How Merchandising Relates to Store Layout and How to Pick the Right Layout for Your Business
How store layout is key to engaging customers and driving sales
Retail layout operations management is one of the most important factors in the success or failure of any brick and mortar retail space. Part art and part science, the layout of a store – the flow of its customer journey and the display of its products – plays a critical role in converting shoppers and prompting those buying decisions.
The importance of store layout tends to be overlooked by many retail businesses who assume keeping well-maintained aisles and available merchandise clearly marked and nicely displayed is enough. But it’s not. Particularly in this day and age when customers are demanding more from retailers than ever before.
In today’s busy world, shoppers want convenience. Even if they’re just out to browse, they don’t like feeling as though they’re wandering aimlessly through aisles. Rather, customers want a layout that provides an easy, logical, and engaging store experience. They need to be able to find the items they’re looking for, get any help they might need, walk to the purchasing counter, and be on their way. Of course, along this well-defined journey, who wouldn’t also enjoy being reminded of new products or merchandise relevant t`o their lives?
Effective retail merchandising accomplishes all of these things by creating a layout designed around the customer. It maximizes the use of every square foot of space to create a design that drives sales by answering customer needs and delivering a more rewarding store experience.
So, how do you create the ideal retail layout?
Start by examining the type of retail environment you have and customers you serve? What variety of products and merchandise are you selling? Are they fast-moving goods, such as items in a supermarket, or, are you a high-value brand or retailer selling cell phones and the latest mobile devices.
Obviously, these are very different product categories and how people shop for them are equally different. For instance, if you’re selling a large variety of fast-moving goods, a premium would likely be placed on how easy it is to locate and identify the individual products. After all, customers are probably coming to your store to fill their carts with multiple items. Making sure it’s easy for them to navigate your sales floor and explore your aisles is an absolute must.
However, if your retail business is technology driven, such as our cell phone example, a premium might be placed on product displays. In this case the product mix is probably smaller, and focus might be place on a store layout that encourages customers to spend more time in a given area – whether it’s a hands-on demonstration table or a high-definition video display to push the latest models, or creating an area devoted to technology accessories. As you can imagine, the traffic plan for this high-value product category is strikingly different than one designed for fast-moving retail.
Are you a retail business that focuses on personal technology and home goods – cell phones, mobile devices, cable and internet services, appliances or other high-value products and services? Learn more about marketing and merchandising solutions designed around your customers today.
A few merchandising best practices to get the most of your store layout
Every space is different. Every brand is different. Every product mix is different. However, there are some basic truths you should always consider when creating a good retail design. What follows a few strategies that may help guide you in finding the most effective ways to display products, configure aisles and get the most out of your store layout.
Try Getting Know Your Customers Even Better
From the front door to the back aisles, a solid store layout is one that engages customers and allows them to browse and shop with ease. Therefore, it only makes sense that the more you know about your customers, the more effectively you’ll be able to plan your design. Many retailers like to believe they already have a strong handle on customer preferences and behaviors, but in reality, there’s usually a whole lot more they could learn about their customers – and their stores.
Effective merchandising begins and ends with accurate information. How you capture, analyze and use that information to improve your store is the secret sauce. Unfortunately, doing it right requires a substantial investment in people and technology, and most brands and retailers are simply stretched too thin to handle it. Besides, data collection and consumer insights are not the core competencies of retail owners.
They are, however, precisely in the wheelhouse of retail management solutions experts, such as those at The Revenue Optimization Companies (T-ROC). That’s why Fortune 500 brands like Samsung and Xfinity, as well as and big-box retail leaders, including Walmart, call on T-ROC for merchandising, marketing, technology, store layout and retail traffic solutions.
Chis Green, VP of Business Development at T-ROC, on what it means to be an effective retail management and merchandising partner.
Chris Green, Vice President of Business Development at T-ROC, talks about the ways his company helps retail clients gain the kind of consumer insights that can help improve store appearance and layout.
“T-ROC was founded by and continues to be driven by retail lifers. We’ve been on the sales floor. We’ve set up merchandise and displays. We know how important it is to connect with customers in order to get store layout right and there are a lot of different ways we help our clients do it. Things like mystery shopping programs, customer surveys, market research are great starts. However, at T-ROC, we’re also experts at integrating the latest intelligent data capture technology, which allows us to create customer engagement solutions that deliver a depth of insight into your customers that is just incredible in terms of understanding what they want, what they need, and how your store design can better serve those needs.”
Depending on size and scope, your retail business may or may not require every advantage a company like T-ROC provides. But if you really want to know what it’s like to walk in your customer shoes, a strong consumer data and insight solution is worth considering. It will certainly help you build a better retail layout operations management program.
Place Items At Eye Level
Ask many merchandising and layout experts and they’ll tell you, “eye level is buy level.” This is a general retail truism and not a bad rule to follow. Though it’s also important to recognize that today, with the advent of many new innovations in store design, it’s far from a hard and fast rule. Demonstration tables, video devices and other new ways of displaying products are giving retailers a whole new range of eye-catching ways to use their space imaginatively and draw attention to their products.
Go For The Flow
The layout of your space should have a gradual “build” to it. While highlighting best sellers and popular items is great, it’s important to make sure your entire store also feels worth exploring. You want people to browse from the first aisle to the back aisles. You want them to walk the whole floor and search beyond the items they initially came to purchase. The logic is simple. The more time customers spend in the store, the likelier you are to increase bucket size and win added sales.
So how do you create flow? For starters, it’s smart idea to use best-selling items in a way that encourages exploration. Try not to group them too close together. Instead, position them in different aisles and spread them out across your inventory to stimulate traffic throughout the store. Many merchandisers also encourage a layout that mixes and matches impulse buys with higher ticket items toward the front of the store in an effort to lead shoppers deeper into the space and toward the back aisles. Finally, toward the checkout area, additional impulse buys are always a good touch. You never know when someone will spot that must-have item, they didn’t realize was a must-have item.
