August 30, 2022
Presentation is everything in a competitive retail environment. Whatever the size of your business, the best way to drive long-term sales isn’t the products themselves, but choosing the right store layout and visual merchandising techniques. One study even found that 64% of customers walk out of disorganized or poorly maintained stores without making a purchase. Given the importance of store layout, retailers need to understand precisely how floor plans will resonate with their shoppers.
In this article, we’ll explore the influence of store layout on consumer behavior and how retailers can optimize it to their advantage.
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How does store layout affect sales? While the impact of floor plans on revenue is undeniable, retailers must remember they do not have an immediate correlation. Instead, store layouts influence customer behaviors to enhance the overall shopping experience. These designs also determine which products shoppers see upon entering a store, which departments they visit, and how long they will feel comfortable browsing.
When retailers choose a store layout that reflects a specific shopping experience, they cultivate behavioral patterns that increase sales and customer retention. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the psychological influence layouts will have on a target demographic. In addition, when retailers integrate these concepts with a store’s digital infrastructure, it’s far easier to analyze the impact customer foot traffic and engagement have on sales. Resonai’s new Guide to Digital Infrastructure explores these concepts in more detail.
When entering the store, customers find themselves in the decompression zone — a fifteen-foot space that acclimatizes them to their surroundings. As the name implies, the zone’s goal is to calm customers, helping them feel comfortable and at ease so they can focus on the shopping experience. Relaxed customers are far more likely to spend their time browsing and building positive associations with the store and brand.
Traditionally, the decompression zone wasn’t considered a sales area. Retailers tended to assume that customers didn’t register items placed at the front of the store compared to other departments. In practice, research suggests that while customers spend less on products in the decompression zone, they do buy significantly more of each item. That creates an opportunity to move high volumes of low-cost products, much like how checkout counters offer candies and single-packaged beverages.
For most stores, decompression zones are an opportunity to let customers know what to expect from the shopping experience. For example, Best Buy ensures every department is visible from the entrance, allowing for direct navigation. Other retailers use digital signage to highlight promotions or new items of interest.
The grid is the traditional store layout in grocery stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies. This design arranges products into densely-packed aisles that customers can browse at their leisure. When organized effectively, grids are one of the best ways to display a large volume of products, minimize empty space, and manage a predictable traffic flow.
Grid layouts are not without downsides. In some cases, customers can struggle to find new or unfamiliar items quickly because they are overwhelmed with product options. At the same time, grids are ideal for repeat shoppers who make the same purchases with each visit, such as groceries. Finding the right optimizations to grid layouts can minimize any negative impact while increasing sales. For example, putting everyday purchases at the back of a store can prompt shoppers to buy additional products during the journey, increasing the value of each order.
The herringbone layout is a grid variant optimized for smaller floor spaces. It consists of a central path across the entire floor where the checkout is visible from one end. This path branches off into standard aisles organized by product category. The approach was popularized by stores like Toys “R” Us, but it also appears in warehouses, hardware stores, and community libraries.
Herringbone layouts have the same sales benefits as grids but make better use of limited available space. However, retailers may need to invest in additional cameras and anti-shoplifting measures since this layout often decreases floor visibility.
As the name implies, a loop layout guides customers in a single path from the store entrance, past all available products, before returning to checkout. This approach maximizes product exposure and streamlines traffic flow at the cost of limiting browsing opportunities. More importantly, loops make it possible to turn every shopping trip into a full-blown event while emphasizing the brand experience.
From a consumer psychology perspective, loops create a kind of brand narrative. First, the decompression zone introduces the store and what shoppers will expect. Next, the path guides customers through each offering, often using product demos to enhance engagement. Finally, the narrative concludes with a visit to the checkout counter to make a satisfying purchase.
Perhaps the most famous loop example in retail is IKEA, which leans into the “shopping as an event” mentality. Customers explore the store like a fun house, interact with demos and samples, and even stop for meals they cannot purchase in any other store. Shoppers visit stores with loop layouts infrequently, but a positive experience makes them more likely to complete significant purchases — and perhaps make the trip with friends or family.
Free-flow layouts are unique floor designs that vary across stores and follow no predictable pattern. This layout isn’t quite the same as having no structure — it shouldn’t be cluttered or put frequent purchases out of the customer’s reach. Instead, free-flow allows for experimentation within a variety of store sizes.
Most free-flow layouts tend to favor open spaces for shoppers to explore. The products can be placed on distributed display tables, or shelving units fixed to the walls. Whatever the case, free-flow designs are both highly-experimental and allow for quick optimizations that increase sales.
In most retail environments, free-flow arrangements create a sense of comfort and familiarity for the customers, encouraging impulse buys and browsing to the point of loitering. This approach is ideal for boutiques and small businesses that want to build first-name connections between customers and employees.
Now that you understand the importance of store layout, your next step is experimenting to find the optimal arrangement — something that can be difficult to accomplish at scale. That’s why Resonai created Vera, a comprehensive platform that transforms retail spaces into digital environments. Vera helps retailers manage how their stores are experienced, maintained, and monetized by offering the infrastructure to analyze and enhance everything from foot traffic to customer engagement.
Are you ready to learn more? Get in touch with Resonai today and set up a free demonstration.
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