Have you ever entered a store, looked around and walked out because it was messy or claustrophobic?
Or been in a store, searching for a product feeling confused or frustrated because you can’t find it?
Maybe you returned to a store, in search of your favorite product, only to find the merchandise completely re-arranged.
Customer confusion is a continuum.
If the customer is conscious of feelings of frustration or confusion, the store layout and merchandising are clearly ineffective. At the other end of the continuum, the shopping experience is a joy to the senses. Most shopping experiences are somewhere in between.
Customers won’t complain if they are confused. They’ll just turn around and walk back out.
Customers will tolerate a mild level of confusion. Maybe even buy an item or two.
But they won’t become raving fans. They may not return. They may express their frustration to their friends.
So, what can you do to reduce customer confusion?
Make it easy
An effective store layout is easy for the customer to understand. It has a natural flow and visual cues to help shoppers find their way through the store.
Store departments, or product groupings are clearly separated to guide shoppers to the merchandise they need.
When the shopper enters, there is enough open space for the shopper to slow down her pace, look around and transition into the store. As she slows down she scans the layout for clues to help her find what she needs.
The front area on the right is one of the prime locations in your store. It is a key area for sales, and for establishing the identity of the store. The fixtures and merchandise in this space need to grab people and draw them in.
This section right in front of the door, should entice shoppers with its dynamic display. It should announce that the store is brimming with new and exciting offerings.
Balance new products and basics.
A general rule to use when organizing the store, is to keep major departments and staple items on walls, and in lower traffic areas.
Shoppers want to know that the basics will not move around. They want to find these things easily each time they return. Seasonal and high margin merchandise should be in high traffic areas.
Take a walk in the shoppers’ shoes.
It is important to consider what the shopper sees, the ‘vistas’ from different points in the store. To examine how the layout can be improved, take a look at a large section of the store at a time. One of the best ways to do this is through photos.
For example, what does the customer see at the back of the store, when she comes in the store? Treat that view like a display or a piece of art that you are creating. Is there a strong, appealing focal point? Is there balance and symmetry? Is there anything obstructing the view?
A rule of thumb is to use shorter fixtures towards the front of the store, or department, with taller ones further to the back. The customer is able to take in an overall view of the store, without obstructions. It also keeps the front of the store from feeling closed in. The shorter fixtures lead shoppers into each area.
The back wall also needs a strong focal point. It is another high impact area, or prime location. It needs to be one of the strongest points of the store.
Shoppers want to look around the store and understand the layout in a glance. Creating clear focal points and moving obstructions is one step towards reducing customer confusion.
Before you get all excited and start moving things around, make a plan. On paper. Not in your head. A helpful tool is a planogram.
A planogram is a floor plan of the entire store with fixtures and merchandise placement, including quantities of merchandise. It enables you to work out a layout on paper, making merchandise or fixture moves quicker and easier.
Even if only a small section of the store is moved, it is helpful to plan the move on paper first. A clear plan is easy to delegate to team members. The move becomes more efficient and effective.
A well-planned and organized store will convert your customer confusion to customer enjoyment.