The customer journey: how to get them to shop the whole store

Mike Still discusses the importance of intuitive garden centre design in maximising potential footfall

How often have you found yourself in a supermarket struggling to find what you wanted? Or, come to think of it, on any shopping trip where you become frustrated because you just cannot begin to know where to look? Invariably the larger the store, the harder it becomes. Now ask yourself how it left you feeling ? confused and irritated, or as with many customers in that situation, annoyed enough to leave the store to go and buy from somewhere else. With this in mind, think about your own garden centre and ask yourself if this is happening in your store. Might your customers be feeling the same?

The reality of retail

Many garden centres carry an eclectic mix of products, and why not? Invariably, there is space to fill and money to be made through product categories that have been added to year-on-year. The question that needs to be asked, however, is whether you are actually getting the most from the product being sold in the space that it?s occupying. The reality of retail is that you can always sell more and that is something that can always be achieved if the basics of store layout are in place.

Store layout is the foundation of any retail business and the old adage ?a building is only as good as its foundations? certainly rings true. It really is that simple ? create a store layout that flows seamlessly, is easy to navigate, has interest and aspiration throughout and above all makes sense.

That?s the foundation for even greater success.

Through the eyes of the customer

Going about creating the ideal layout may feel a little daunting, particularly when confronted with a blank sheet of paper. The best place to start however is through the eyes of the customer. Understand your customers, why they are there, what the most important areas for them are and what have they come to buy. With that knowledge, you can come up with various ?customer journeys? that can help you develop your store plan.

At the same time, it?s also necessary to be mindful of what you want to sell and how you get the customer to buy it. This means knowing what the most important areas of the business are from your point of view. And don?t forget the age old dilemma of how and where you build in flexibility in order to respond to the seasonal changes that are so important when running a garden centre. Understanding all this will help you to inform the layout of your garden centre at a basic level. However, the task in hand is to create a seamless journey that moves the customer through from one area to another ? pulling them through your retail space without them even having to think about it. Done correctly, people will begin to shop what were previously the quietest areas of your space.

Adjacency plan

The next step in the process is to create an ?adjacency plan? by using a simple bubble map. Be sure to plan-in all the fixed departments like cafes, play areas and anywhere else that might be too expensive to move. Then, apply simple logic regarding what goes where. Remember that every step through your retail space should lead to the next, as well as being easily understood. For example, your food section should be adjacent to the cafe, with any cookshop items also nearby. This principle is illustrated by the way grocers put morning (baked) goods next to cereals, tea and coffee next to biscuits and so on. It creates an internal logic, encouraging the customer to think about what they need, while providing them with a simple way to get from one category into another. There is also a feeling of authority as one area ?adds? to its adjacent category. With this in mind, always be sure to consider what categories are the natural leads to move customers from your outdoor to indoor space and vice versa. Once you have your adjacency plan, you can easily overlay pathways through to key areas, create a customer journey through the store and plan visible ?strike points?, that is, key display areas that will help pull the customer through and signpost the departments.

By using various fixture types with different heights, you can create a retail landscape that will make better sense of the space and create real focus. All this will help the customer find what they?re looking for and sell them much more along the way.

Garden centres are very fortunate. Like most operators in ?leisure? retail, they exist in what can only be described as the ?good mood? sector, with customers who are typically more relaxed and have more time on their hands. In many instances leisure retail is about self treat, and invariably the trip to the garden centre evokes thoughts of wonderful times ahead, whether relaxing in the garden or buying and decorating the tree at Christmas. The customer in other words, is there to spend!

Relaxed and happy

Now go back to thinking about your last trip to the grocer. Create anything that will cause negative emotions and your customers will just stop buying. There is so much that can and does impact upon their mood that it is imperative that you do everything you can to keep them feeling relaxed and happy. Never underestimate what a great store layout will do for you. We have seen many great store layouts deliver back massive sales increases. Remember that typically 80% of your sales will come from just 20% of your inventory. Now imagine what you could do if the customer could see and find their way to the other 80% of your product that is hidden away.

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