Appeal To A Variety Of Senses
It’s easy to fall into the trap that merchandising is solely about the visual appeal your layout. It’s not. Depending on your product variety, additional senses may also prove to be powerful tools. For example, say you’re selling personal computers or mobile tablets. Then, providing an environment that allows customers to touch and play with sample products is a sales necessity. If you’re selling food items, a display that features free sampling dramatically changes the space and makes it more engaging. What about incorporating scent? This doesn’t have to be limited to department store fragrance counters. Home furnishing stores, outdoor outfitters, clothing stores and countless other retail categories can incorporate fragrance to support their merchandising. Best of all, if it’s not a good fit, it’s really easy to just get rid of it.
Think Carefully About Colors
Different colors have different effects on people. For example, greens tend to convey nature, vitality and prestige. Red can illicit feelings of passion and excitement. White is pure and simple, while black is formal and elegant. Color is a key component of product packaging and it should be equally considered when creating the display that holds these products. In fact, according to a branding study at the University of Loyola, Maryland as cited on colormatters.com, the right color can increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent! Wow. Imagine the impact it can have on a store layout.
Make Sure There’s Enough Space To Walk Freely
Small spaces and tight fits rarely work in the retail business. Make sure your aisles are wide enough to comfortably accommodate store traffic, including shopping carts or any other available customer accessories. Keep the layout open and comfortable, so it’s easy for customers to browse your store and find what they want in a timely manner.
Use Your People To Help Feature Your Products
Your store staff should be one of the biggest sales assets you have. Make sure they’re a big part of the merchandising equation. The one caveat, however, is that also means making sure they are friendly, knowledgeable, and trained to deliver the kind of quality service that makes a difference to customers. You need people who understand how to lead a sales conversation, and how to provide the meaningful assistance that builds trust and loyalty.
Retail management specialists, like The Revenue Optimization Companies (T-ROC), can be a great resource for those who could use a little guidance. T-ROC provides turnkey staffing assistance – finding the best people, vetting them, providing in-depth sales training in line with your store needs, and handling the entire onboarding process.
“We’re a company of entrepreneurs,” says Brett Beveridge, Founder and CEO of T-ROC. “We staff for some of the biggest names in retail because these companies know that our people arrive already having that passionate spirit. We pull form a nationwide pool of the best sales professionals, and we provide them with training that aligns with our values of entrepreneurship and integrity, while also being customized around the specific sales needs of each client. We understand that that the people we provide become the face of that retail store or brand. They are tremendous assets for our clients and prove it in raw sales and ROI.”
Do you see your people as part of the overall design of your space? Are they delivering the level of professional service and customer engagement that may dramatically impact how your store looks, feels and performs? If not, maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper into staffing? Also check out our retail merchandising consultants and visual merchandising page to learn more.
Measure and adapt – Then, keep doing it!
If there’s one thing we all know about retail, it’s that things rarely stay the same. That’s why it’s so important to remain nimble in terms of your space and layout. Some ideas will fall short. Occasionally, small issues will grow into larger problems. One day a product category that’s thriving will leave you wondering what happened on the next day.
The point is, there’s no status quo in retail and there can’t be one in your merchandising. That’s why measuring performance is so vital. You want to be able to gauge sales by category, store, day period, product, season, and so many other metrics because a successful layout is one that is always evolving. Being able to predict and adapt to changing market conditions and customer trends, no matter how small they may seem, goes a long way to formulating a retail design that works.
Consistency is a virtue, but rigidity is a mistake. Changing things up now and then is healthy for sales. The key is, you have to know what to change, when to change it, and why you need to make it happen.
Once again, your best bet might be partnering with a retail management solutions provider, such as T-ROC. They have the technology and resources to provide detailed data and reporting on every aspect of retail operations, store appearance and sales. Better yet, with a customized solution in place, they can make this vital intelligence available to you in real-time at the touch of a screen.
“There’s nobody better at capturing and analyzing data to drive retail efforts than T-ROC,“ adds Chris Green. “There are so many advancements available in retail technology and we operate at the forefront of the industry to make it work for retailers looking to better manage areas like store appearance, product layout, shelf space, display units, customer engagement, and a whole lot more.”
How well are you measuring the success of your merchandising efforts? Maybe T-ROC can help?
Is Your Store Layout Really Driving Sales?
Ask yourself a few questions. Is your merchandise strategically displayed? Have you optimized traffic flow throughout your store. Are you leading customers from front to back so that they’re encouraged to explore the entire sales floor? Are aisles easy to navigate? Are your salespeople adding to the customer experience by providing the kind of service that builds your reputation as an industry authority and a retail business that customers trust? Are your measuring success and seeing optimal results?
There are a lot of components to building a solid merchandising program, and as retail continues to evolve with new technologies and methodologies, you soon may have even more questions to consider. One thing is certain. Finding ways to optimize your layout and make the best use of your space is a huge competitive advantage.
If you don’t think your retail business is quite there yet, you can learn more about merchandising, and the impact it has on sales, from the experts at The Revenue Optimization Companies (T-ROC). Visit www.trocglobal.com.
TROC is the leading provider of premier staffing outsource, software, managed technology services, and consumer insights for the top global brands, retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and distributors. The company’s distinctive solutions address the entire lifecycle of brick and mortar brand and retail operations by combining retail expertise, best practices, and technology to help its customers achieve sales and operational excellence as well as a sustainable competitive advantage. As a Retail 4.0 thought leader, T-ROC enables companies with high-value products in the physical world to thrive through the digitalization of the physical shopping experience. To learn more about T-ROC, visit www.trocglobal.com.