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Fake Store Teaches Frito-Lay How Shoppers Behave

When Frito-Lay wants to see the impact of a packaging change or end-cap display, the Dallas salty snack purveyor no longer has to wait for sales reports. Frito-Lay built a 15,000-square-foot "simulated supermarket" and enlists real people to shop it -- and the lab is available for noncompetitive CPG companies to use.

The prey stalked by Frito-Lay and its parent company, Pepsico, is the elusive impulse purchaser, John Karolefski writes in Using "automated observation" from a company called VideoMining enabled Frito-Lay marketers to change merchandising, packaging, graphics, and even products and test them in a controlled, yet realistic environment.

"All of this learning changed what we were doing. We were going down one path for merchandising for 2008, and took a big turn based on what we learned. We really understood why we had to change direction for our overall aisle merchandising," said Rob Clancy, insights manager for multi-cultural sales at Pepsico. Clancy spoke at the Shopper Insights conference in Chicago.

"The way we merchandised the aisle made shoppers look for new things and spend some time in different sections â€" really browse as opposed to search," Clancy said. "Browse is a good thing, and search is not a good thing. That was a key learning for us. Knowing where shoppers were going in the aisle helped us optimize the product set and sometimes change the flow a little bit, too."

Artful Doritos photo by Flickr contributor Melissa Doroquez