How To Create a Positive First Impression Through Retail Design

You only have 7 seconds to make a first impression…

This is true in business and in life, and it’s true in your retail store as well. When a customer visits your store, it will take them mere seconds to decide what they think of your store and your company as a whole. That means you only have seconds to wow them, to draw them into an engaging customer experience.

The design and layout of your store play a powerful role in making that positive first impression. Let’s look at how great retail design ensures your store will make the cut with your customers.

Why First Impressions Matter

When it comes to brick-and-mortar retail, appearances matter.

Your customers expect you to be the expert…and to look the part. They will make their decision about whether or not to do business with you based on how your location looks.

As consumers gravitate toward spending more time online, their expectations are changing. The “best self” we put forth in our online lives is driving consumer expectations up. When they enter your store, they’re looking for a visually appealing experience (similar to what they find online), as well as a sense of expertise.

Without a plan, your store can become dated and cluttered, resulting in lower sales and narrower margins, as well as an erosion of the customer’s confidence. Your store’s appearance sets the stage for the customer experience, and that experience determines whether or not they will buy.

Evaluating Your Space for a Better First Impression

To ensure your store creates the experience you want your customers to have, take the time to evaluate both interior and exterior elements of your building.

Building Exterior

A customer’s experience doesn’t begin when they walk in the door — it starts long before that. In fact, their first impression could be formed before they even set foot in your store. As you evaluate your space, consider the exterior of your building, including:

  • Signage. Is your signage in good working condition? Does it represent you and the major brands you carry? Does it include your current hours and contact information? Is it permanent or does it look temporary? Are you maximizing what your city will allow you to do?

  • Parking lot. Is the lot in good shape? Is customer parking clearly marked? If the lines are faded or the lot is full of potholes, that doesn’t reflect well on your business.

  • The path to your front door. Is the main entrance clear? Do you have eye-catching exterior displays in the customer’s path?

  • Store windows and front door. Are they clean and in good shape? Do they have any aged or peeling stickers or posters? Is the front door welcoming and easy to open?

Interior Shell

Once you’ve made it past the front door, take a look around your store’s interior. Examine the walls, floors, ceiling, and lighting, as well as the areas around your counter and service department.

  • Walls, Floors, and Ceilings. Clean, patch, and paint walls: paint is inexpensive and helps tie the space together. Your ceiling and flooring should be clean and well-maintained. If they are looking dingy, it might be time for a refresh.

  • Lighting. Great lighting is key: It’s so important that it can raise your prices! Your sales floor should be bright and welcoming. Change out any mismatched or burned-out lighting, and look for dark spots in your showroom. Those dark spots are losing you money. If you have underlit spots, it might be time to reconsider your lighting.

  • Declutter. Walk through the store, removing items and signage that are old, outdated, torn, or dirty, along with items you aren’t selling.

  • Service department. Your service department should reflect your expertise. A clean, organized, well-maintained service area evokes competence. If you have updated prices, please replace your signage.

  • At the counter. You should ideally have 5 feet per person for employee and customer comfort. Regain space by purging regularly to remove clutter.

Merchandising, Sight Lines, and Customer Flow

Once those basics are taken care of, take a closer look at your merchandising, as well as sight lines and customer flow.

  • Plan your merchandising. Are your displays neat and well stocked? Do they have clear signage? Be thoughtful about what displays you put up and where. A successful merchandising plan will create an integrated customer experience throughout the store.

  • Sight Lines. Stand just inside your front door and take 3-5 photos. Examine and evaluate those photos for sight lines, clutter, lighting, old information, and blank spots, and make adjustments as needed.

  • Customer Flow. Notice where your customers gravitate and how they use your showroom. What door do they enter? Do they run straight for the parts/service counter? What path(s) do they tend to take? Where do they stop? What spaces are unused or avoided by customers?

Working to revitalize your retail environment in this way will not only help you make a great first impression with customers, it will also help you energize your team, beat out the competition, and set the stage for your next generation of growth.

For Retail Design That Makes a Great First Impression, Count on Miller Wittman

At Miller Wittman, we understand how to bring your store to life through intelligent, efficient retail design and a thorough process from site assessment to install.

We’ll work closely with you to design a store that reflects how your business operates and how your departments function and interact, as well as one that makes a positive first impression with your customers.

To learn more about what Miller Wittman can do for your store, contact us here.