Experts Weigh In On Winning End Cap Design: Part One

February 05, 2015

Part one of a three-part Q&A with experts James Fraser and Jason Katz on how to make the most of your end cap displays.

End cap displays are a powerful marketing tool in boosting sales for retailers. The Lempert Report wanted to dig deep into the world of end cap displays and find out what factors really make for a winning design. We talked with expert, James Fraser, SVP Retail Strategy, Hunter Straker North America, about the how, wheres and whens of end caps and his signature “keep it simple” approach. In addition, Jason Katz, SVP Hunter Straker Digital North America  weighs in on digital integration with displays. 

TLR: What is the most important factor when designing an end cap display?

James Fraser: Hands down, shopability. In the context of an end aisle, shopability means three very simple things: 

  1. As a shopper, can I clearly understand the product(s) and their usage occasions? Some of this is innate – people know the usage occasion for breakfast cereal, for example, but in the case of a new product, usage occasion is not always clear.
  2. Do the products being merchandised together make sense? Again this speaks to occasion – your end aisle should strive to solve a product need or occasion need. Adult cereal and coffee helps solve for a breakfast opportunity but cereal and spaghetti noodles is confusing. The dissonance caused in the shopper’s mind when the products being merchandised have no connection can have a drastic impact on sales and velocity.
  3. Do I understand how much the product(s) cost? There is an expectation of value when consumers shop an end cap. The actual discount amount is less important than the clear articulation of price. If a clear price point is missing or hidden, sales will suffer.

TLR: What are some important and effective themes supermarkets can incorporate? 

James Fraser: Obviously seasonal themes work. For example, providing entertaining solutions at the holiday period makes a lot of sense. Shoppers are in holiday mode and are looking for tools to make their family’s experience better. However, themes that appeal to a distinct target or market can be equally effective at multiple times throughout the year. For example, creating a heart healthy display targeting seniors in retirement regions of Florida during the month of January could drive comparable volume to a Christmas cookie display in December.

James, you are well known for your “keep it simple”approach. With that in mind how do you integrate different types of packaged items (different foods/shapes, etc.) for the most arresting look? Is there an optimal balance between actual items, signs, prices, decorative elements?

James Fraser: The advice that we give clients and that we live by at Hunter Straker is to think subtraction. We all believe that everything that we want to tell shoppers is actually important to shoppers – it’s not. Thousands upon thousands of in-store observations have proven this point to us hundreds of times over. Subtract – remove those messages that don’t help the shopper understand “why” this product or offering will make his or her life better, easier or richer. In fact, we train all of our clients with Fraser’s Rule of 3,4,5™: Understandthe message in less than 3 seconds, seethe message from 4 paces and say the message in 5 words or less. This helps to solve the communication portion of the challenge.

Now to get to the best look, understanding shopper behavior is critical. How shoppers read, what they respond to visually and how to blend elements into singularly focused powerful pieces is a muscle, not an autonomous system. We practice with and train our creative to understand form, structure, layout, font and design. They know that shoppers respond better to contrasting colors and tones, the use of faces, etc. but they also know that where their communication is going to be placed in the store is critical as well. Every communication is designed and placed in actual situations to ensure that breakthrough is achieved (how we achieve our breakthrough numbers is a bit of our special cocktail).


Stay tuned for part two of this series. Jason Katz will talk about digital integration strategies, and we will hear more from James Fraser about the three best locations for an end cap display in the supermarket. 


About the experts:  

James Fraser, SVP Retail Strategy, Hunter Straker North America
James Fraser has been a strong presence in the retail and shopper marketing space for over 17 years. Leveraging his intimate knowledge of the retail environment, Fraser pioneered a unique process that yields a proprietary output called Purchase DesignÔ. 

Fraser writes a monthly Shopper Insights column in Canadian Grocer magazine and is a sought after speaker throughout North America on a variety of shopper related topics ranging from sales strategy to retail communication. He has also recently authored the Retail Communication chapter of the POPAI publication “Marketing at Retail 4th Edition”.

Well known for his “keep it simple” approach to retail marketing, Fraser believes that true shopper insights are actually come from the shopper and as such he can often be found in his second office – the store. Prior to joining Hunter Straker, he was a Partner and Managing Director of Retail at Capital C Communications. 

Jason Katz, SVP Hunter Straker Digital North America 
As SVP Hunter Straker North America, Jason Katz helps clients effectively capitalize on new media by developing best-in-class, insights-driven, accountable digital solutions that influence purchase.

With more than 25 years experience, Jason boasts a unique combination of retail and digital expertise, ranging across major consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers and retailers both in the U.S. and internationally. A pioneer in the evolution of shopper marketing, Jason launched and trademarked Digital Shopper Marketing™ and founded Etailing Solutions, the first 100% dedicated sales and marketing agency for CPG Ecommerce. 

Jason specializes in driving business impact from integrated digital initiatives including digital shopper marketing, social local mobile “SoLoMo”, loyalty programs and ecommerce/etailing. Jason’s list of client experiences include Starbucks, Clorox, Georgia Pacific, GSK, Kraft, Mars (Petcare and Confections), Nestle, Dannon, Barilla, Campbell Soup Co, Colgate-Palmolive, Intel, Intuit, Citibank, Unilever, Subway, Outback Steak, Dollar General, Peapod, Gerber and Johnson & Johnson.