How to Use Hierarchy of Information to Boost Your Retail Business

Establishing a Hierarchy of Information is a strategy for identifying the attributes of your brand or product offering that are most important to your prime prospect, and prioritizing them in your messaging and creative executions for maximal impact.

We can examine the entire Learn, Shop, Buy model, which encompasses all consumer journey touchpoints, through the lens of Hierarchy of Information. Whether it’s the packaging you have displayed on your merchant’s shelves, the layout of your company’s website or a sponsorship on your end users’ favorite podcast, chances are you have much more to say about your brand or product offering than the time or space will allow. Your audience could zone out, scroll or move on at any time – what do you want to make sure they know before they do?

Think of it this way: if your audience could only say one thing about your brand or product, what do you hope it would be?

Hierarchy of Information allows you to work with limited attention spans, design space and time to deliver high-impact brand messages that compliment your end users’ shopping behavior.

Do your consumer research.

Everything starts with consumer insights. Hierarchy of Information is all about answering the question “What does my prime prospect value most?” Your brand and product offering may have scores of valuable features and benefits, but consumer attention is limited. Because your audience will only take one “first look” at your brand, it is crucial that you front-load the most important parts of your messaging. Then you must determine what information will keep their attention. Do they need to compare product specs at that stage of the journey? Or would your brand purpose move them closer to purchase?

There are many ways to go about collecting this data, but not all methodologies are created equal. Let’s start with what not to do: Likert scales.

If you present survey participants with a list of product attributes like durability, accuracy and ease of use and ask them to rate the importance of each on a scale of 1-10, they are likely to rate each attribute relatively the same.

Knowing that consumers give each attribute an 8 or 9 out of 10 does little to help you decide what to prioritize. Typically, you will get much more decisive data when you force them to choose.

To establish a Hierarchy of Information, seek out a consumer research company that properly utilizes trade-off analyses. In a trade off analysis, we ask participants to examine just one pair of attributes at a time and choose the most important.

For example: Is it more important that a product is made from recycled materials, or that it’s made in America? This method is repeated across all the features and benefits, and when analyzed, results in a more accurate ranked list with a clearer interpretation of how much different features and benefits matter relative to one another. This leads to more actionable insights to build your strategies.


Build your brand strategy.

Once you’ve learned what aspects of your offering you need to prioritize, you have to determine how to communicate those priorities to your prime prospect.

There are established design principles for doing this visually. When we scan a product package, sign or landing page, our eyes are drawn to words or graphics that are bigger and bolder. Contrasting colors and negative space in the composition also direct and draw the end users’ attention. But your brand - and what you stand for - is so much more than a logo and a set of design standards.

What about Hierarchy of Information as it pertains to your brand strategy holistically? These principles can also guide marketing touchpoints regardless of the nature of the medium or design. All brand communication, from email marketing campaigns to correspondence with your merchant, requires you to order your talking points to direct the audience’s attention to the information you know will resonate with them most.

To use Hierarchy of Information to help you build your brand strategy, we recommend choosing a marketing company that leverages trade off analysis research alongside strategic marketing capabilities. Your findings can have big impacts on the future of your business, from advertising to product development.


Put Hierarchy of Information to work in your product category.

The most useful data you can gather is the kind that’s specific to you and your end users.

Learn everything you can about how your prime prospect shops. Take, for example, a garden tool company. When shopping in-store, what types of behavior do end users exhibit? Do they pick up the tools? Squeeze the handles? How closely do they examine the blades? What information on the package do they read, and is it helpful? Understanding how your prime prospect interacts with the products and makes decisions at the point of purchase is key to developing a winning Hierarchy of Information in your product category.

A classic story about consumer shopping behavior revealing important product attributes involves carpenter’s levels. Researchers who observed construction professionals browsing levels at the hardware store noticed that they had a clear system for making their selection. They looked for a level of the appropriate size and held it in both hands to determine if it felt heavy and solid. If it passed that initial part of the test, they then examined the edges and end caps. Finally, the Pro would place the level down on a flat surface and check the vials. They would make sure the bubble was in the right place, and spin the level around 180 degrees and check again. This ensured they would get an accurate reading every time.

The shopping behavior in this product category was so predictable, it became known as the SHEEV (Size, Heft, Edges, End Caps, Vials) test. Brands that knew this information could develop a Hierarchy of Information that spoke directly to this end user in-aisle.

While you may have assumed that the only important quality in a level is that it’s, well, level, it’s clear that Pros place a great deal of importance on other features as well. Get acquainted with your target audience’s specific priorities, and make them the focus of your messaging.


Do even more consumer research.

It all comes back to research.

Before you roll out a new ad campaign or package design, it is prudent to protect your investment by checking in with your audience.

Get qualitative or quantitative feedback on your approach. Look into testing your tactics with eye-tracking heat maps that offer actionable quantitative insights by revealing exactly what parts of your content, merchandising set or packaging consumers are drawn to and where they spend their time.

It’s important to keep in mind that your Hierarchy of Information tells a story. Once you have outlined your audience’s key takeaways in order of importance, it’s wise to ensure that your message is being received in the way you intended.

Use consumer research to check in with your end users before you launch new marketing materials and continue to check in as you go forward. Stay agile and prepared to respond to changes in consumers’ priorities and shopping behaviors, and you’ll draw your end users in (and seal the deal) with relevant, engaging and effective messaging.

Ready to do the work needed to establish a Hierarchy of Information, and incorporate those insights into a winning strategic and creative approach? Schedule a complimentary consultation.