How does your shop layout affect customers?

Better Business: Shop layout

Your shop’s layout can encourage customers to spend more or walk out the door. When was the last time you seriously thought about it? Helen French investigates…

Last month we looked at how to optimise online shops and websites. It’s easy to think of what’s online as easily changeable, and what’s in the real world as unmoveable bricks and mortar. But even in a small space there’s a lot you can do with layout in order to drive more sales.

In essence, you want to make it easier for customers to find what they want, to make browsing your store comfortable and appealing – the longer they stay the more they will spend – and to encourage sales of new products, or items you particularly want to push, alongside add-on sales.

Changing your store layout can be as simple as moving some products around to make their positioning more logical and attractive to customers. You might want to refit a particular area, which could involve ordering in some new shelving. Or perhaps you’d be happiest working directly with a shop fitter or retail consultancy firm to give the whole store a refresh.

Sweethaven Computers moved to new, larger premises in June last year. Partner Paul Rambridge found looking for an appropriate company to work with was a challenge. “It was strangely difficult to find a firm of designers and shop-fitters that applied themselves to our industry on a frequent basis and could therefore give you trade specific advice. We found one that fitted out computer game stores.” He felt there was a real need for an IT store specialist company that could work with vendors for IT-specific layouts beyond steel shelving.

Utopia Computers recently refitted its store, and director Craig Hume says they began by researching what worked for other stores, and then implemented the features they found most effective, such as ordering custom- built shelving in its brand colours.

There’s a lot to consider, so PCR spoke to retail consultancy firm Shopworks for tips. First we asked how it approached planning a store layout with a retailer. Hugues Audouard, head of category management and research, explains that it applies four key design principles to the space available:

1) Equalise space: Ensure that each square metre of space works as hard as the next. Store layout and segmentation must be clear and relevant and must meet your customer’s primary shopping mission.

2) Direct through space: Use fixtures and fittings, flooring and even lighting to guide your customers quickly and easily through the store, while exposing them to as much of your merchandise as possible.

3) Categorisation and adjacencies: Help customers understand where to find what they are looking for through good category management and by placing related items together to expand your customer’s shopping mission and increase sales. For example, display your laptop bags close to your laptops, rather than at the opposite end of the store.

4) Sightlines, access and angles: Customers need to understand immediately where they can browse, where they can interact with products or staff and where they can pay. Use low units towards the front of the store and be careful to manage architectural blind spots, such as columns.

Audouard also suggested that IT retailers in particular should have separate, clearly identifiable area specifically for servicing and repairs. He says: “A dedicated service area shows you care about your customers. Customers who are there purely to shop can still do so quickly and easily in the main area of the store.”

If planning out a store seems complicated, reduce it down to thinking about what customers want and how they act when they enter a shop. Audouard says that from the moment they cross the threshold, they start assessing how to navigate around, thinking things like: Can I see what I am interested in? Where are the printers? Looks like a good offer over there. Where’s the netbook I’ve just seen in the window? What looks interesting? I didn’t know they did eReaders!

Good retailers will consider all of this if they want to avoid a customer looking in, thinking ‘I can’t get to the monitors,’ or ‘It doesn’t look like they have what I want,’ or ‘There’s nowhere to ask for help,’ and walking away.

There’s a common myth that customers have a tendency to turn right as they enter a shop. Some think left or right-handedness might be responsible. Then for a while it was thought UK shoppers actually go left – and perhaps it was down to which side of the road you drive down.

Audouard believes instead that there are simply factors that affect customers’ tendency to go in a particular direction – such as product categorisation and line of approach from outside the store. You can affect how they behave by layout, signage and merchandising on the shelf.

Ensure you have products you want to push at eye level. If you have a large store, is there an obvious circuit customers can take that will send them around the whole premises, in a similar fashion to Ikea? Or if there’s a particular item people come in for a lot, you could consider placing it nearer the back to walk customers past more products.

If you have many customers with young families, you might want to have something appealing to children in an area with impulse buys aimed at parents.

If you promote something externally, make sure customers can easily get their hands on it in the shop. For example, Audouard recommends: “Always ensure that items displayed in your window can be easily found in-store.”

Finally, Hume concludes: “Larger retailers spend millions working out shoppers’ behavior and what makes them part with their hard earned cash. If we as a smaller retailer can take some of their findings and use it to our advantage, why not?”

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