The entrance: How to truly welcome customers

To welcome customers means to give them a reception, rather than a rejection. Retail Designer Stefan Suchanek knows how specialist retailers can create an alluring entrance for customers to feel welcome.

First impressions count…

Surely you have heard this before. Or even: “You buy what you see…” This largely also includes not only your online presence, but also the appearance of your business with its façade, its shop windows and especially, its entrance. But retailers frequently tend to overlook their foyer because the actual selling activity takes place ‘inside’. Many do not realise that the outside can be a motivator: to enter, to feel good, to feel inspired to buy.

Making your WELCOME visible

You can turn entrance areas into highly attractive spaces that actively promote your business and prevent people from passing by with indifference and without paying attention. Just like a sophisticated style of clothing, the design of our entrance and façades sends out a message that impacts shoppers like a guidance system does: It is controlled subconsciously and welcomes shoppers to enter or even… to turn away. And that is something you surely want to avoid, right?

What do we perceive?

Why are first impressions so important? Which role does the first impression play?

Why are first impressions so important? Which role does the first impression play?
To find its way in our colourful, uber-filled world, our consciousness is forced to rate and assess shapes, signals or situations in no time to avert risks or dangers and literally, to secure our survival. A shop also sends out signals. This is non-verbal communication. And this, in turn, triggers a reaction in us…

A scruffy business entrance with a carelessly disposed of handkerchief lying on the floor comes across as dirty and unhealthy, and we feel a sense of disgust: In front of an elegant restaurant this would explain why our sub-conscience guides us to take a look at the competitor next door, as it could be quite nice there, too…

Quite frequently, we experience that entrances are too dark and therefore make us feel uneasy as we cannot make out where we are going because – quite simply – we see too little to fully grasp the situation. Likewise, cycling without a headlight into a dark tunnel evokes fears and our brain tries to avoid these situations. Without light, nothing is visible. Therefore: Clear the view and turn on the light even during the day…

Stimulate, don’t duplicate

Why not visit the creative districts in cities like Berlin, London or Munich where even the big retail players head to be inspired about what the future of shopping might look like: Everything there has a very private, personal and charming feel to it, like in the good ole’ days: Products are placed in baskets with a parasol to protect them against unwanted exposure to the sun, next to which is a bright-coloured bench to sit on, with fluffy cushions on it. This just makes you want to take a seat. This seemingly haphazard scene invites encounters between people and becomes an eye-catcher, or ‘living decoration’. And people attract people. Your shop becomes an attraction.

It’s the charm that matters

Successful business models prove: It is not only the exclusivity of the appearance alone that matters, but also the charm of the presentation – meaning showing both on the inside and to the outside the love you have for your business. And those are impulses that definitely do NOT require major financial resources: Use, for example, a red rather than a black dirt-absorbing mat. The entrance is emphasised, is spotted more quickly as being an entrance, and makes your shopper feel incredibly sexy – this is where your customer is king. And even the door handle should be made neither of metal nor of cheap plastic. After all, the door handle is the first sensory encounter and exchange between customer and store. Metal becomes incredibly cold in winter and in summer, when exposed to the sun, it easily draws in the heat. This results in subconscious irritation and stress, rather than a pleasant buying experience. When it comes to a plastic handle, I always ask myself whether the store owner likes to shake the hands of people wearing rubber gloves…

Trade means encounters between people

We know ourselves that when we are a customer, we not only want to see, but also want to be seen. And this happens long before you can personally welcome your customer in a friendly manner, notably if the presentation of your business offers aspects that are appreciated: the beautiful design, open doors, floral decor on the side, an interesting and easy-to-spot entrance portal, a pleasant, if not memorable door knob, bright lighting and maybe even seating or a red carpet that signal: “You not ‘only’ bring in the money, but you are our appreciated visitor… you are welcome here.”

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.