Shopping experience: guided discovery

A customer enters a store looking for a tour of discovery. The retailer has the power to guide where this subconscious treasure hunt leads. After all, there are greater pickings to be had with intuitive routing and strategic product placement.

Clearly indicate the way

Visual routing, such as a coloured carpet or change in flooring, which guides the customer like an invisible hand through the shop or into various departments is the most useful way to keep customers moving further into the store after they enter.

The effect can be further boosted by designing the ceiling to help guide customers as well: a chamfered ceiling, for example, elegantly ushers customers into the store while also helping to create a pleasant and bright ambience by adding indirect light. The benefit of this is that we tend to be guided by these kinds of lines. On top of this, a mostly unlit, plain ceiling can appear quite grey, dusty and oppressive, even if painted in pure white.

Approx. 80% of Europeans are right-handed and most also drive on the right. This means that customers tend to move towards the right within stores as well. You can use this information to your advantage by setting up a counter-clockwise loop. Accordingly, the ideal place to present particularly beautiful sales items is inside the entrance and to the right, where they can surprise customers or create a positive buzz.

The butt-brush factor

There is even a bit of science behind the aisle width. If aisles are too narrow, we may block the passage or even touch off other people (butt-brush factor) – which tends to spook us. If aisles are too wide, we move too quickly and tend to buy less. You should take your pocket rule and check your store some time: if any point of a passageway is narrower than 80 cm, only particularly confident people will choose to go through, even though there is actually enough space. You know that sensation in a lift: we feel ill at ease without our intuitive 80-cm safety distance. Two measurements should be borne in mind when laying out your store: passageways and aisles for your employees should be around 50 cm wide and those for your customers at least 80 cm.

Strategic product placement

Product placements also offer great potential: more expensive items should be placed at eye level, while people should have to bend down for cheaper items. A good place to position less familiar products is beside better known and more appealing anchor products – the things we recognise immediately and which therefore have a certain draw. Or try presenting complementary goods together: place sunglasses in a matching colour beside a beautiful shawl or scarf or offer the perfect wine together with a particular cheese. Customers are very receptive to such product placements presented as “recommendations” and “styling tips”.

We automatically assume we are getting a special offer if we see a pallet or round table in the middle of an aisle heaped high with a particular product. Supermarkets use this reflex in a very targeted manner – very few people notice that the products have “simply” been skilfully presented.

The perfectly located checkout

Customers should not see the checkout area immediately on entering the store, so that they are not reminded of money or budgets the minute they step inside. On the other hand, it is also important in smaller stores that employees at the checkout have a good overview of the entire shop so that they can greet and advise customers and also prevent theft. The checkout should always be easy to find so that customers do not end up getting frustrated or stressed looking for it when they want to pay and leave.

Strategy and atmosphere make an impact

Many interesting and successful retailers are evidence of the fact that you can make an impact with strategy and atmosphere. A store should look good but also be fit for purpose. And this can be achieved by using a clear layout and intelligently dividing up the available space in a way that all but takes the customer by the hand and helps him feel secure and at ease. With all of the information, offers and stimuli bombarding us nowadays in particular, customers like the ease that comes with clear structures and guidance. They feel more like browsing and lingering and are also more open to making a purchase. And happy customers are good for your bottom line!

About the author:

Stefan Suchanek is an aesthete, retail designer, consultant, speaker and lecturer in visual rhetorics, presentation and reasoning at the AMD Academy for Fashion & Design in Munich. He draws his expertise from knowledge of traditional design theory, evolutionary biology and brain science to design more interactive, intelligent and mindful business spaces and showrooms: spaces which bring forth a positive response, value people and boost sales by creating a lasting feeling of well-being through meaning and sensuality.