Retail Layouts: Creating Better Traffic Flow
Updated: Jul 11, 2019
Creating the layout in your retail store isn’t just a matter of throwing merchandise where it fits and hoping for the best. Retail layout is very important for directing shopper behavior and can have a tangible effect on your bottom line. From placement of merchandise in relation to other products to directing traffic around your store in a specific way, retail layout design is one area in which you can nudge shopper behavior.
Customers spend an average of eight minutes in a store; let’s talk about some of the best practices of store traffic flow, and how you can take advantage of what we know about how people shop to extend the time they’re spending in your store.
Consider the Right Turn Factor...
Studies have shown that close to 90 percent of customers will turn right upon entering a store and walk through the store counterclockwise. Knowing this allows you to capitalize on those traffic patterns.
Putting the most coveted merchandise towards the end of the right-handed, counterclockwise pathway gently encourages shoppers to browse the rest of the merchandise before hitting that prized area for which they may have come looking.
Keeping your cash register (point of sale) towards the back also helps here. When customers first enter a store and immediately face the payment area, that’s generally a turn off. Keep the thought of handing over money at bay until the customer has had a chance to thoroughly browse.
…Except In Service Environments
If your retail space is, say, a wireless products and services provider or a bank, the right turn, counterclockwise rule generally will not apply. In these cases, the retail space should be designed to offer customers service staff and counter space right off the bat. If a customer is going in to discuss a change to his cell phone service, for instance, he’s going to want to be able to go straight up to a counter and immediately find and speak with a staff member.
These retail spaces, in contrast to browsing environments, should focus more on bright lighting, easy access to staff, and promotional materials that do not interfere with quick and easy customer service.
The Aisle Size Sweet Spot
Going back to the browsing type of retail space…now that you’ve got them in the store, turning right and walking counterclockwise, what’s next? Hitting the right balance on aisle size.
Aisles that are too narrow cause shoppers to essentially give up, turning around to leave before getting too deep into the store, while aisles too wide encourage visitors to glide so quickly through the space they miss most of the merchandise anyway. Generally these second shoppers are making a fast beeline to the one thing they specifically came to get. We want to force them to slow down and take a look at what else you have to offer.
Designing aisles to slow customers down enough to browse without squeezing them to claustrophobia will extend that eight minute shopping time and encourage shoppers to look beyond their laser-focused march to the one item they may be looking for.
The Ambiance of Merchandise & Product Placement
Remember at the beginning of this piece when we talked about just throwing merchandise anywhere and hoping for the best? Let’s explore why that’s not a great idea; why building an intuitive product map in line with lighting and flow of traffic can subconsciously direct shoppers in the most optimized way.
Firstly, lighting is more important than most people realize. Not just extra lighting bringing attention to certain products, but the overall lighting of the space in general. If it’s too dark, whether throughout the store or in a few corners, customers will drift away. Customers, like moths, are drawn to the light. Don’t blind anyone, but be cognizant of offering enough illumination to properly show off your products.
Once the store is well lit, ensure the merchandise is categorized correctly and organized in an intuitive way.
Don’t put rounders along an aisle; it can look messy and cause shoppers to run into flyaway items. Don’t group men’s slippers with women’s make-up; although seemingly obvious, some stores fall victim to the “we ran out of space in the men’s section but still need to put these slippers somewhere” mindset. This looks sloppy and unprofessional, and can also damage confidence in your brand.
Most importantly, don’t place all the “best” merchandise right up front, or your customers won’t make it past the first few feet of the entrance. Guide shoppers through the products you’re most looking to sell on their way to the top tier or most popular items.
Promotions & Seasonal Considerations
In store promotions will be most effective in the high-traffic areas of the retail space, so keep this in mind as you’re setting up a new layout. Signage for promotions should be clearly displayed in a way shoppers outside the store can see, and the promotional items themselves should be not quite right up front, but not hidden in the back to the degree that shoppers can’t see where they want to go upon entering the store.
Ideally, promotional signage will pull a customer into the door, the customer will be able to see the promotional item deeper inside the store from the door, then the layout should lead them – at the right pace – through the less popular merchandise to the promotional items.
Seasonal considerations will generally follow the promotional rules – clearly display seasonal items/promotions out front and have those items visible from the store entrance but not sitting right there at the door.
Additional seasonal considerations include preparing for things like Black Friday and general Christmas shopping – aisles may get more narrow and merchandise may be arranged slightly more haphazardly, but remember that going too far with either of these will chase people away, Christmas or not.
While you may not be able to put arrows on the ground à la Ikea to direct shoppers, following the steps outlined here can work almost as well. Don’t forget that most shoppers aren’t consciously paying attention to lighting, product placement and aisle size. Use that to your advantage and create the most optimized layout possible in your retail space.