Three tried-and-true design techniques to increase your shop’s clientele.
Even in the digital-first world of today, a brick-and-mortar store can be a great way to grow your small business. As a tangible touch point for consumers, a retail space is the backbone of offline commerce, and, when designed effectively, can help you attract new customers. A visually appealing storefront will draw eyes, bring people in the door, and tell customers what you sell and what your brand is. A consciously designed interior will inspire customers to explore and make purchases.
I’m an Interior Designer specializing in retail spaces for small businesses. I help business owners realize a part of their dream, building beautiful spaces that inspire sales. Good design can turn browsers into buyers, and watching my clients grow their local businesses into International brands is a thrill.
As online shopping and shipping get simpler and simpler, some businesses ignore their in-house brand in favour of an exclusively online presence. But there’s really no substitute for a storefront, and these design tips will help you grow your in-person sales.
Staying On Brand
Before you start to design your store’s interior, make sure you know how your business’ brand works both on the page and in person. Shop owners often skip branding when designing their stores. This can lead to a disconnect between their spaces and their products and packaging.
Customers will feel a connection to your branding and to the aesthetic of your store. When these two elements are in harmony visitors will want to spend more time in your shop, enjoying the way the experience makes them feel. This extra time spent is key to inspiring more purchases and repeat visits.
Aligning your space and your brand helps to attract your business’ ideal customers by giving them a clear ideology and purpose to connect with. Making people feel connected and comfortable helps you to foster brand loyalty that will turn browsers into long-time customers, and inspire your fans to tell their friends. A brand and shop that work together lead to better word-of-mouth, a priceless form of marketing. A concise brand experience inspires customers to become unofficial brand ambassadors, and curating every touchpoint makes it easy for them to do so with pride.
To that end, when coordinating your brand with your points of sale, don’t forget your website. Not only is your online store a great touchpoint for customers who’ve already been drawn into your physical store, but it lets those same customers refer friends who may not be local, potentially turning your word-of-mouth buzz into international sales.
While you’re thinking about how your brand looks in your space, don’t overlook the written side of your brand’s identity (what we often call Brand Voice). You can teach customers more about your brand with tablets, touch screens, and other story-telling pieces that communicate your brand’s origins, missions, and goals. Bonus points for connecting these in-store story-telling devices to your online presence and closing the loop between the in-person and online sides of your business before a customer has even left.
Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your store design and squaring it with your brand identity:
- What kind of customers do you want to attract?
- What kind of space would inspire this type of consumer?
- Which design elements will draw people in and inspire them to stay?
- What materials will you use, and do they match your brand’s colour palette?
- Where are the best spots in your store to share your story?
Going From Selling to Merchandising
Once you’ve got your storefront designed and built, and your doors are open, you’re ready to start selling. But why not go one step further and start merchandising? Visual merchandising is the strategy by which you curate what products you display where so that they sell themselves.
Solid visual merchandising can also tell the story of how products can be used or paired together. The layout of your store and design of your displays dictates how your customers interact with your products, making your offerings more desirable and encouraging larger or more costly purchases.
Some of my favourite visual merchandising tricks:
- Aim lights at products on walls and table displays.
- Create visual hierarchy with risers and stacked products
- Group items that can be used or consumed together
- Add QR codes to displays to link to more product info
These visual merchandising tips will have your customers thinking about your store and your products long after they’ve left, bringing them back another day or leading them to buy from your online store.
Get creative and be prepared for more sales and even more shipping parcels as your visual merchandising strategy drives sales growth.
How the Right Layout Plays Out
When designing your store you want to make sure you create pathways that invite customers to explore your entire space, and dwell longer around certain products. Your layout can strategically guide customers through your entire store, past the products they need—and a few they don’t know they need—right to the cash desk!
Anticipate customer behaviour and you’re well on your way. For example, studies show that customers veer right instinctively when they enter a store. Placing your high margin or most enticing products on the right side of the store plays to this fact, and ensures everyone sees the products you want to highlight first.
Additionally, putting your most popular or in-demand products at the back of your store is a great way to lead customers past other items that might inspire an unplanned purchase.
People gravitate to items at eye and waist level. Consider showcasing high-margin products in vertical layouts and wall displays.
Leave customers space to browse. Make sure your aisles are wide enough for comfortable browsing (I recommend 42” wide aisles).
Not all layouts work for all stores. Decide if you want to lead customers through your store on a set path or let them wander freely. The best way to do this is to take the time to imagine your customers walking through your store (and don’t forget to imagine lots of clients).
Once you’ve got your customer’s pathway set, make sure you’ve got room for everyone to do their jobs. Organizing your store by product categories can help if you have limited storage space, and a well-organized back of house can make restocking far easier. An organized space creates workflow efficiencies that help everyone with their daily tasks.
Process tip: start your planning with the functional aspects of your store and then move on to the aesthetic and creative elements.
As small business owners, you have the opportunity to create the stores of the future by imagining spaces that will make the lives of your consumers better — and make their shopping experience more fun.
If you stay true to your brand, work on your visual merchandising, and plan your store layout properly I assure you that it will help turn window shoppers into customers and help your business grow from local favourite to international destination.
Nickeisha Lewis is an interior designer turned retail designer. She started her business NOLA Designs to help small-female-owned businesses to take their retail space to the next level so they can compete in the retail industry. You can learn more about her business here.