Virtual Shelf-Set Research Among Children


A manufacturer created a new product line that was targeted to children aged 6 to 12. For this new product line, they created several merchandising-display options and wanted to know which one would resonate most with children and their parents. Thanks to the research conducted by Decision Analyst, the manufacturer was able to determine which display option would appeal to both the children and parents as well as maximize sales.

Strategic Issues

Not only do manufacturers need to be innovative and constantly bring new products to market, they also need to be able to display those new products in a way that maximizes sales. A large manufacturer created a new product line targeted to children that was unique in their industry. They had developed several merchandising-display options and wanted to know which one would lead to the best product comprehension and most purchases of the new product. The displays also had to appeal to the children for whom the product was designed and to the parents who would be purchasing the product.

Research Objectives

The primary research objective was to determine which merchandising option would have the greatest impact on product understanding and product purchases.

Secondary objectives were to:

  • Determine if children would notice and understand the merchandising display for the new product.
  • Determine if children would be interested in trying the new product after viewing the display.
  • Understand the purchasing dynamic between parents and children.
Research Design and Methods

Decision Analyst recommended that a virtual shelf-set test be conducted among parents of 6 to 12-year-olds, with several questions targeted to the children. A nationally representative sample of parents in the U.S. who had children aged 6-12 were recruited from Decision Analyst’s American Consumer Opinion® panel. To comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the children were not directly invited to the survey. In order for the children to participate in the survey, their parents had to provide consent.

The research design was a monadic test with 200 sets of parents and children evaluating each merchandising option. The merchandising options all displayed the full product line and included images of children using or displaying the products.

A virtual shelf set was created for each merchandising option. The survey was programmed to allow respondents to zoom in for a closer look at each of the products to gain more information (front facing) and to select the products they noticed and would purchase.

The parents were asked to sit together with their children to view one of the merchandising options and take the survey. Some of the questions were targeted to the parents, while other questions were targeted to the children. The parents were asked to read the questions if their children needed help, but the responses needed to be their children’s for those specific questions.


All of the merchandising options left a positive impression on the parents and children. There was one option, though, that was the clear winner across key metrics. In the winning merchandising option, not only did the children clearly understand the new product line and show interest in it, the parents were receptive to purchasing it for their children, which maximized its sales potential. Suggestions were made to the manufacturer about what improvements could be made to the winning merchandising option, based on objective ratings and open-ended comments.

Overall, the research methodology (the interactive shelf set as well as the sample of parents and their children) identified the way for our client to maximize their sales. Without this research, the client would have spent thousands of dollars on merchandising options that would almost certainly have fallen flat among its core targets. The suggested improvements made the merchandising option more persuasive, even easier for children to understand, and introduced the parents to the product line.


Marketing Research Services

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