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What makes a customer tick?

Someone walks into a store. What then?

Maybe they buy something. Or just browse. Or they come in with a list and leave with a basket full of impulse-buys.

Something makes a customer walk into that store, grab that product, look past one sale item but get giddy about a two-for-one over here instead.

Want to know why? Just think how the customer thinks.

Customer-centric approaches to retail design and strategy focus on what customers want from their ‘mission’ and what triggers and factors can help or hinder that.

Here are 5 things that make a customer tick and will make or break an effective retail experience.

‘Social proof’: Everybody loves it, so why don’t you?

It starts before they even set foot in the store. Customers want reassurance that they’ve come to the right place and they look to fellow shoppers for that. Foot traffic draws in foot traffic.

Once they’re in, drawing their attention to popular items as ‘bestsellers’ and ‘top rated’ communicates, “hey, these are products people love,” helping to make them more desirable (after all, nobody likes FOMO) and making this store seem like a good choice.

Testimonials and reviews or real-life pictures of customers enjoying the products can also offer the ‘social proof’ they need that this is the place to be and the products for them. It’s why a store’s digital presence relies on reviews and ratings to pull customers in.

Agency: feeling cool, calm and in control

Customers want to feel in control of their shopping experience. This includes being able to shop efficiently without getting frustrated by stocktake issues, poor navigation or other pain points. Wait times and errors can make them abandon their shopping trip in frustration.

An effortless, frictionless shopping experience can come from aspects like clear wayfinding, flexible payment options and having access to all the information they need to make a purchase, whether that’s via staff assistance, retail collateral or QR codes.

Give customers an easy, efficient retail experience that makes them feel in control of their time and purchasing choices and they’ll feel more positively about the store.

Layout and touchpoints: what, where and why

A store isn’t just a place to buy things. Retail space is an ecosystem of customer touchpoints.

Your layout, merchandise zones and design assets are all ‘read’ by prospective customers. And they need to receive the right message at the right time to support their purchase decision. Overwhelm them with messages or obstruct their ability to move through the space easily and you probably won’t get a good result.

Coles Best Buys

Impulse triggers: I want it NOW

Whether it’s a chocolate bar at the cash register or grabbing a discount bundle deal when we only came in for that one thing, we all make impulse purchases regularly.What triggers that impulse? It can be retail messaging with a sense of urgency: a sale, limited stock or last-chance-to-buy. There’s also ‘bundling’ and ‘buy one get one free’ – giving customers the unexpected offer of a deal. And there are promotional displays (‘New! Just in!’) as well as key ‘zones’ that have great power to influence purchasing behaviour.

Coles Best Buys targets customers with limited, seasonal availability of products. Customers know they’re here today but will be gone soon.

Connection: a brand for YOU

A brand or retail space isn’t just an opportunity to talk at customers. It’s an opportunity to make them feel part of your brand. You’ve got something you want to say, but they have something they want to hear.

It can mean using ‘aspirational imagery’ that dials into the desires and identity of your target customer – without going too hard and hitting ‘slick and out of touch’. There might be a personalised or ‘local’ aspect to the experience or products on offer.

It could include diverse representation in models and illustration so your customer base can see themselves in the story you’ve created. It all helps them perceive a place, product and ultimately brand that is ‘for them’.

The strategy will vary for every business. The cardinal rule? Know Thy Customer.


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