Think of a time recently when you were “strolling along a downtown” or “in a mall” and suddenly felt yourself being “pulled” toward a specific retail store or restaurant. Do you remember what got your attention? Was it the storefront colors, store signage, an attractive store window display, some action or movement that caught your eye?
If we analyze what most often convinces a “passerby” to stop in and visit a new business, it usually comes down to the “allure of the exterior of the business.” When consulting with retail and restaurant business owners, I always encourage them to step outside their business and carefully critique “their billboard” (the front of their business).
I am often amused/amazed at how this simple exercise creates that real “ah ha moment” for the owner. Too often I am told “wow, I haven’t taken a critical look at my storefront in a long time!” This simple exercise underlines the old adage, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” However, customers do indeed judge a store by its “cover/exterior.”
Research tells us that a potential customer determines in 7 seconds their level of interest in entering a business. I urge business owners to think about the front of their store as the “title” of their book. As potential customers are determining if they will enter a place of business, there are many “subliminal clues” that influence their decision to come in and engage or to just walk on by.
Top among the “turn offs” to not enter are elements such as dirty windows, visible wires, overall poor lighting, burned out bulbs, dead plants, out of season products still on display, etc.
Research tells us that these “clues” imprint in a customers mind a sense of general “neglect” and pose doubt about the overall company.
While working with specialty businesses across the country to enhance their storefronts, I review with the owners some very basic business thinking that needs careful consideration.
As we pursue the “let’s get visual” approach to enticing customers, we need to consider the key draw for most stores – the display window.
A key consideration for successful window displays is to always consider the customer’s vantage point. Are they walking straight down the street or are they in a car passing by?
These considerations for the product placement determine which direction to angle and place the items, the height of the products, the lighting, etc. A key success ingredient in any window display is effective lighting in both daytime and nighttime.
Daytime lighting often aides in deflecting the “glare” effect that so often prevails on many of the large windows found in both new and older storefronts.
“Glare” on a large window can easily spoil a wonderful, well thought out display. There are simple techniques that can help diffuse the harsh glare. Among the easiest ways to deflect glare is to place the products closer to the window, use products and props with lighter colors, and have high density spot lights focused on the products.
Well lit windows at night should always be a high priority as they can quickly catch the viewer’s attention. These “lighted billboards” often get an extraordinary amount of exposure from pedestrians on the street or passengers in cars.
This creates a “splendid window of opportunity” to make a memorable branding impression for potential new customers and to reinforce your image with current clients.
It is imperative that store owners regard their storefront as part of their marketing strategy.
At first glance, ask if your storefront reinforces the media and advertising messages that are in place. Would your storefront reinforce the positive image someone “planted” in a potential customer’s mind while describing the store to them?
Great visual merchandising is not just a display technique. It is also a selling and marketing strategy. The initial “read” of the storefront presents the ultimate “at a glance” test to get the customer’s attention and draw them in.
Remember, from a customer’s perspective, in those 7 seconds they “read” the store’s signage, the overall architecture, the effectiveness of the windows, effective lighting, the cleanliness, the general condition of the property, and thus formulating an overall image. Your potential customer literally “reads the street” as they make decisions about the stores that do capture their attention and literally pull them in!
I suggest all business owners to take the time to stand back and objectively critique how visually welcoming their business appears. Also, reach out to neighboring business owners and share these thoughts that they too examine their “visual marketing proposition”. Remember that a cluster or block of stores silently announces what customers might expect, not just in one store, but about the collective area. Strive to present a compelling reason for customers to “flock to your stores”.
In summary, I am hopeful your business would beckon potential customers to come over and to come in.
I often refer to these critical few seconds as the “wave”. This “wave” grabs the eyes attention and the feet follow, leading to a store whose image is powerful, intriguing, and has dominance among other stores on the street.
Every store owner wants to be that store- the one that is the traffic stopper! So, I urge you to consider these thoughts and let’s get started trimming for the upcoming holiday season!
Happy retailing to all,
Margie Johnson, Retail