9 Web Design And Marketing Lessons Daddy Learned At The Grocery Store

by Russ Henneberry

Last updated on February 21st, 2018

Yep, I’m that guy.

The daddy that has a 2 year-old strapped into a grocery shopping cart that looks like a car.  And god bless those goofy, oversized shopping carts.  They keep my kids entertained for 10 minutes of my 40 minute sprint through the grocery store every weekend.

I want zero friction in my grocery store visit.

Partly because I usually have one or both of my kids with me.  And partly because… um… grocery shopping is not how I pictured spending my weekend.  But, it has to get done, or we run out of milk.

And daddy can’t have that.

Web surfers are no different.  They are on a mission.  And they want zero friction.

Here’s what you can learn about designing and marketing a website by visiting a well-designed grocery store.

1 – Create clear signage

Supermarkets have big signs that sit high in the sky with words on them like ‘Supermarket‘, ‘Grocery Store‘ and such.  When you are driving through town, they are hard to miss.

There are numerous online equivalents to good signage but none more important than your signage in the search results pages.

Grocery store lesson applied:

Make sure your signage is clear and visible in the search engines.

  • Optimize title tags,
  • meta descriptions and
  • URL’s

Consider those that are looking for your business or your particular products and services as well as the search engines.

Here is what Crazy Egg’s “signage” looks like on Google.

Signage Website Design

2 – Make it accessible

In the grocery shopping world they call this ingress.

How easy is it to get into the parking lot, park and walk into the store?

Because let’s face it, the sandwich bag full of Cheerios I gave my 2 year old is only going to keep her busy for so long.

You may not pay attention to it on a conscious level but easy ingress is one of the things you look for when deciding where to stop your car and shop.  Convenience marts have made an entire industry out of it.

Grocery store lesson applied:

Make it easy for people to enter your website.

  • Improve your site load speed
  • Remove pop-ups (at least in the first 30 seconds or so of the visit)
  • Remove splash pages

3 -Make it clean

Once I enter the store, I don’t want to feel like I am in my college dorm room (which was messy, if you didn’t pick up on that… actually messy wasn’t the word for it.)

Particularly when shopping for food, the cleanliness of the store has a profound effect on my experience and my willingness to spend money.

Good supermarkets are remarkably fast at responding to something like a broken bottle of garlic-stuffed olives in Aisle 3, for example.  Don’t ask me how I know that.

Grocery store lesson applied:

Make your website clean and clutter-free.

  • Use crisp images and fonts
  • Fix broken images, links, etc quickly
  • Use symmetry and balance in your design
  • Remove clutter
  • Have a focal point

4 – Create wide aisles

Listen, this is critical.  When you are driving the grocery cart equivalent of an eighteen-wheeler with precious passengers inside, aisle width becomes an issue.

Even when I’m alone, my ability to navigate through the aisles of the store is important.

Grocery store wisdom applied:

Don’t try to cram too much into any one area of your website.  Create separation.

The interface for Pinterest could be a complete mess, but they make good use of whitespace to make it feel digestible.

5 – Organize your aisles

Lord knows my wife’s grocery list is not in any particular order (that’s just between you and me) but if you want me to keep shopping at your grocery store, the aisles better be well organized.

And it shouldn’t change dramatically from week to week.  Even month to month.

I want to get used to where I can find my hair gel and where you keep the Doritos.

Grocery store wisdom applied:

Organize your website so that your site visitor can easily find what they are looking for.

6 – Organize your products

You want to see daddy get angry?  Easy.  Put the paper towels in one aisle and the toilet paper two aisles away.

In the 2 minutes it takes me to backtrack to the toilet paper aisle, my son will be learning about the “you break it, you buy it” policy.

I should find products of a similar nature grouped together in an intuitive manner.  I shouldn’t even have to think about it.  It’s a given that the mustard and mayonaise will be in the ketchup aisle.

Grocery store wisdom applied:

  • Plan your information architecture. This silo document is not just for SEO

7 – Plan the location of your “utilities”

Grocery check-out, movie rental and return and check-cashing services at the front of the store.

Soup and salad bar easily accessible for the lunch crowd.

Butcher shop, deli and frozen food section to the back.

Public restroom?  Put it wherever you want but make sure I can find it.  It’s not a matter of if with daddy.  Just a matter of when.

Grocery store wisdom applied:

  • Figure out what your “utilities” are
  • Make those utilities easily accessible

8 – Make clear offers

A good supermarket doesn’t bombard you with offers, but they are clearly present.  Each item has a price tag on it.  And some have an advertised deal attached to them.  Daddy likes deals.

