Retail Design That Attracts and Keeps Customers

If I were to take a walk through your retail store, what would I feel as I walked through the door? Would I be drawn to your product displays and lured deeper into the store or would I be repelled right away?

Let’s take a look at some of the elements that can attract your prime customer.


First things first. Shopify’s article on creating designs with high-converting displays talks about how knowing your target customer inside and out will help you create effective merchandising displays. Not just knowing demographic data like their age, income, and education level, but digging a little deeper into their psychographics and behaviors. In other words, targeting their lifestyles. You can do this research by looking through the customer data on your point-of-sale system.


The threshold area, also known as the "decompression zone", is the very first space that prospective customers enter when they step into your store. It’s the first five to fifteen feet worth of space, depending on how big your store is. It's the space and moment in time where your customers make the transition from the outside world into the one you’ve created. In this moment, they make critical judgements about how cheap or expensive your store is likely to be and how well coordinated your lighting, fixtures, displays, and colors are. Since they're still transitioning environments, customers entering your store are more likely to miss any product, signage, or carts you place at the front.

Why? They aren’t focusing on those things. They’re thinking about whether or not your store lives up to their internal standards and whether or not it’s worth their investment of time and money.


It's well known in the retail world that in North America, 90 percent of consumers upon entering a store will turn right unconsciously.

The first wall they see is often referred to as a "power wall", and acts as a high-impact, first-impression vehicle of your merchandise, so be extra mindful of what you choose to display and how you display it.

Make sure you arouse your customer's attention with the products you put on display, whether it's your new or seasonal items, high-profit or high-demand products, or a place you design to tell your product's stories. 


This will vary greatly depending on the size and general layout of your store, but knowing that your customers want to turn right, your next job is to make sure that they continue walking throughout your store to gain the maximum exposure to your products.

This not only increases the chances of them making a purchase, but a well thought-out path can be a great way to strategically control the ebb and flow of the traffic in your store. 

Most stores use a circular path to the right to get customers to walk through to the back of the store and come to the front again. Some will make it even easier by covering the path with a different texture or look from the general flooring, guiding the customer on a journey of your creation.

Something to consider is that you want to use the path to lead your customers to an actual destination, which often means putting a eye-catching and attention-grabbing display at the end of an aisle, for example. 


I had never heard of the "butt-brush effect” until recently. It was coined by consumer behavior expert Paco Underhill who discovered that a typical customer, especially women, will avoid going after merchandise in an aisle where they could potentially brush another customer's backside or have their backside brushed.

This holds true even if the customer is very interested in a given product. An easy way to avoid this problem is to ensure that your aisle, floor, and displays allow customers to have more than adequate personal space when browsing your products.

You can also make your store comfortable by incorporating some type of waiting area with comfy seats and benches which will encourage customers to spend more time in your store.

This is especially helpful to your customer if they are accompanied by a child or an adult who isn’t interested in making a purchase. A small tip would be to keep the seats or benches facing the merchandise, so that they're still in eyeshot for those lounging around in your store.  


Before you get stuck in the world of the visual and making eye-candied displays (which is very easy to do) you should know that the secret to creating an unforgettable, fully-immersive experiences is designing what is sometimes referred to as sensory branding using the five senses: 

   • Sight: From using colors for their psychological triggers, to leveraging lighting, symmetry, balance, contrast, and focus to direct and control where a customer looks and for how long, there are endless ways for you to play with the visual world and trigger this powerful sense in your customers. 

   • Sound: The music you play in your store has an incredible effect on how your customers behave. Depending on who you're targeting, you can trigger people into browse-mode by playing relaxing music, or signal all the teenagers within earshot by playing the Top 40.

   • Touch: This one's pretty self-explanatory. All you need to remember is to continually give customers the ability to touch, feel, and try out whatever it is you're looking to sell. 

   • Smell: Believe it or not, there's an entire science to what's referred to as scent marketing, with several studies and real-world case studies of global brands like Samsung, Sony, and Verizon applying it to their advantage. The reason being that smell is considered to be a fast track to the system in your brain that controls both emotion and memory, two very prominent factors behind why we choose one brand over another. 

   • Taste: You can get super lucky with this one if you happen to be in the business of selling consumables. When people have the ability to taste and sample before they buy, they’re basically handing you an extremely simply way of dramatically increasing your conversion rates.


Never underestimate the perks of a good check-out system. Here are a few easy tips to keep in mind while designing your checkout counter:

   • Use a counter that's big enough for shoppers to place their bags and/or personal belongings.

   • Take advantage of the wall behind the counter to create interesting and engaging displays.

   • Encourage impulse or "last-minute" purchases by stocking items customers crave or most commonly need close-by.

   • Be polite in person by asking questions like “Did you find everything you were looking for?" and mention your exchange or refund policies either in person or with signs.


While most people would agree that without great customer service your business is doomed, still many retail stores hire subpar service representatives. This is a quick way to tank your retail business. Excellent customer service is essential to sales.

When hiring, be sure to look for people with actual track-records of making customers happy in previous jobs, and look for employees with a heart for serving others. It goes a long way towards making your store feel like an oasis for your audience.

If your customer connects being in your store with being in an oasis, they’re going to spend more time in it. And what does more time in your store equal? That’s right. More sales. Companies are always looking for new and fun retail designs that will appear attractive to your customers. Need help? Let's jump on a call and discuss how we can help you with your next successful retail design.