04 Aug The Science Behind Successful Retail Showroom Design
Is your showroom set up to make selling easy? Veteran hot tub retailers may think you have this aspect of your business down, but are you sure? Is there retail science backing your showroom design and merchandising plan?
Or the real question: Is your showroom design creating the most possible value for your business?
As competition for discretionary dollars has risen over the years, understanding consumers’ shopping habits has become increasingly critical. And though it’s true that most consumers perform extensive internet research beforehand, Canada’s Better Your Business project reports that “up to 75% of product purchasing decisions are made in the store … Of those, all are made within the last three feet.” When it comes to business performance, the layout of a retail space actually does come down to a science.
Just ask Paco Underhill, founder and managing director of Envirosell Inc., who advises companies on how small changes in retail environments can add up to increased sales. Underhill has made a career out of researching the interaction between customers and their environment. And based on these findings, many of his recommendations are now considered rule-of-thumb by the retail industry. But how do they apply to the spa retailer?
The loop keeps traffic moving in one uniform direction throughout the entire store...
From a scientific perspective spa retail is no different than other types of retail. Despite the variations in size and shape of retail space, all retailers common goal is to effectively present product and maximize consumer traffic flow. In this article, find out how your merchandising design strategy can ensure you are making the most out of your selling space.
Basic Layout Principles for Spa Retailer Showrooms
Your retail presentation begins in the parking lot but gets critical once the front door is cracked.
Research has found that retailers benefit from having a “decompression zone” at the store entrance that is open, inviting, and easy to navigate where customers can process transition. It’s been proven that customers need a few moments to adjust to their surroundings before they are ready to take in new information. Kizer and Bender explain that, since they’re in a transition mode, customers are more likely to miss any product or signage you place there. So for most spa retailers, the first 5 to 15 feet worth of space (depending on store size) would be an ideal “landing strip” for the shopper to simply get a sense of what they’re looking for and how to go about finding it.
Shopping Traffic Path
When it comes to store design, retailers typically apply one of three layouts: the grid where fixtures run parallel to the walls (think grocery store aisles), the free flow which has no set aisles or straight lines (i.e., your quintessential boutique store), or the loop that offers a clearly defined main aisle which circles through the store.
Given the form and function of the hot tub product, the loop generally works best for spa retailers. It keeps traffic moving in one uniform direction throughout the entire store, but gives the customer the option of stopping at each hot tub and walking completely around it.
Left Turns or Right Turns?
The next step is to decide which direction this loop should go, clockwise or counter-clockwise? According to Underhill as well as the Association of Consumer Research, 90% of Americans generally want to turn right when they enter a store. Whether this has to do with the fact that most people are right-handed or that Americans are programmed to stay right because of the side of the road they drive on has yet to be scientifically determined. But it doesn’t change the fact that loops are most effective when they direct the customer to turn right upon entering the store.
Chevroning, or positioning display shelves or racks at an angle rather than at the traditional 90-degree angle to the aisle, is another concept Underhill introduced to maximize customers’ view of the merchandise. This principle also holds true for larger products that do not require shelving, including hot tubs. As a result of the units being turned at a 45-degree angle, more of the spa product is exposed as customers approach. The logic behind the recommendation is “the more customers see, the more they purchase.” Additionally, customers see the product from a more inviting and interesting angle. They won’t necessarily know why, but customers will report that they like a spa at an angle more than one presented head on.
...the more customers see, the more they purchase.
Impulse Buys & Repeat Purchases
For smaller-priced, high-margin items, most retailers intuitively know to place impulse purchase opportunities near the checkout while directing repeat business towards the back of the store. But what comprises these two categories? Impulse purchases for spa retailers may include candles and packets of spa scents, things customers don’t usually think about. Repeat purchases would be chemicals and other maintenance products. By encouraging customers to walk through the whole store, you may be able to create interest in your latest and greatest products with those who have already demonstrated an appreciation for hot tubs, facilitating conversations about a new spa purchase.
Use Layout to Create an Emotionally Inviting Space
In a 2015 Harvard Business Review article, Magids, Zorfus, and Leemon document that the more emotionally involved the customer becomes, the higher the chance that they buy. And Underhill found that how a retail space is configured can influence customers’ sense of comfort during the shopping process. So it’s important for spa dealers to keep their retail space, even beyond the decompression zone, open and inviting. Any low ceilings or confined spaces should be avoided. Underhill points out that more maneuvering room extends time customers spend in the store, improving the probability of purchase.
Katelyn Gray from SmartSign argues that signage can also influence a customer’s emotional response in the retail space. By displaying persuasive signage that has a purpose and does not produce a sense of clutter, retailers “can create a higher perceived value for products.” Furthermore, making the effort to place sold signs on spas around the showroom can subliminally communicate store success, producing a sense of buying urgency to new customers.
One last way of presenting a more inviting space is making your products accessible. By placing stairs and spa rails on popular hot tub floor models, your customers can get a better understanding of what it would feel like to be a hot tub owner given the more experiential “inside” perspective. Spa retailers that can go one step further by offering actual product testing environments and appointments will have an even greater potential for augmenting customer emotional buy-in.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. - Steve Jobs
At the end of the day, retail design serves as a mechanism that “transforms information-seeking into purchasing activities” and a process that can “enhance or diminish the service encounter experience.” Inevitably, it has a great impact on your business’s bottom line. As Steve Jobs so insightfully put it, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” So let’s make showroom design work for your business.