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What Is Store Planning?

Whether opening a new store or updating an outdated design, effective store planning is about balancing the needs of customers and partnered brands while optimizing for revenue

An employee folds jeans in the middle of the clothing section of a department store.Store planning is a delicate balancing act. It requires a keen understanding of human behavior and market trends, as well as an eye for data analysis to pinpoint the best opportunities to maximize sales. Planners must also balance the retail location's needs with partnered brands, ensuring stores are navigable while drawing attention toward specific products, all while enticing shoppers to return.

To understand how store planners can effectively boost revenue and customer satisfaction, we must delve into what is store planning and understand how layouts can influence behavior and lead to sales. Read on to learn more about store planning and how technology can optimize sales per square foot, customer retention, and other critical KPIs for your retail location.

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What is store planning?

The impact of successful store planning

Optimize store planning with technology

What is store planning?

Store planning is a holistic approach to developing a retail space that maximizes revenue and customer retention through effective layout design, inventory display, and accessibility. Store planners also analyze performance metrics — such as sales, foot traffic, activations, and other KPIs — in order to make adjustments to current and future retail plans. 

Developing a store layout strategy is a significant portion of effective store planning. Planners must consider how customers will enter, move through, and exit the store, logically placing the departments or products they’re looking for while encouraging them to shop in sections they may not have originally intended to visit. Layouts must also maintain accessibility standards according to federal, state, and local disability laws.

Store planners must also balance the needs of vendors and retail partners, ensuring that stores display required products in locations that align with contractual agreements. Further, planners must ensure store signage properly highlights department names as well as store promotions and product marketing campaigns.

Store planning is an iterative process, not a one-and-done task. Planners must periodically review layout performance and adjust based on customer feedback, internal data, and new marketing campaigns. Regular updates to store layout and planning ensures customers remain interested during visits while giving you more opportunities to maximize revenue through more effective placement of goods.

Download our free ebook, A Guide to the New Digital Infrastructure for Malls & Retail Properties, to discover how augmented reality and metaverse solutions can aid store planners in optimizing layouts while unlocking additional advertising revenue streams.

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The impact of successful store planning

Successful retailers understand the human psychology at play behind planning a store layout. Putting in the effort to create a logical flow for customers that maximizes the visibility of promoted products can lead to increased revenue and customer retention.

Psychologists refer to the science behind manipulating impulse shopping rates as the “Target Effect,” so named after the chain of big box retail stores that have optimized the buyer’s journey with pinpoint precision over several decades. While some differences may arise due to location-based quirks, the Target shopping experience is largely consistent between stores. Customers enter a decompression space filled with seasonal, low-priced, and attention-grabbing products.

Aisles then branch off toward clothing or household goods, with higher-priced luxury items and electronics filling the rear of the store. The signage is large, covered in clear, bold text, and the stores themselves are colorful and brightly lit. These tactics coalesce into a shopping experience that draws customers in, encourages impulse shopping, and keeps customers coming back, helping the retail chain earn $100 billion in annual revenue in 2021

Planning the optimal layout requires understanding your store’s inventory, targeted customers, and the KPIs you’re looking to optimize. For example, grid layouts are effective for grocery stores looking for convenient organization of product lines and well-defined marketing opportunities via end-caps. Other stores (such as Target) prefer to use a race track layout to boost impulse purchasing. Your chosen format should work harmoniously with displayed signage and product placement to make the shopping experience as seamless as possible.

Optimize store planning with technology

While there are best practices to consider when planning a store layout, analyzing how customers move and interact with your store is the best way to optimize specifically-targeted KPIs. Several resources are available for store planners to track the buyer’s journey, discover customer shopping habits, and remove pain points, such as:

  • QR codes provide a handy way for shoppers to access more information about a given promotion or the store itself — simply point a smartphone camera at the QR code and tap the link that appears to read more. Plus, planners can affix tracking codes within the QR code to learn which codes customers use the most, allowing them to optimize placement and better inform shoppers.
  • Digital signage often comes equipped with embedded cameras, wifi, and other tech to track customer movement through retail locations as well as gather data on which messages are capturing the most attention.
  • Augmented reality provides a second-screen experience through smartphone apps, allowing customers to engage with physical space through digital means. For example, businesses can allow customers to virtually try on clothes, see how furniture looks in a given space, or provide an interactive map to point customers toward different departments no matter where they are in the store.
  • Digital twins create a digital replica of a physical environment. When combined with embedded sensors and other tech, planners can monitor how customers interact with the physical retail environment within the digital twin, providing deeper insight into product display performance, traffic flow, and much more.

These technologies provide store planners with powerful tools for getting the most out of their available space. Additionally, planners that can leverage the unique features digital retail infrastructure provides will discover new ways to advertise to customers while enabling immersive shopping experiences that go beyond traditional brick-and-mortar locations.

Our ebook, A Guide to the New Digital Infrastructure for Malls & Retail Properties, provides a critical look into ways store planners can unlock new revenue streams and analyze next-generation consumer data with the power of augmented reality and the metaverse. Download the report today.

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