When it comes to keeping customers happy and increasing sales, the environment in which your shoppers find themselves is of utmost importance. If customers feel comfortable in a shop, not only are they likely to spend more time there browsing and increasing the chance of a sale, but they are also going to feel more relaxed – and therefore happier to part with their money. However there is more to shop design than putting together a coordinated interior, and the psychology of the shopper’s journey and the display of goods should be taken into careful consideration when planning a shop layout.
The second that a shopper walks through the front door of a shop, they will make a judgement as to whether or not the merchandise on offer is appealing to them. The arrangement of stock in an attractive way is important, but it is also the positioning of items that is crucial to grabbing the attention of the shopper. Studies have shown that the area immediately inside the front door of the shop is largely ignored by customers and this space is sometimes known as the ‘decompression zone’. This area should be kept largely free of clutter and is designed to allow the customer to adjust to entering a new space and to refocus on the shop interior. Display items placed in this area will go largely unacknowledged and it is also ill-advised to display any important information for your customers in this space.
Immediately after the dead space of the decompression zone, the customer’s focus needs to be attracted to merchandise displays that slow their journey through the shop. New and promotional items should be featured in this space and displays should be changed regularly to hold the interest of returning shoppers. From this point on, the shopper’s journey through the store depends largely on the layout. Natural paths can be subtly suggested to ensure maximum exposure to stock, or customers can be left free to explore the area as they like.
Types of Store Layout
Although the layout of a shop is largely dictated by the nature of the space available, the arrangement of displays can have a big impact on the customer journey. A shop’s design can usually be identified as subscribing to one of three layouts: grid, loop (/racetrack) or free flow. A grid layout has stock displayed in aisles, with customers encouraged to walk each aisle in turn, browsing all stock before reaching the checkout.
Grid layouts are easy to navigate because they provide uninterrupted lines of sight through the shop and are predictable as they are routinely used by supermarkets. A loop layout has a central grouping of display units, with a clearly defined path around the edge. This layout constantly encourages shoppers the return to the centre of the shop once they reach the edge and ensures maximum product exposure. In a free flow layout, there are no aisles and units are arranged to avoid creating straight lines. Display units are instead placed at different angles throughout the shop floor, presenting new purchasing options whichever way the customer turns. Free flow also tends to work best for smaller shop floors, where space is limited.
The best place to position a checkout or desk of any kind is at a natural stopping point in the shopping experience, often the right hand side of the shop, towards the end of the pathway you have created. The checkout space is also a prime spot to encourage last minute sales, so displaying small but popular items within grabbing distance can lead to helpful add-on sales.
Once the layout of a shop has been decided, it’s time to consider the factors that will impact how comfortable the customer feels in navigating the store. Space permitting, any aisles that have been created should be at least wide enough to comfortably accommodate two shoppers browsing at the same time – as customers are less likely to stop and pick up items if other people are in their personal space. Aisle width is also an important consideration for both wheelchair users and parents with prams, who can find it difficult to navigate a cluttered space where display units are placed too close together. The height of any display units plays an important role in how visible stock is to your customers: avoid placing items above eye height and ensure that any important or promotional merchandise is clearly visible at eye level. Keeping the units as low as possible also ensures that the space feels more open, and increases visibility to help prevent opportunities for shoplifting.
Shop Interiors: How to Display Your Goods Effectively (Blackwell Projects)
7 Layout Secrets of the Big Retail Chains (Entrepreneur)