How to Make Big Brand Marketing Tips Work for the Little Guys

Marketing Hacks for Smaller Retailers

Posted on 14, July, 2015

Last Modified on 13, August, 2019

Supermarkets and department stores have their in-store marketing strategies down to a science. These huge brands have teams of marketing specialists at their disposal, constantly coming up with new and innovative ways for making the most of their store layouts and point-of-purchase displays - aka squeezing as much money out of their shoppers as humanly possible! Believe it or not, the concepts behind these big-box retailer's in-store marketing tactics can work for smaller retailers too. That’s why we’ve created this guide for applying department store marketing to small businesses. Learn the most commonly used strategies and how you can effectively scale and apply them to your small(er) business!

Shelf Placement

Big-Box Strategy: Eye level is buy level! Big box retailers know that customers are more likely to buy products that appear at eye level on store shelves. By placing the more expensive products in this “bull’s eye” area, retailers are taking advantage of this consumer shopping behavior. After all, what advantage would they get out of placing lower priced items in such an effective spot?

Product Shelf Placement
  • Top Shelf - smaller brands & gourmet choices
  • Eye Level - buy level!
  • Kid’s Eye Level - the products they will ask parents for
  • Bottom Shelf - budget brands shoppers will search for

Small Business Version: You can absolutely take advantage of these shelf layout fundamentals in your store, despite any differences in storefront size, types of merchandise, or styles of shelving. Walk around your business and determine which areas of your existing displays sit closest to eye level. This could be the top of a counter or a floor standing clothing rack. Place the items you want to sell most into these locations.


Big-Box Strategy: A planogram is a diagram that outlines exact product placement on store shelves, allowing businesses to plan store layouts and evaluate sales based on in-store location. These visual merchandising tools are essential for larger department store businesses that sell many brands from multiple manufacturers. Entire positions exist for “planogrammers,” the people responsible for the layout of these businesses.

Small Business Version: You don’t need a professional planogram or a “planogrammer” - but you do need to know where all your merchandise is within your store at all times. Keep a running diagram of your store front's layout with all your POS displays represented as well as the exact products that are held in them. As you make changes, record them in your diagram. If you don't have access to a program like Photoshop, try making your planogram in Microsoft Paint or Excel.

Visual Merchanding Tips

Bonus Tip: Larger retailers use a metric called the “space productivity index” to determine the effectiveness of their merchandise plans. Small retailers can also calculate this figure with the help of a well-kept store planogram.

Space Productivity Index: the amount of total gross sales a product generates compared to the percentage of total store selling space it uses - aka sales per square foot

Store Layout

Big-Box Strategy: Supermarkets and department stores design their storefront layout to do the following:

  • Give a great first impression!
  • Provide a decompression zone.
  • Lead shoppers to the left, then clockwise.
  • Place most popular items farthest from the entrance.
  • Place impulse items near the checkout.

Small Business Version: You can make these proven concepts work for you - no matter the size of your store or the amount of merchandise in it!

  • Give a great first impression! This could be a creative window display or an attractive merchandise setup, visible right when the customer walks in the door.
  • Provide a decompression zone. Give shoppers a chance to get their bearings right after they enter the store. Don’t place merchandise displays too close to the entrance - you’ll risk overwhelming the shopper first thing.
  • Lead shoppers to the right, then counter-clockwise. Research has shown that consumers simply prefer to move this way as they shop.
  • Place most popular items farthest from the entrance. This strategy leads customers past all the other merchandise you hope to sell - the stuff that the customers didn’t necessarily walk in to buy, but just might once they walk by it!
  • Place impulse items near the checkout. These smaller, cheaper items are more likely to be impulsively tacked onto another purchase as a customer checks out. Get the most out of your counter space by placing complementary products at the cash counter and around your store. These little buys can add up to big-bucks for even the smallest of retailer!

Even if you don't run with the big boys (yet), that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them! Take these in-store marketing strategies and apply them to your business today.

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