By Roy Strasburger
Originally Published in CSP Magazine
Store design is the equivalent of a good store employee: It should help communicate the brand, give the customer more value for their visit and make jobs easier. Most retailers don’t have the luxury of tearing the building down and starting from scratch. So how do we design the layout of a current store to accomplish these goals?
Clear It Up
The first objective of store design is to communicate the brand and its value. The customer perceives this value through the way they experience the space within the store’s walls. Ever walk into a store and get confused about where to find what you wanted? Whenever a customer feels confused, it diminishes their experience and perception of the brand. They may not leave, but they will not have a good experience, probably won’t spend as much money and may not return. They may also tell friends about the bad experience. Focus on providing clear sight lines and enough space for the customer to move around comfortably, as well as on how products are positioned and the ease of making a purchase and leaving. While other factors come into play, such as lighting, cleanliness, product mix and customer service, that first impression will be made when your visitor enters the store. That impression should say, “Welcome! Come find what you are looking for.”
Keep It Simple
This leads us to our second objective of store design: providing value. The perception of value is enhanced when the customer feels they are in control of their visit and can quickly find what they want. The more they feel at ease, the more they will return. Can the customer view the entire sales area? Can they see where different product categories are located? Do they see a clear path to get what they want? Do obstacles impede the customer’s journey? To provide an easy path, consider low shelving and aisles that are wide enough for two people to walk down (and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act). Good design also involves placing important categories where the customer can access them easily: coffee and fountain on the wall or on an island, dedicated carbonated soft drink and beer doors in the cooler, and displays of sweet and salty snacks. Some businesses—grocery and discount stores, for example—make the customer hunt for items to increase the amount of time spent in the store and, theoretically, the number of purchases. This “treasure hunt” strategy is a negative for convenience stores. We sell time, and hunting for product uses it up. Of course, some stores have physical constraints—for example, a pillar in the middle of the room. Try to work around it. Paint it so it blends in, or decorate it with signage or product displays so that it is visually interesting and not seen as an obstacle.
Finally, use design to make store employees’ jobs easier. This includes store equipment and furniture that are easy to clean and maintain, gondola shelves that are not too deep, and related products positioned near each other to simplify stocking. The counter area should provide good visibility of the inside of the store and, if necessary, a view of the fuel pumps. It should also serve as a barrier, being wide and/ or tall enough to prevent someone from jumping or leaning over the counter. Provide storage space for boxes waiting to be unpacked so they don’t hinder the customer. The hinges of the cooler doors should be on the side to provide easy access to the products within and to keep the door from hitting items in the aisle or blocking customers. The layout of equipment and furniture should minimize the effort of sweeping and mopping floors. These design and layout changes can be done without a major capital investment. Look at what you have, think about it from a fresh perspective and implement the changes that will help your brand, customers and staff.
ROY STRASBURGER is president of StrasGlobal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.