As our team spends countless days in stores, we are confronted with the reality that it is incredibly difficult to succeed in-aisle.  Not only is it difficult to develop products that meet real needs and win against competition, but there are also many other factors that add friction to the ultimate goal of being seen, understood, and wanted at the speed of shopping.

We’re here to guide you through the hidden pitfalls in-aisle so you can develop strategies to overcome them and thrive against your competition. First on the list: 4 physical in-store breakthrough barriers. 

Shelving Lips & Bars

Shelf bars and lips keep your products on shelves, but they can also cause issues if you don’t account for them in your design. In Walmart, this Organic Valley design is cut in half by the shelf bar. It blocks parts of the design that may be important to a shopper’s purchase decision. 

The same can be said for this Chester’s Fries example in grocery.  You wouldn’t be able to tell at first glance that this is their trademarked “Flamin’Hot” flavor because of the shelf lip and it would probably not breakthrough for shoppers looking for something spicy.  Simply bringing 3D prototypes in-context can help identify these issues before launch

In-Aisle Displays

In-aisle displays, like this one, completely block products, separate brand blocks, and add clutter to the shelf set. The tea behind this display isn’t visible to shoppers.   

Shoppers are already overwhelmed by their number of choices and by the store environment. These additional, unwanted items on the shelf add another layer of clutter that can make a consumer less likely to browse and discover your products.  

Sadly, you can never predict exactly where these displays will be. So, the best solution is to learn about your products in-context, amongst the clutter of a real store.  


Signage has a similar effect to in-aisle displays. We have seen many brands and retailers attempt to use signs with little success. They add visual clutter to the aisle and can get in the way. Shoppers typically just look past these signs, but they are a physical barrier to breakthrough.  

Like in-aisle displays, the best thing to do is get in-store and learn how your products perform amongst the clutter and chaos.  

Glass Doors & Fogging

Succeeding behind glass doors is another challenge altogether. The additional separation between the shopper and the product, combined with reflection from bright lighting, adds friction. Also, lingering fog on doors makes it easy to miss products or entire categories. Categories that have more traffic, like ice cream, are going to be fogged up more than others.  

Colorful and bold packaging is common in the frozen section for this very reason. But, nothing beats the certainty of in-context learning prior to launch. 

Breakthrough barriers like this aren’t always preventable, but the more your team knows of these additional challenges, the more they can incorporate these realities into decisions. Here are some simple suggestions: 

  • Always bring 3D prototypes into multiple real store environments just to see if you notice any red flags.
  • Include at least one REAL in-store touchpoint during the package or product development process to understand if there are any unexpected shopper challenges. 
  • Make sure your team spends time in-store with these shoppers.  It is a simple and powerful way to foster shopper empathy and appreciate the realities of your competitive environment. 

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