Boosting Sales Through Store Design - Nov 2010
By Jim Dion
Can you really create an atmosphere that makes customers want to buy? The answer is a resounding yes. The atmosphere of a store is made up of not only the merchandise being sold but also of what we call “peripherals,” components of color, music, video, aroma, lighting, signage, cleanliness, and the one most often forgotten, the attitude and appearance of the staff.
Consider that the act of buying is very complex, and for many purchases it involves all of the senses: vision, hearing, touch, smell, and for some purchases, even taste. A good atmosphere is a feast for all of the senses, complemented by employees who are dressed appropriately and are genuinely happy to greet customers as welcome guests.
The first thing your customers see is the front of your store. Most retail stores have windows that are used to both showcase products and provide a glimpse of the interior of the store. Windows should tell a story. The window is the place where you can create a seasonal display, show a special offering or share anything that tells the customer about the quality and value of the products carried within.
The store entrance should be easy to enter and inviting. If customers have to work to get through heavy doors or, even worse, locked doors with buzzers, they are much less likely even to browse. And remember, once you get them to browse, you are halfway to the sale.
Take three steps into your store. Three steps get you past the decompression zone, the space in which the customer is decompressing from the outdoors and paying little attention to items or displays. The area just beyond the decompression zone is prime real estate. Most customers will be exposed to that area but not all will venture further into the store, so that first third of the space is very important. Research has proven that roughly 90% of customers will turn right upon entering a store, so pay special attention to this space. The saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” is true of this first exposure to your store. Make it count by loading it with your best products and your most interesting and interactive vignettes. Also, make sure this area has visibility to a location within which customers can relax and plan their projects.
The cash wrap area, which many stores call the service desk, should not be located in the prime real estate area. Instead, it should be toward the back of the store, and associates should be discouraged from hanging out there rather than interacting with customers. With the desk at the back, the customer sees the store as more of a showroom than the retail space.
Room vignettes are the equivalent of mannequins in a fashion store. The mannequin is the most important fixture in a fashion store because it helps the customer see how the merchandise will look on a body. Clothes that are folded on a shelf or simply hanging on a hanger do not inspire customers to buy. The mannequin has the ability to display a complete look with shoes, belt, jewelry and other accessories. This not only makes the main products look better but also encourages the sale of additional items.
In flooring stores, vignettes accomplish the same task. They show the customer how the entire room or area will look with differing floor and wall treatments along with the accompanying furniture and fixtures. Having row after row of displays featuring differing tiles and stones does not inspire a customer to buy because they cannot picture how it will look in a real home situation.
The next step in creating an atmosphere that makes the customer want to buy is to make sure that the store layout is logical and easy to follow. All vignettes of one type should be grouped together: kitchen with kitchen, bath with bath, and so on. Also, wherever possible, make each of the areas truly functional. Have a working kitchen with a coffee machine and bake cookies a few times a day. Have functioning refrigerators and dishwashers in your kitchens and working washers and dryers in your mud room vignettes. Local appliance stores may be willing to give you these products for free if you post some signage promoting their store. You may also want to create kitchen and bath vignettes within their locations as well.
Partner with furniture stores to have comfortable couches, chairs and home accessory pieces throughout your store to make each vignette as lifelike as possible and to encourage your customers to get involved with the spaces. From these vignettes, customers will get ideas for using tile and stone in ways that they never thought of, and, as an important bonus, a browse of the vignettes will keep them in the store longer.
Color and Light
Think about the lighting and colors in your store. Yes, it is difficult when you are presenting vignettes to keep the colors complementary and the lighting focused on each area, but you have to do so. Do not put competing colors next to one other. When planning displays, use one strong color with subordinate colors. Too many strong colors used in combination create confusion, whereas one strong color used with subordinate colors will create a refuge for customers. There are wonderful fluorescent spot and floodlights available today with color balance equal to halogen lamps. In addition, these new lights use one tenth of the power and generate almost no heat. Each area should have the appropriate light level: kitchens should be super bright; bathrooms should be mood lit; mud rooms bright; living rooms mood lit.
Color and light affect depth perception. Choose lighter color tints and floodlights to deepen the space, darker colors and spotlights to shorten. Choose colors that have the right impact on your customers, despite what the fashion of the moment is. Warm colors like orange, yellow and red increase mental alertness and stimulate. Cool colors like blue and green have calming or sedative effects. Bright colors can make customers uneasy if there is prolonged exposure to them and can also divert attention from merchandise. Cooler colors can prolong a customer’s stay, which is exactly what is wanted.
I highly recommend that you play music because a silent store is not an inviting store. The music should reflect the expectations of your target customer. For example, if your target customer is women ages 35 to 55, you would likely not feature rap music in the store. Recent research suggests that 63% of customers shopping in a store with appropriate background music purchased more than they had planned. The same study concluded that softer music slowed the customer’s pace, again resulting in sales increases. Video and graphics should also reflect the tastes of the primary customer segment.
Cleanliness and Organization
Above all, the store must be neat and clean. Nothing should be out of place nor should there be any dust or dirt anywhere. When customers see small details that indicate that the store is not paying attention to its atmosphere, they question everything about the store. A president of an airline once said, “Customers are amazing. They flip down the snack tray and see a coffee stain and then question the engine maintenance!” And, yes, it is true. Customers will make judgments about your store based on very tiny details.
Never forget, your store is not being compared only to other flooring stores. It is being compared to every other retail store that the customer has been in over the past few months. You compete with the best retailers in your community, and your customer does not cut you any breaks because you are a flooring store. Your staff should be dressed appropriately, more formal than casual to reflect the quality of the store and the professionalism of the staff.
And do not forget the most important room of all. You need clean, working washrooms for your customers. The bathrooms should reflect the attitude of the store. They should be spacious, surgically clean and serve as a showcase for your products. Remember, it is these small details that will impress your customers.
The Silent Salesperson: The Sign
Another important component of a retail environment is the signage. People respond to signs that speak to product or service benefits. To which sign would you respond: “The color goes all the way through the tile” or “Want to save 20 minutes of your life every day?” I would suspect that the latter is more likely to get your attention as it speaks to a benefit that many customers can relate to. Consider every sign in your store. Is it engaging the customer on an emotional level, or does it read like a manufacturer’s specification sheet?
Customers rarely just fall into a store. They come for a reason. If you make the retail space tempting and inviting, they will buy.
Copyright 2010 Floor Focus
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