Designing for Distance

Are you visible from a few metres away?

Last week I was in Cost Co.  We got to the checkout and realised we hadn’t got toilet rolls.  So, I quickly went back grabbed a pack and then we finished checking out.  I picked up the toilet roll pack 4 times – once off the pallet, once off the conveyor and into the trolley, once from trolley to car and once from car to house.

However, it was only later when we came to put them away that we realised they weren’t toilet rolls they were kitchen rolls. And we bought those last time.  Those of you who shop at Cost Co will know that you get quite a few in a pack.  So, we now have 24 kitchen rolls and are running out of toilet rolls.  What is more, I was quickly reminded that, wasn’t this the second time I’d done this?  And wasn’t this type of thing my job…?  Err…yes and yes.

So, apart from me being an absolute dummy, what else does this demonstrate?  Well, probably the fact that we pay very little attention to what is going on around us.  This is partly because of the amount of visual information we are typically exposed to and partly because we usually don’t need to pay attention.  Even quite complicated tasks we largely do sub consciously.  Most of us will have driven home from work, got home safely, and remembered nothing about the journey.  We can do this because it is learned behaviour.  You don’t need to consciously think that in 2 seconds you are going to turn left.

This is particularly relevant in a retail environment.  It is one of the most complex visual environments you can put someone in.  To deal with this complexity, shoppers spend a lot of time filtering information.  And they do most of this whilst on the move.  Most shoppers will never actually get right in front of a product.  And even if they do, it is rare that they are standing still and looking directly at it.  Most of the time shoppers see, or have the opportunity to see, a product from a distance.

Yet, do we really design for this?  A lot of packs and POS materials are designed for the shopper who is close.  Who is going to read everything that we put on there.  But that rarely happens.  And it will happen even less as shoppers see pack visuals and banner ads that are the size of a finger nail as they are swiping on their tablet or smartphone screen.

So, how do you design for distance?

Prioritise the Brand Visual ID and the Brand Block.  The current buzz phrase is ‘distinctive brand assets’.  This is essentially the key visual cue a brand has.  Or if it’s a fresh product, the product itself is the visual cue.  PG Tips has done this really well recently – refocusing on the white pack and the red and green PG.  Birdseye have done this by going back to the red Birdseye logo and making it very visible on pack – particularly important when you are behind a glass door.

Visible Category and Sub Category Signage.   This needs to be visible from the main angle of approach.  For example, Tesco have moved their aisle signage from the traditional position of high above the middle of the aisle to facing shoppers as they approach the aisle.  The same thing needs to happen in aisle.  A shopper will quickly glance down an aisle to see if it is worth going down there.  Simple sub category signage is key to breaking up the wall of product.  Also, remember that we read horizontally not vertically.  Yet a lot of signage has vertical text.

Design Simplicity.   Most POS and packs have too much information on them.  This is less of a problem when the shopper has the product in their hand and are reading through everything (probably at home rather than in store).   But it can be a big problem when the shopper is a few metres away.  The more cluttered the design, the more it harms your ability to be seen from a distance.  Most shoppers will carry on walking.  The best packs and POS follow the rules of billboard design.  Simple, visual and with a minimal number of words.

Legibility of Key Messages.  If you are using words then they need to be legible.  We still see lots of POS materials where the background is competing with the foreground.  Or where the key message is written in a style or font that is difficult to read when you are sitting in a meeting room, let alone when on the move, in store.  For us in the industry, the message may seem the interesting part and the legibility, the boring part.  But without legibility, the message will never get seen or read.

Getting seen is crucial.  Without it, almost everything else is irrelevant.  To get seen, you have to be visible from a distance, whilst the shopper is on the move or whilst the shopper is swiping on a smartphone.  Shoppers don’t pay the same attention as we do.  They don’t see what we see.

That is why some of them end up with a house full of kitchen rolls.  Does anyone want any?

Feel free to forward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.

© 2020 by Insight Traction