Messaging Should Come Last

By Pierre Le Grange & Jason (Frich) Frichol

Shoppers are bombarded with thousands of messages in store with brands aggressively vying to grab attention by shouting the loudest. Unfortunately most of what they say is falling on deaf ears. In arguably the most valuable communication space in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) marketing mix, the bulk of communication in store is never noted because most don’t speak to the shopper.

Too often brands and retailers use consumer vernacular and visuals to speak to a completely different tribe…the shopper. The consumer-messaging proposition usually leads the in-store design. This is a contributor to what Dr. Hugh Phillips puts forward, that most in store communication is achieving less than 10% effectiveness.

The three most critical steps to ultimately convert a sale through shopper design and messaging are:

1. Catch

In store communication, whether it be posters, banners, packaging, leaflets, display, shelf strips, wobblers or digital, must first focus on psychologically and scientifically designing to increase sales. This starts with the exposure: brands only have half a second to get an exposure. It is estimated that less than a fifth of in store design manages to do this effectively. Without exposures one can’t engage and ultimately close the sale.

Recognising this limited 0,5 second window period to achieve an exposure fundamentally changes our approach to in store design, messaging and engagement. It means that above all else, we must first design for an exposure. There are multiple criteria that come into play based on contextual, in situ and environmental influences and key to this is to understand that the shopper rapidly processes mainly visuals and elemental shapes. These significantly impact effectiveness and increase ROI when designing from exposure to proposition compared to vice versa.

  1. Connect & Close

Once you’ve cornered the most difficult part in the shopper design process, you now have less than 3 seconds to get the message across as the shopper has limited time to read and understand. Shoppers take in a fraction of the detail that brands hope to relay. It is important to note that criteria such as the visual literacy, semiotics and merchandising (or a combination of these) can be processed in milliseconds. Thus the adage a picture speaks a thousand words. This is the second most important part in the shopper design process – “will the shopper get it without reading a single word?” This should be the bankable cue to purchase.

  1. Convert More

Lastly if you’ve addressed the first two stages consummately, you have time to further increase chances to close the sale with what we term ‘elemental scripting’; a combination of copy using tense, case, font, spacing and other mechanisms that rapidly aid lightning cognitive processing. This further accelerates conversions.


Designing for shopper means designing for more sales; start with the exposure and leave messaging for last to finish first.

These views and opinions are our own and not those of our employers or customers. Angle Orange is the first Shopper Marketing Company in the Western Cape with Shopper Design Science Accreditation.

Cape Town, South Africa.

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