4 Common Design Mistakes to Avoid with Your Cardboard Displays

Studies have shown that well-designed cardboard displays can significantly influence purchasing decisions. For instance, a study by the Point of Purchase Advertising International Association (POPAI) revealed a sales lift index of 1.4 when a display is present in the store, indicating a substantial increase in sales.

Despite the proven effectiveness of cardboard displays, the prevalence of design mistakes is a common issue. These errors can range from poor structural stability to unappealing aesthetics, negatively impacting sales and brand perception. Retailers and brand managers need to recognize and address these design flaws to maximize the potential of their in-store marketing efforts.

Understanding How Shoppers Engage with Displays

Recent eye-tracking studies in retail settings provide valuable insights into shopper behavior. For example, research has shown that point-of-sale stickers, intended to guide customers, are often overlooked, indicating that other elements may play a more significant role in navigating displays.

Shoppers typically engage with displays that catch their attention immediately, which can be influenced by various factors such as placement, color, and signage. Eye-tracking technology has revealed that lower shelf placements can be 18% more effective than higher ones, challenging the common belief that consumers focus on eye-level products.

The duration of engagement with a display also varies. Still, certain elements have the power to hold attention longer, contributing to the overall effectiveness of the display.

Emotional connections are pivotal in influencing purchase decisions at the POS. While both emotional and rational thought processes drive shoppers, the emotional aspect often triggers the decision to buy. Simplified visual cues and peer expertise, such as online reviews accessible via smartphones, also significantly impact in-store purchase decisions.

Understanding these behaviors and preferences is crucial for retailers and marketers to design displays that attract attention and encourage positive purchase decisions.

 how shoppers engage with displays
Source: cefBox

Common Design Mistakes and Solutions

1. Visual Hierarchy and Clarity

A common pitfall in display design is a poor visual hierarchy, where crucial information is lost amidst less essential details. This can lead shoppers to pay more attention to critical messages vital for product engagement.

A study on visual hierarchy in marketing emphasizes that a clear and organized presentation of information significantly improves recall rates and user experience. Conversely, unclear visual hierarchies can confuse users, making locating important information difficult and ultimately decreasing product engagement.

Solution: Establishing a clear visual hierarchy is paramount. This can be illustrated with a pyramid diagram, where the most critical message (such as the brand logo or unique selling proposition) is at the top, followed by secondary and tertiary information in descending order of importance. Utilizing larger fonts and contrasting colors for the most crucial messages ensures they stand out. Information should be organized logically, guiding the shopper’s eye through a clear and intuitive layout.

Example: Consider a cardboard display that effectively employs visual hierarchy: the brand logo is prominent at the top, the unique selling proposition is highlighted in bold, contrasting colors, and additional product details are presented in smaller fonts below. This logical flow of information facilitates quick comprehension and encourages shopper engagement.

 cardboard display visual hierarchy and clarity
Source: cefBox

2. Uncompelling Messaging and Lack of Engagement

A prevalent design error is generic messaging focusing on product features rather than benefits. This approach fails to resonate with consumers and does not effectively communicate the product's value.

A shift towards benefit-driven messaging has significantly increased purchase intent. For instance, surveys indicate that consumers are more likely to purchase when they understand how a product can solve problems or enhance their lives.


The key to compelling messaging is emphasizing the product's benefits. This involves crafting copy beyond listing features and highlighting how the product can address specific consumer needs or improve their lifestyle. Additionally, incorporating interactive elements such as product samples, QR codes, or tear-off coupons can significantly increase engagement. Studies have found that interactive displays can improve learning outcomes and engagement levels, suggesting a similar effect in retail environments.

Call to Action (CTA)

A clear CTA, such as “Try Now” or “Learn More,” should be integrated into the display to guide consumers toward the next step in the purchasing process.


