The layout of your store plays an essential role in how your customers find their way around. It’s also critical that you get it right because it directly influences the shopping experience and your sales. Get it wrong, and you can expect to run a store that’s congested and confusing and not one that your customers want to shop.
It also speaks to the importance of getting your customer flow right. Customer or shopper flow is straightforward in its explanation. Linked to floor planning, it refers to the movement or path of consumers through and around your store. As we noted, experience is a key factor in getting it right, and you can customise how they navigate your store.
So what can you do to improve in-store customer flow so that it can lead to increased sales? Below, we focus on a few strategies you can attempt in your store.
About the contributors
Isabell van Dyk joined DotActiv in early 2020 as a space planner in Johannesburg. Since joining, she has worked on various accounts, including Pick n Pay. Currently, she works on the L'Oréal account. She has a Bachelor of Consumer Science (Honours) in Clothing Retail Management from the University of Pretoria.
Leané Mulder joined DotActiv in 2019 as a space planner, working on various ad-hoc accounts. Since then, she has been promoted to account manager. Today, she oversees work on our Motus account. She has a BSc in Consumer Science from North-West University.
Tanya van der Merwe joined DotActiv at the beginning of 2018. She currently oversees the Makro General Merchandise account. Makro is a wholesaler chain and subsidiary of Massmart that has international ties to Walmart.
Place your high traffic products at the back of your store
Placing frequently shopped products near (or at) the back of your store is a tried and tested strategy to use if you want to increase your customers' basket sizes. That’s because you direct shoppers past many other categories and products that might not have seen that traffic.
In providing more exposure to less frequently purchased items, you also open up the opportunity to increase your sales.
For example, by placing products like bread and milk at the back of your store, you can lead shoppers past other products they might not have seen. However, as soon as they see these products, they realise they need them and add them to their basket.
It could be that they are hosting a dinner party that weekend, and instead of coming back again to shop specifically for those items they need, they can get them all at once. You have just saved your customers a trip and made their life easier.
Another benefit of placing your popular products near the back is that it means customers won’t only shop in one area of your shop. Imagine putting all of your popular products close to the entrance. Yes, it’s convenient. However, it will mean many customers coming in, grabbing those items, paying and leaving. They have no incentive to shop in any other categories.
Also, there will be more shoppers in one or two areas of your store, which can lead to congestion. It could even lead to many shoppers walking in, seeing the store is too crowded and then walking out without buying anything.
Ensure your category flow is logical and easy to follow
The layout or flow of your store relies as much on your floor plan as it does on how you set out your categories. How you set out your categories in-store can also mean the difference between a good or bad shopping experience.
We recommend that you ensure your category flow makes logical sense to your customers. There are plenty of reasons why that makes sense.
For one, your customers can navigate with ease through your store. When shopping for breakfast cereal, you could place other breakfast options in the same aisle. That could include jams and spreads, sugars and sweeteners and any other products that your customers would associate with breakfast.
It can also lead them to spend more time in your store, which means more sales for you. After all, who wouldn't want to shop in a store where they can easily find what they want.
The converse is also true. Imagine trying to shop in a store where a pool cleaning category flows into a pet toys category? Or where dairy products sit alongside household cleaning items? You might see many shoppers walking around in confusion trying to guess where a product is instead of walking purposefully to the aisles without needing to think.
A further benefit to following a logical category flow is its direct influence on how shoppers view your store brand. As they become familiar with your layout, it makes it easier to shop at your store, which leads to frequent visits.
Furthermore, it also helps you avoid contamination of products if your store has more than one department. For example, if you sell apparel and food, you can place food at the back of your store. Meanwhile, you can place clothing near the front so that they two don't come into contact with one another.
Create hot spots in your store
In a retail context, a hot spot is a grouping of frequently purchased products or promotional areas. To make full use of these, you can scatter them around your store to create a flow between the spots and help direct shoppers around.
You can also create hotspots by cross-merchandising products that shoppers frequently use together. For example, in your tea and coffee aisle, you could include clip strips with sachets of sugar. If you have a promotion on coffee, you could place them at the end of the aisle that stocks your biscuits.
Your known value items (KVIs) will also deliver a good rate of sale, so it's also worth placing them in your promotional areas to create a hotspot. Another strategy is to merchandise products that do not have a lot of sales nearby or around your hotspots. In doing so, you can create awareness for those products and increase impulse purchases.
If you're wondering how many hotspots you should have in your store, it depends. If you have a large store, you could look to add one on each of your gondola ends. If you're a smaller store, you'd need to be more mindful in case you clutter your space. It would be better to focus on less than a handful.
You could also look to place a hotspot at your till point or towards the back of your store to expose your shoppers to more of your merchandise.
Use your store fixtures strategically
When used strategically, your retail fixtures can help improve any customer flow in-store. How?
In your store, it helps to create a pathway through your store that allows for easier shopping. The type of layout you choose can depend on the products you sell and how you want to direct your customers from category to category. Do you want to push them down a specific path? Or do you want to let them roam through your store?
When your customers enter your store, it also helps to create an open, inviting space. That means not placing your fixtures in their way or next to the door because that can cause congestion. We mentioned this earlier. By placing shelves near the front - encourages customers to shop them - but it can give others the impression that your store is overcrowded.
The height of your fixture can also play a role in helping with the traffic through your store. Fixtures under eye level are perfect since they can help your customers to feel overwhelmed or hindered.
In reality, there are cases where you can lower your shelving for specific categories so that your customers can reach items with ease. You can also switch between higher and lower shelving units so that your customers can navigate your store and find the products they want with ease.
You can also add branding, clip strips and shelf talkers to your shelves and fixtures. Regardless of which option you choose - you could include all - you can use them to educate your customers about products. Shelf talkers are designed to educate your customers.
Use signage to help customers navigate your store
The signage you use in your store plays a critical role in helping your customers navigate your store. Here, we're referring to all types of signage, from your information boards (aisle indicators) hanging above aisles to the promotional stands directing your customers where to go.
Both can lead to a positive shopping experience and reduce any frustration. After all, how often have you walked into an unfamiliar grocery store and looked at the information on the aisle indicators to see where you need to go?
Of course, you must ensure that the category information on the hanging board is the same as what is in the aisle below it. That's a topic for another day. Suffice it to say, the proper use of signage can turn a frustrating shopping experience into a pleasant one.
It can also help to prevent congestion since shoppers will know where to go instead of hanging around in a spot looking around trying to decide. This is also where your fixtures come into play again. Your signage and fixtures can work together to direct your customers down a specific path as soon as they enter your store.
For example, if you look at your data and notice that the majority of shoppers all have one or two common items in their basket, you could direct them to that aisle. Doing so kickstarts their shop. Then, along the way, your logical category flow can direct them down different paths until they complete their shopping experience.
As mentioned above, it is evident how essential a good customer flow is for your store and overall business. Following a few guidelines and strategies can help improve the shopping experience while you benefit from the additional sales.
Do you need help setting up a store that your customers want to shop? You can book a complimentary custom exploratory consultation with us here or visit our online store.