Cross-merchandising is hardly a new concept. Yet many retailers fail to identify key opportunities to bring products together to boost sales and improve overall customer experience.
- The most effective cross merchandising programs for building traffic and loyalty are those that help consumers find meal solutions.
- Retailers that put their own unique spins on commonly adopted cross merchandising strategies give them even more customer impact.
- Incorporating general merchandise in cross merchandising programs can make them even more successful.
According to Marcia Schurer, president of Chicago-based Culinary Connections, creating a strategy for cross-merchandising complementary products is critical for boosting impulse purchases and increasing additional sales per shopping trip.
“Any cross merchandising that encourages impulse buying should be a top priority for any retailer,” she says. “Once you get the customer in the store, you want to keep increasing that basket. Helping the consumer with their meal-planning efforts, and sampling items together so the customer can taste how well they complement each other, increases the chances of impulse buying.”
Jim Hertel, SVP at Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Inmar Analytics, believes that the value of effective cross merchandising strategies goes beyond simply building baskets and traffic.
He’s convinced that it’s necessary to a store’s positioning in an ever-crowded marketplace in which younger consumers are seeking an experiential shopping environment.
The Most Bang for the Buck
Cross merchandising programs that are most effective in building traffic and loyalty are those that help consumers find meal solutions.
“Everybody is selling food. Consumers are seeking out the stores that are selling solutions,” says Cindy Sorensen, founder of The Grocery Group, in Minneapolis. “Retailers should be cross merchandising around what the consumer is looking for, whether it's local, transparency of labeling, meal solutions — even a particular type of diet.”
- Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets’ table in the produce department featuring chopped bagged escarole and canned white beans for a vegetarian dinner
- Sickles Market, a specialty grocer in Little Silver, N.J., offering a two-for-$14 promotion on grill kits and fajita mix, and pre-cut packaged fresh vegetables ready to cook with meat from the butcher counter located nearby
- Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, a specialty supermarket with two locations in Berkshire County, Mass., creating an eye-catching display of imported pastas and sauces near a self-serve antipasto bar
Other examples of creative and effective cross merchandising include:
Ramping Up Performance
While those examples represent some new ideas, savvy retailers are also putting their own unique spins on commonly adopted cross merchandising strategies to give them even more customer impact.
Displaying specialty cheeses with specialty fruit preserves, specialty crackers, specialty nuts, or artisanal dried sausages and cured meats isn’t new, but the approach has been highly effective in building the basket. “These artisanal and specialty items are usually higher-priced than the same category of items that might be found someplace else in the store, and bringing the products together has helped,” notes Schurer.
Sampling is an effective way to spark add-on sales, but when that’s not an option, signage telling consumers which cheese pairs best with a particular fruit, spread, sausage or cracker can add impact to the department. “That’s part of the experience you need to provide to help the consumer with meal planning,” advises Sorensen. “Descriptive signage goes a long way.”
While displaying heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil is routine, some specialty markets have found ways to go one step beyond. For instance, Guido’s recently sampled its store-made caprese salad at a station where an employee was making the product, and cross merchandised olive oil spread and sliced French bread.
“Retailers need to take displays to the next level,” asserts Sorensen. “Give [consumers] ideas with pictures and recipes. We can’t assume that just because we put it on display, they know how to prepare and present it.”
“Typically, GM products are spread throughout the store, and customers only go looking for items they already planned on buying. By pairing complementary items, such as food with cookware — think cedar planks with seafood or brownie mix with pans — retailers can offer a one-stop shopping experience that makes their customers’ lives easier and increases the likelihood they will buy items that weren’t on their list.
“Some retailers are experimenting with GM clusters to create traffic destinations,” he adds. “Seasonal, for example, always piques customers’ interest, even months early, and provides a platform for a wide variety of product categories, from food-related offerings to decorations and more.”
“A ‘party time’ display with snacks and beverages is even more eye-popping with the addition of colorful signage, paper plates, cups and napkins, serveware, and tear-off recipe ideas,” offers Sorensen.