Store Design and Customer Experience

by Kate Enright

So throughout this series on improving customer experience, we’ve discussed how online shopping, new technology, and social media can affect the way your customers feel about you. Well today, in part 4, we’re going to delve in the world of physical store design and layout. How these factors can make a drastic impact on consumer behaviour. It’s at a higher level and it can be as expensive or as basic as you need it to be. Every change towards positive design will help.

An award winning design - Porsche store in Hong Kong

An award winning design – Porsche store in Hong Kong

So, what makes one store’s design more appealing to shoppers? What sort of physical spaces encourage spending? And what keeps people in the store for longer? It has been proven that some designs allow us to feel comfortable and confident enough to spend more with a particular retailer. A fine balance between quality and price of stock, temperature, music, lighting, fragrances and air quality alongside the store’s architecture, product display and staff all have a vital impact. In this competitive retail industry, none can afford to be ignored. Of course, these factors do heavily depend on your target market, particularly with things like music, lighting and fragrance, so think carefully.

Aberchrombie stores – dark, loud music, strong perfume/cologne - Teenagers

Aberchrombie stores – dark, loud music, strong perfume/cologne – Teenagers

Apple have revolutionised store design over the last 10 years, to the point where their retail stores make $6,050 in sales per square foot, the most of any American retailer, according to the latest data from RetailSails. In fact, double that of any other US retailer per sq foot! They this year patented store layouts to keep others from replicating what they do, pretty crazy.

Apple store trademarked design

Apple store trademarked design

Have you invested in Tech? Show it off.

If you have invested in technology such as screens, kiosks, interactive displays and other innovative technologies, then you want people to know about them, to come inside the store once they’ve seen what you have to offer as they walk by. To maximise this you will need to begin from the very basics. This includes windows, wall colour and lighting. Show off your products and tech by making sure you have a bright, light, and transparent image displayed to the outside world. This is one factor that has made the Apple and Microsft stores to successful. People can see what they have to offer in the store clearly as they walk by. They get a bright, positive and fun vibe from the retailers through the large clear windows, colour and light.

Microsoft Store San Jose CA

Microsoft Store San Jose CA

A cluttered Mind…

Psychologically, when people are in a space of any size, if they feel claustrophobic or closed in, if the space is cluttered and in-any way disorganised, it sends a negative message of stress and panic to the brain. In essence, we are talking about the old classic: “A cluttered house means a cluttered mind”. The level of minimalism does depend however on the industry you are trading in. For example, if your market is high-street clothing, then going too minimal can have a negative impact, with shoppers equating over-minimal surroundings with expense. In this case, simply a tidy, un-cluttered environment works well, with rails that aren’t over stacked but that hold a tidy, co-ordinated range or products, with plenty of colour and variety. In an electronics store, keeping things simple works well. Just have a few nicely spaced display models and staff who can demonstrate them well and you are off to a great start.

What’s your flow?

There is exciting of new technology out there to help track the journey of the customer in a store. Things like face detection, footfall trackers and more can show you where in the store customers are drawn and the direction they are going. Not just in the store of course, but their journey from offline to online and the flow through your different channels. More about that in our technology improves customer experience post.

Digital Hangers

Digital Hangers

Retailers can use the layout of the store to influence customer behaviour, this is well known and people have been experimenting with this idea for years. For example, most people are right-handed (i.e more than likely right-footed), so upon entering your store, they will immediately turn right and circulate that way. Designing the store’s flow; the placement of merchandise relative to other items, things to catch the eye at a particular time, etc., they all matter to the experience. The flow of a store’s determines how customers shop. And this can be more or less relevant depending on your product line. E.g. Supermarket flow is extremely important, this has been worked out to a fine science of bread and milk and vegetable positioning. What do you want your customer to see immediately? What is your brand identity? What do you want to use to grab their attention? The average stay is 8 minutes, you have that long to impress!

Invest in the right staff.

Having the right people on your shop floor is one of the most important elements to the entire process. They are representing you, they are your first impression and your last impression. Are they happy? They are the free marketing channel you have at your disposal, both at work, and out of it.

Think about when you speak to a friend who hates their job, where do they work? Does this impact your opinion of that organisation? Of course it does. Now think of someone you know who enjoys their job (to the extent possible!), a friend who has only got good things to say about the organisation as a whole. They are out there painting a positive image of the organisation, they are in work feeling good, feeling positive, enjoying themselves and selling your brand. They believe in what they are selling, so it’s easier to do so. It’s that simple.

But look out, no one likes a robotic sales agent with a fake plastered on smile and upsettingly peppy attitude to life, but someone knowledgeable who seems happy to be talking to you, and likes their job, that’s the person that gives you faith in the products. So treat your staff right, make sure they have a nice working environment, a decent level of pay, and good lines on communication. Make sure they are trained and know everything there is to know about the product. Make sure they are interested in the type of product they are selling. If it is fashion, that they are into fashion, if it’s electronics, that they are interested in the technology and using it.

 No one likes a Line

It’s no surprise that people hate queuing. In fact, the time a customer spends waiting in your shop queue can dramatically impact their perception of the entire experience. Even if everything had been great up to then, this is the last step, the one they will remember (if it goes badly). There are those who will just give up and leave the line, those that will wait it out and then complain about you to everyone they meet for the rest of the day, and those that will walk by, see the line, and keep walking. That’s 3 ways your brand has been negatively impacted either through loss of sale, bad WOMM, or lack of interaction at any level.

  • Recent research about customers’ negative experiences in line:
  • 50% will purposely avoid a retailer or brand in the future if they had to wait longer than five minutes!
  • 30% forced to wait for over five minutes have abandoned the checkout line!
  • Nearly 50% avoid a store because of someone else’s negative experience.
  • After 2.5 minutes, customers will become frustrated if there is no progress in the line.
  • If a checkout process is being actively managed, customers are more willing to tolerate the wait time.

Pretty interesting stats don’t you think? And the last one is very important indeed. If it looks like you are doing something about it, putting more staff on the registers, directing shoppers to self-service kiosks, even simply apologising, this can change a customer’s entire mood. Have you ever been angry about service in a restaurant, gotten angry and spoken to who you are with about it? Then what happens if someone comes by and apologises, offering some (even small) compensation? Instantly the situation has been rectified. The customer now has a chance to leave happy.

If your lines are always too long, consider adding registers or self-service. If it is once in a while, be sure you have a system in place for those times and that each manager knows what to do.

Remember that your aim is to make the shopping experience a happy one, to ensure that your customers have a pleasant experience make sure the surroundings are pleasant (would you shop there?), make sure there are no obstructions, make sure the staff and knowledgeable and happy, and make the check-out process speedy.

For more tips and tricks check out this nice A-Z guide we found