I can’t imagine moving through a supermarket putting things in a cart if I didn’t know the price and the offer.

Grocery Store Coupon

Grocery store wisdom applied:

If you are in business, even a non-profit business, you need to make offers.

  • Put your pricing on your website, your prospects are looking for it.  This isn’t for everybody but it may be for you.
  • Feature offers prominently

There is no mistaking what Macy’s is offering here.

Macys Offer

9 – Up-sell at point-of-sale

I have a love-hate relationship with marketing.  I love it when it is making me money, and hate it when it is costing me money.

Putting candy bars, magazines and batteries at the point of check-out is smart, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Grocery store wisdom applied:

  • People that are making a purchase are likely to buy more
  • Make relevant offers at the point-of-sale to increase order size

Amazon.com is the king of up-selling at the point of sale.

I’m not an old man, but I’m not a young one either.  I can remember when there were a couple of dozen grocery stores in my home town.

Now, there are just two mammoth supermarket chains.

These supermarkets figured it out.  They figured out how to create a user-friendly experience for me and a lucrative experience for them.

If the benefits of applying these grocery store lessons to your web design and marketing aren’t compelling enough, there is one more reason to heed them…

Because daddy said so.



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Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, Salesforce.com and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.


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  1. Rense Post says:
    February 17, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Great information Russ. Many grocery stores also offer free samples of various products. Free trial offers and/or free useful information can be very effective on most websites.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      February 17, 2012 at 9:22 am

      @Rense — Great one!

  2. Jimmie Greer II says:
    February 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Thank you for the insight in this article. I am currently enrolled in a web design course, and I am always on the lookout for interesting information of this nature. I will pass this along to my classmates.

  3. Azedine says:
    February 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Hey Russ,

    First of all I’m a guy who really like to read articles in this way. I mean starting by a short story.Well I’m in the same boat buddy lol The funniest part when you put your kid in the liitle car and just make your “tourism in the grocery store” lol

    Regarding SEO and I do agree with you and you are talking about the basic and most important step in SEO On-Page.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      February 17, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Thanks Azedine — I enjoyed writing this post!

  4. Joanne - Brighter Marketing says:
    February 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Great post and a good analogy, will be sharing on my page. I think that some people are afraid of the upsell, but Amazon have been doing it just perfectly for years and I myself love the recommendations they give me and I would miss them if they weren’t there now.

    Brighter Marketing

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      February 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      @Joanne — Thanks Joanne — I agree, it’s just smart business if it is done tastefully.

  5. Daniel says:
    February 16, 2012 at 5:20 am

    I like this post, as i work in a large supermarket part-time myself i am well aware of all the things you have mentioned and it’s part of my job to keep them like that, it’s also a good place for inspiration looking at various packaging and logos etc.

    There is probably one rule of supermarkets that shouldn’t be followed though and thats charging more for less, no matter how stealthily they think they’re doing it, customers always notice and don’t advertise something as half-price if the normal price is double what what it was last week.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      February 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      @Daniel — Those sneaky suckers! 😉

  6. Gerald Martin says:
    February 15, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    I have to say that you’ve come up with a pretty catchy title here. I also have to agree about the points you mentioned here, especially that clear signage part. Well, all of these should go together, but the latter would be for naught if you didn’t do anything about the signage.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      February 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      @Gerald Martin — Good stuff Gerald. I take it you are an SEO guy! 🙂

  7. Navigator Multimedia says:
    February 15, 2012 at 10:34 am

    A great example of finding design lessons out in the real world. How about creating sensory-appealing content that replicates those delicious sample table experiences at the grocery store?

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      February 15, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Hey, I love that Sarah. Absolutely — through images, video and copy we can create multi-sensory content. Thanks for contributing this!

  8. Glenn says:
    February 15, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Great post ! When I’m in a grocery store, I’m always in a hurry — so “organize your aisles” and “organize your products” has great resonance. Bottom line is make it easy for busy people. On a website — make it easy for me to buy what I want. Accommodate folks who came to your site to BUY, not to browse ! Well designed landing pages & Calls to Action, etc.

    Well done post. My kids are taller than me now. Thinking back on taking them to the grocery is a nice memory 🙂

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      February 15, 2012 at 10:48 am

      @Glenn — Thanks so much for adding your thoughts Glenn. I actually love taking my kids to the grocery store. They are a lot of fun and daddy likes to get crazy with the race car shopping cart. As I said, “I’m that guy.” 🙂

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