to competing brands in your category. Having brand dominance on shelf space makes it more likely that customers will pick your product as they walk through the aisles. Even if your products are not at the ideal shelf height, occupying an entire shelf with your brand can assert it as being superior to other brands and make it more visible to the customer.

Having more SKUs on a shelf gives customers more to choose from and your brand more significant control over what choices they make. A great example of this would be Axe body spray. Axe often has multiple varieties of each product line on a shelf. Axe also occupies multiple shelf spaces with their roll-ons, deodorants, antiperspirant sprays and aftershaves. This maximises their visibility and also gives customers more choice, who are then more likely to pick an Axe product from each category.

Product Differentiation

Your product’s ability to distinguish itself from competitors is a fundamental aspect of branding in general and product placement in particular. Consumers will usually have a variety of options, most of which do not indicate tangible utility or value, so they base their choice on either brand loyalty or interest in a distinct or unique product.

Packaging design makes use of psychology, science and art to improve a product’s marketability. When done effectively, it can incite desire in consumers, improve brand awareness and influence brand loyalty. Having a uniquely designed product can help a product stand out in a sea of competing brands.

A product that managed to stand out based purely on the design of its packaging is Coca-Cola and their unique bottle shape, which remains a part of its trademark and even appears on non-bottled products to this day.

The price of your product can also serve as a distinguishing factor. Your product could be priced significantly higher than the competitors, signalling to the consumer that it is a premium product with higher quality, greater value or is just more luxurious. This strategy works best for product categories that can be objectively evaluated on their quality and can lead to brand loyalty based on perception. It does require a significant investment in building a high-quality product and marketing to develop a brand that is of equally high quality. Alternatively, it could be priced significantly lower than the competitors, making it attractive based purely on its price. This works very well with fast-moving consumer goods such as snacks and dairy products.


The effectiveness of a brand’s in-store product placement can make or break a brand. Field marketers must navigate a complex matrix of decisions about risk and reward to optimise product placement. Their efforts could turn a newcomer into a household staple when executed well or topple the sales of an established brand if done poorly.

Consumers, while not uniformly and universally predictable, follow general patterns field marketers can harness to make improve brand perception and boost your sales. It is, therefore, important for the personnel planning and executing product placement to always formulate consumer-centric strategies.

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