Believe me; I know that one of the most difficult tasks for independent business owners to do is to evaluate their own space. Because we’re in our store every day, we can easily become accustomed to possible deficiencies, and because we all most likely have had a hand in creating the space, we can be less than objective. There are more than a few ways to compensate for this blind spot, including:
- Ask all of your employees to evaluate your store separately, compile their observations, and address any problems and explore the possibilities.
- Ask other retailers (whom you respect as business people and whose store you admire) to critique your space and offer up any suggestions they may have.
- Hire an expert to give you a detailed analysis and recommendations.
- Visit other stores to see what they’re doing — in terms of store layout, display ideas, merchandising, traffic flow as well as the breadth of products they offer and how they are grouped. You can learn from national chains and local shops, but the most valuable observations will come from stores that cater to the same demographic as you do.
- Last but not least, go to the source that matters, Your Customers, polling your current customers can lead to invaluable insights.
It is important to note that as you view your space, your branding should be at the heart of any evaluation you undertake or change that you make. Ask yourself if the current space reflects the aspirations you have for your brand and if any new ideas you are considering align with the ideals that your brand stands for.
Evaluate from the outside in
One of best places to begin your evaluation is from the outside. Below are two of the most important external areas that you can review to help you evaluate your shop. Remember this is what potential customers see every time they walk or drive by your place of business.
- Signage: Does your signage clearly convey what your business offers, and does it complement or clash with the surrounding environment?
- Windows: Does your display have stopping power? Will it engage customers, have a strong focal point and send a powerful message? How often do you refresh your window displays and messaging?
Inside-they’ve entered your shop – now what?
Once inside, you must consider the overall message a customer gets when entering. For instance, does the store reflect your brand, the quality of goods and services you offer, and your pricing level?
Every store is filled with visual cues that subconsciously communicate with customers. Shops crammed full of merchandise, for instance, suggest relatively low pricing to consumers, while those with fewer items on display give the impression of an expensive, high-priced shop. Spacious aisles and clear sightlines to different areas of the sales floor create an inviting atmosphere. And color schemes signify different qualities — the use of unusual color combinations imbues a shop with a creative flair.
Brand experience runs deep; look deeper inside your shop for a full evaluation. Below is a list of details that can make or break your customer experience and also your brand equity.
- Does your store look contemporary and inviting? Does your merchandise, fixtures, and overall appearance look put-together and professional?
- Do your fixtures and displays work together? Metal shelving is great, using antique wooden furniture for displays is great, too — but they don’t necessarily work well together.
- Is your in-store signage consistent in layout, typography, and use of your logo and tagline?
- Are products well-signed, labeled and priced?
- Do you have awards, newspaper clippings, and community affiliations prominently displayed?
- What do your customers hear — do you play music? Is the volume low or cranked up? Are the songs played recognizable — and liked — by your target demographic?
- Are there opportunities to touch, or otherwise interact with merchandise or displays?
- Are your employees doing work hidden away in the backroom or in plain view? Seeing artisans at work can be engaging to customers…or not- but you must figure out what your target would prefer.
- Do you offer a waiting area with seating and reading material for companions or spouses who choose not to be involved in the framing decisions?
- Does the layout of your store help guide your customers on a path through your shop and expose them to all you have to offer?
- Is your staff versed in how to greet and interact with customers, and do their conversations reinforce and promote your branding objectives?
While evaluating your space means making a lot of observations and asking a lot of questions, making tweaks or completely overhauling your shop means taking action. In the next post, we’ll discuss definitive steps you can take to improve the customer experience and reinforce the brand of your business.
But, while you are waiting, if you haven’t watched the first video for this series, where I discussed my analysis and tips with David and Christy Ping, winners of the first Tru Vue® Retail Bootcamp, you can click here to view the video.
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This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.