Consider two cardboard displays: one utilizes generic messaging focusing solely on features, while the other employs benefit-driven messaging accompanied by a CTA. The latter is more likely to engage consumers, as it informs them about the product and invites interaction and further exploration.

 cardboard display with interactive elements
Source: cefBox

3. Structural Issues and Wobbly Displays

Structural integrity is one of cardboard display design's most critical yet often overlooked aspects. Using flimsy cardboard or designs prone to collapsing can damage products and create a negative perception of the brand, potentially resulting in lost sales.

Research indicates that the physical presentation of products significantly affects purchase and repurchase intentions. Displays that appear unstable or fail to protect the products can deter customers, negatively impacting sales.


To prevent such issues, selecting a suitable cardboard grade based on the product’s weight capacity and the display’s required durability is essential. Corrugated board grades, such as B flute or C flute, offer varying levels of strength and thickness suitable for different display needs.

Design techniques for reinforcement are also crucial. These can include:

  • Internal Shelves: Adding internal shelves can provide additional support and prevent sagging.
  • Strategic Folds: Utilizing strategic folds in the cardboard can enhance the display’s rigidity.
  • Edge Protectors: Applying edge protectors can increase the durability of the display’s corners and edges.

Even Weight Distribution: Ensuring weight distribution is vital for maintaining stability and preventing toppling.


A comparison between two displays—one poorly designed and flimsy, the other well-reinforced—can illustrate the importance of these considerations. The reinforced display, with its sturdy structure and even weight distribution, protects the products and conveys a sense of quality and reliability to the customer.

 cardboard display structural issues
Source: cefBox

4. Overlooking Functionality and Practicality

A display that hinders product access or is complex to assemble can frustrate customers and staff, leading to a better shopping experience and efficient operations.


To address this, focus on designing for accessibility. This includes:

  • Appropriate Shelf Heights: Ensure shelves are within easy reach for the average customer.
  • Unblocked Product Views: Design displays so products are visible and accessible from multiple angles.

Easy Assembly

Displays should have clear instructions and pre-folded sections to facilitate easy assembly. The use of collapsible features or interlocking components can also enhance the efficiency of storage and shipping.


Imagine a customer needing help to reach a product on a high shelf of a poorly designed display. Contrast this with a well-designed display featuring accessible shelf heights and clear product visibility, allowing customers to interact with the products easily.

Retailers can create a more positive and engaging shopping environment by prioritizing functionality and practicality in display design.

 cardboard display overlooking functionality
Source: cefBox

Additional Considerations for Maximum Impact

Brand Alignment

The display design should reflect the brand’s identity, incorporating consistent use of colors, fonts, and visuals. This alignment is crucial as it helps consumers quickly recognize and become familiar with the brand, fostering a sense of trust and reliability.

Compliance and Regulations

Adhere to the size, weight restrictions, and store placement guidelines set by retailers. These compliance measures ensure safety, optimize space and enhance the shopping experience.

Uniqueness and Reusability

Displays should stand out with unique design elements that capture attention. Moreover, designing with reusability in mind allows displays to be adaptable for seasonal promotions or updated marketing campaigns, providing cost-effectiveness and sustainability.

By considering these additional factors, display designs can achieve maximum impact, resonate with consumers, and meet retailer requirements.

The Bottom Line

In summary, well-designed cardboard displays are more than just marketing tools; they are pivotal in driving sales and enhancing brand recognition. The key takeaways from our discussion underscore the importance of:

  • Visual Hierarchy: Ensuring information is presented clearly and logically to guide the shopper’s journey.
  • Engaging Messaging: Crafting benefit-driven messaging that resonates with consumers and prompts action.
  • Structural Integrity: Choosing suitable materials and design techniques to create sturdy and reliable displays.

Additionally, cardboard is not only a versatile and cost-effective material for displays, but it also has a positive environmental impact. It is a sustainable choice, being biodegradable, recyclable, and sourced from renewable materials, contributing to a reduced ecological footprint.

Contact CefBox today to discuss your project with our experienced team. We specialize in crafting custom cardboard displays that are functional and visually appealing, and strategically designed to resonate with your target audience and achieve your marketing goals.

Let CefBox help you transform your cardboard displays from an afterthought into a powerful marketing tool.

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