Guiding Customers Through Your Store
Is Your Foot Traffic Going in the Right Direction?
Customers have less time today. The layout of your store and the way merchandise is organized can make an enormous difference in how they use their time in your store.
If you can make it easier to navigate the aisles with or without a stroller, customers are more likely to see all of your merchandise and to view your store as a destination for all of their baby's and children's needs.
Chances are, too, if they've enjoyed the experience of shopping at your store, they'll recommend you to other parents and grandparents. What better advertising exists than word-of-mouth?
By now, you are probably shaking your head - ridiculous, you say! You hardly have enough room to display all of your merchandise and now I'm suggesting that you give up space for circulation. The key to displaying a great deal of merchandise, is to edit and organize it efficiently and logically. Think about how closely you read a list that runs more than 10 items (unless you're ticking them off at the grocery store).
I'm suggesting that you clear the aisles and organize your merchandise so customers can look around for what they want with greater ease. Organize merchandise according to certain categories that make sense to you. If diaper pins are necessary to attach cloth diapers, group together any special creams, velcro duckies, changing tables, and any other items needed to diaper a baby in an environmentally friendly way.
When we videotaped a number of Thomasville Home Furnishing stores to see how customers moved through them, we discovered that in many stores, they missed a quarter of the merchandise. There was so much product on the floor it was difficult for them to navigate. Customers just didn't bother. Simplify the shopping experience to make it more pleasurable and productive.
Since many of your customers will come in with children in strollers and others in tow, and others may be doting grandparents possibly using walkers or canes, you need to make it simple to move around your space. Whether the layout of your store is a racetrack, a diamond or a straight front-to-back aisle, make it a logical path to view your merchandise. To visualize and understand what I mean when you enter the store is the layout like the oval of a racetrack? A diamond with its four points at each side of the store? Or is yours a long narrow store with merchandise on either side?
There are many ways of organizing your space. The one you choose, whether it is one of these standards or any one of a number of variations, is dependent on what works for the space you occupy, considering the available space, the location of any windows, columns, or other architectural details, your showcases or other visual display props, and your merchandise. A retail designer is professionally trained to help you with the layout.
Ninety-five percent of all customers move naturally to the right when they enter the door. When you're deciding how your major aisle will function, keep this fact in mind. Customers need what we designers call a "decompression space" as they enter. What's that, you ask?
If your customer is entering your store from outside, it is the few feet at the front of the store necessary for their eyes to adjust between the exterior and interior lighting, particularly if it is a sunny day.
If your customer is entering your store from the mall, it's the space needed for customers to adapt or recover from the energy spent entering the space before they are ready to concentrate on merchandise.
If you put your newest, best merchandise on the right as soon as they enter the store, it will be overlooked. Instead, stack flyers or some brand of standard items, which require little visual examination before purchase.
Once you have a simple, easy-to-navigate master plan, the separation or segmentation of your merchandise comes into play. In the main traffic aisle, there should be an area (or areas, depending on how large your store is) that highlights your newest merchandise. The "fashion center," as we call it, gives you an area in which to introduce your newest merchandise as soon as it arrives. Re-merchandise this center on a regular basis. Your repeat customers will love this because it will give them something new and exciting to see every time they visit. Increase your sales by suggesting "add-on sales" (logical additions to what the customer came in to purchase). For example, if you're featuring party dresses, also show hair ornaments, fancy tights, or other accessories which are popular this year. These may come from existing stock. By putting the items into a different context and showing customers the way they can be used at home, you are helping harried buyers to get organized in their thinking and with their purchases. Thanks to you, they will have everything at hand.
Depending on how large your store is, you should have strike zones or additional areas of excitement that interrupt the pathway throughout the store with new products or special promotions. I'm not suggesting that you clutter your aisles with display, but that you incorporate these strike zones in specially allocated spaces in the middle of the aisle or possibly at the end, as end caps on gondolas or runs of shelving. These act like small stages to showcase merchandise segments. One of these highlighted areas should feature merchandise shown in your windows. Nothing is more aggravating to customers than seeing merchandise in a window that they want, and then being unable to find it inside the store.
Graphics play a role in helping customers navigate your store. Large categories of merchandise can be identified with bold graphics. Make them bright and readable, and make sure they present the character of your store and echo your logo or store-front signs. You are trying to make your store easy for customers to navigate, but you don't want them forgetting where they are. Graphics are critical to branding.
You need to set up a hierarchy of merchandise - big groups in easy-to-identify areas with all of the products that relate to that group in close proximity, like the party dress grouping described above. To help customers make choices between different items in the same category, use an "information tower" that identifies certain product features, safety issues, and the quality of product within each big group. A number of towers can be used in strategic places throughout your store to provide information about product. Why not place one close to the cash area and make it a bulletin board for parents and kids? This two-way communication between your customers and you may provide unexpected insights about your merchandise and about your store itself.
The cash wrap/service area is obviously vital. Make it easily accessible within the space. The location should flow from the major traffic aisle easily, providing ease of access for customers plus security for you as a retailer. This is a good area for highlighting small and/or expensive items for sale. Depending on the size of the store, at least one cash/wrap area must have an Americans with Disabilities (ADA) segment - 3'0" wide minimum, 3'0" maximum height above the ground, with a clear space underneath of 19" minimum.
If you are selling clothing, you will need at least one big dressing room sized to accommodate a minimum of one parent, a stroller, and other young children. If this is designed with a 60" clear radius inside, plus a 24" deep x 48" long bench, which is 17" to 19" high, your one fitting room will easily satisfy both ADA requirements and the needs of parents. Have sufficient space outside to enable everyone to exit with ease. If you have mirrors outside the dressing rooms, make sure there is enough space for the shoppers to group around the little person trying something on and give assistance as it is needed. This dressing room should be easily accessible and seen from the major traffic aisle. When parents are pushing a stroller or concentrating on their children's needs, they have no energy to expend looking for a hidden dressing room.
Since you are selling baby and young children's merchandise, it would be a good idea to have an area that would suit both waiting adults and kids. A couple of comfy chairs, a television/video monitor, and a low table will satisfy all, whether playing or resting. This area should be central in the store. If it is located too close to the entrance, any children playing there will distract a customer from the purpose at hand.
By changing the color and/or the material of the flooring in the main aisle, you provide some direction for customers. Flooring in front of the cash/wrap area will need to be strong because of the traffic. Make sure there is space enough for people to line up and see any items you may have on display for impulse shopping.
Tie the colors and the style of the graphics, the information towers, the cash/wrap, the strike zones, and the end caps together and make sure all of this relates to the storefront to provide your customers with an easy, visually stimulating experience in your store that will also help customers identify your store. Customers will want to return, and that's the name of the retail game.