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  • The Zoom Effect: How ‘Medium Shots’ Lead Customers Through The Store


    You’ve driven all morning to reach the mountain peak. You get out of the car, stretch your legs, and enjoy the stunning view. After a few minutes, you turn back to the car, get in, and start the long drive back down.

    If that’s all there is, it hardly seems worth the trip.
    The panorama view is great, but you want to see more. It’s much more enjoyable to find a hiking trail. A scenic picnic spot. A hidden lake. You want to stay longer to explore.

    Customers also want more than just the panorama view. Sometimes a store looks good at first glance, but doesn’t draw shoppers inside. Customers walk in, glance around and bounce right back out again.

    So, how do you keep people from bouncing out the door?

    Customers need something to draw them inside
    That’s where medium shots come in.

    Medium shots are used to pull the shopper deeper into the store after the panorama shot attracts their attention. The panorama shot is the wide angle view. It’s the mountaintop vista that attracts the shopper.

    The panorama shot also helps the customer understand how the products are organized. In the panorama approach, merchandise is grouped into three main stories, or sections. The customer can easily understand these three stories without getting overwhelmed. Once the shopper chooses one of these three stories, she’s ready for a closer view.

    That’s where medium shots come in.

    What are medium shots?
    Medium shots focus on a scene within the overall landscape.  In the mountain scene, this would be a grove of trees, a shrub, or a field of flowers.

    In a store, the medium shot focuses on one of your three main stories. The goal is to set up your medium shot to guide and lead your customer through the store.

    Medium shots draw the customer inside
    They invite her to spend more time in the store.
    To explore.
    To browse.

    Let’s zoom in a little to take a closer look at how medium shots guide your shoppers.

    How do you lead customers through the store?
    Medium shots use three concepts to invite shoppers to explore.

    1) Frames
    2) Categories
    3) Pathways

    Each of these concepts is a method to lead the customer deeper into the store. In this article we’re going to examine the first method; frames. Categories and pathways will be discussed in the following articles.

    Let’s look at the concept of using frames in your medium shots.

    1) Frames – Composing the scene
    In photography, framing is a method of focusing attention on the subject. Just like a photographer, you want to focus attention on certain areas of the store. You are composing the scene that you want your customer to see.

    Framing the medium shot includes these three elements:

    A) Foreground
    B) Middle ground
    C) Background

    As the shopper moves through the department, the foreground leads the shopper to the middle ground and through to the background. This organization provides a framework to help the customer find what she needs. When the department is planned in this way, the shopper is more likely to look around the store. The layout frames the merchandise

    Let’s look at foreground in more detail.

    A) Foreground
    The foreground in a store is arranged to draw attention.  Key displays invite the shopper to slow down and start to browse.

    The foreground is made up of the fixtures at the front of the department, near the aisle. These fixtures welcome the customer to the department, and frame the view of the rest of the department.

    The front fixtures may be lower than fixtures in the centre of the department, so the viewer can see the merchandise behind them. Tables are often used in this location.


    A: Foreground tables
    B: Middle ground fixtures
    C: Background

    The foreground may be used for displays , temporary merchandising units, or endcaps of aisles.

    The merchandise and displays in the foreground tend to change often. These areas are used for new or featured merchandise, or seasonal items.

    The foreground leads the customer to the middle ground.

    B) Middle ground
    The middle ground includes the bulk of the floor fixtures. These might be gondolas, tables, tiered tables, shelving units, or apparel racks.

    Typically these fixtures will be higher than the fixtures in the front of the store. Often these middle ground fixtures will be a consistent height, particularly if they are all gondolas or shelving units. In an apparel or giftware shop, there may be more variance in the styles and heights in the middle ground fixtures.

    The middle ground holds the general stock for the store. The merchandise in the middle ground doesn’t change as often as the foreground. Staple items are carried in this area. Often middle ground fixtures are labeled to identify the types of products found there. For example, grocery or hardware stores have signs to indicate the products found in each aisle.

    C) Background
    The background is usually the back wall of the department or section. The background needs to draw shoppers towards it. The back wall, or part of it needs to be visible from the front of the department. The middle ground fixtures should frame, not obscure, the wall.

    In boutiques, the back wall is mostly visible. It features a strong theme and key display. The wall presents seasonal, high margin merchandise, not sale items. The displays and merchandise presentation are highlighted with spot lights. One colour that was featured in the foreground is often sprinkled through the middle ground, and again highlighted on this back wall. This provides a trail of breadcrumbs for the shopper to follow through the store.

    In a large general merchandise store, the back wall is often not as visible. It is still important to be able to see part of the wall from the front of the department. This can be a view down a wide centre aisle. Or it can be a large department sign mounted on the back wall above the level of the fixtures.


    A: Foreground endcaps
    B: Middle ground aisles
    C: Background with department sign

    Using either words or graphics, the sign indicates what shoppers will find in that section, drawing them through the store. This helps the customer get oriented before entering the department. Often in this type of shop, highly desirable basic items are at the back of the store. This encourages shoppers to walk to the back.

    These three areas; the foreground, middle ground and background, provide a frame for the department. Framing focuses the shoppers attention on the displays in the foreground. Then the shopper is led through the middle ground to the background.

    Just like the trip up the mountain, now that your shoppers are in the store, you want them to stay and enjoy the scenery. Framing keeps your customers from bouncing back out the door, and gets them to browse instead.

    But framing is just one of the ways you can use medium shots to lead your customer through the store.

    Next step
    Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at how categories and pathways are used in medium shots. You’ll learn how these techniques work to get your shoppers to explore the store. 

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