Customer Paths and Retail Store Layout — Part 6

The the last three parts of this series covered what is basically the meat and potatoes on customer paths and retail store layouts. We explored different types of layouts and weighed the pros and cons of each. Now that you have an idea of which layout to pick, we’ll dive into some more specific in-store strategies regarding how customers interact with your space.

Some of these strategies have been referenced before in previous parts but let’s dive a bit deeper.

The Customer Journey

Roughly speaking, a customer will almost always enter the store and turn right. Giving the store some decompression space near the entrance allows customers to get used to the new surroundings and is more inviting than inundating them with sales and promotions. Most customers will turn right so this is where you should place your “power wall” with the merchandise you most want to display. The rest of their path will follow a counter-clockwise direction around the store.

This knowledge of the customer path being counter-clockwise is the most vital aspect to understand the rest of the strategies. The “power wall” and decompression area are just the starting point but the counter-clockwise path allows you to predict where customers will go next and how to design their specific journey.

Protecting A Customer’s Personal Space

This has come up in previous parts in this series as well but it is very important. Many retailers may want to pack their space with as much merchandise as possible but this has the negative affect of creating narrow aisles. People are protective of personal space and experiments have shown that people prefer some space between them and strangers in order to feel comfortable. To encourage customers to browse and not bump into other shoppers, a good rule of thumb is to make sure aisles are at least four feet wide.

Another aspect having wide aisles solves is something retail consultant Paco Underhill calls the butt brush in his book Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. His studies have concluded that customers avoid narrow aisles where their bottoms might brush the bottoms of other customers. While conceptually this sounds pretty humorous it can have a very serious and profound effect on your business’ bottom line (no pun intended).

Having wider aisle provides the most important side effect beyond just personal space comfort. By creating enough space you make it easy for customers to pick-up and carry their items which can help entice them to purchase more. The other thing this accounts for is accessibility as wheelchairs and strollers which tend to take up a lot of space. Accessibility is something all retailers should take seriously as there are minimum requirements stipulated by government acts and non-compliance can lead to complaints, fines, or even lawsuits.

We’ll dive deeper into more strategies including placement of merchandise in the next part.

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