They say you should never judge a book by its cover, and while it’s a good adage to follow, not everyone adheres to it. Unfortunately, many people go with their first impressions, especially when it comes to brick and mortar retail shops.
As soon as a customer steps through the door, they assess their surroundings and often decide whether or not they will spend money, or even stay. It’s your job to situate and design the layout so your most important products not only stand out but encourage your customers to act. You must compel them to browse your shelves and inventory, and also hook them in a way that makes them spend money.
This is definitely easier said than done. The bottom line is that designing a storefront and appropriately situating the interior is challenging. But it is possible, and you can certainly maximize the space to increase profits and customer engagement.
Here are several ways to make that happen:
1. Do Some Wayfinding
Wayfinding is all about the routes and flow of traffic within your store — big or small. You might expect this to remain exclusive to how you layout store aisles, shelving and displays but it’s more than that. It includes the signage and ambiance you create, or more specifically the sense of place you provide your customers. Are they, for example, in an important part of the store where they should take their time and invest full attention to their surroundings?
Luckily, this is not an aspect of design that you will have figured out instantly. It takes time to understand how customers move within your store, and where they spend most of their time and focus.
To start, find a way to guide them along their journey. Look at various touchpoints and structural or shelving setups as more of a suggestion than a demand. Reward customers with useful, enticing displays. Separate your store and inventory into logical sections or departments — such as fashion, or practical items.
2. Choose the Right Shelves and Displays
Ever been into a retail store that was completely cramped and cluttered? They are tough to navigate, especially if you have a shopping cart or you’re with a group of people.
This clearly happens when the layout or design of the interior was not taken into account, and large or overbearing displays and shelving units were implemented.
Try to minimize clutter by choosing shelves, tables and displays to match the space you’re working with. If your store is small, be creative instead of lining the entire space with tall, dreary shelves. Maybe it would be a good idea to put smaller items in a basket? Or maybe you can mount a tiered hanging display and attach items — like jewelry, for instance — on it.
3. Brighten Up the Space
When you buy a new home, one of the first things many people will do to make it their own is paint the walls or hang some art. This is exactly how you should treat the interior of your store or building.
Accent walls are great for drawing attention, especially when you use them to highlight a popular product or item category. But you can also paint additional walls within your store to match various themes or visuals. Don’t forget to consider the psychology of color either, like how yellow and blue tend to evoke happy feelings.
Other ideas include installing mirrors or reflective materials — especially when selling clothes or fashion items — incorporating abstract art, setting up glass displays, or even remodeling various elements like floor tile or surfaces.
It’s even possible to create fake windows that give the illusion your store is more open than it really is. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, or outside the walls of your store in this case.
4. Add Textures
Most retail stores are the same tried-and-true design with flat walls, solid colors and dispersed product displays or shelving units. Yes, every store has a separate layout, but it all tends to mesh together especially in shopping centers or plazas where all the interiors are similar and have identical layouts.
You can change this by adding some texture. Take an entire wall and make it look like a brick surface, then hang some items on it. Faux panels are great for this sort of thing, but you can easily do this with thin concrete or vinyl kits.
You can even incorporate concrete shelving or innovative display materials too.
5. Optimize Lighting
Soul-draining fluorescent lights aren’t always the best solution even if they are super bright and provide a lot of white light. When light levels remain constant for prolonged periods — like with fluorescent lighting — it can cause something called intensity fatigue. Things start to get even worse when you suddenly change the light level or color, creating visual imparities. That’s why the lighting you choose and deploy within your store matters.
Yellow or dim lights can create a homier feel within your store. Dark spaces are a good idea sometimes to show products or goods in a more natural environment.
The key to lighting is simply to ensure that you’re not just giving off enough of it, but matching up with the emotions or feelings you want to evoke. This is true of how you present the lighting, as well. It might be a good idea to use flickering, electric candles that give off a natural fire-like glow, for example.
The larger the space you have to work with, the more creative you can be in regards to the lighting. Always keep that in mind.
6. Adopt a Primary Theme
Not every store display or department needs to look exactly the same, with the same colors, layout, lighting and various elements. But you should try to stick to a central theme for the entire store. For example, if you go with a homier, intimate look, then using industrial style decor in a single department might not mesh well with the rest of your store.
This goes for everything within your store from shelving and displays to signage and wall decor. Try to find a single theme you can follow, at least loosely throughout the interior. Many retailers make this work by coming up with seasonal or event-based changes to their layout — altering displays and content based on the current time of year or local events.
7. Leave Room to Grow and Adapt
Chances are pretty high that no matter what you implement, will soon be adapted or changed. You might shift or move shelving and displays to make more room. You might take art or decor off the walls to hang new inventory. You might even adjust the theme, colors or lighting to match a new direction.
It’s important that you leave your store and design open enough that you can grow and adapt with not just local trends but your customers, as well. Imagine setting up an entire display — complete with painted walls and more permanent shelving — only to find the product it centers upon is quickly discontinued or undesirable for your customers.
With any luck, you’ll soon have a proper storefront setup, and your customers will adore spending time within its walls.