20 Retail Store Design Tips to Convince Customers to Spend More

A woman hangs an open sign on her small business.

Your business is your baby! You’ve likely spent more hours than you care to admit obsessing over every aspect of it: the budget, your employees, your website, maybe even your customers. But have you given that same level of careful thought to your retail store design?

Design matters more than you might think, and, although you might not be a professional interior designer or psychologist that specializes in analyzing consumer behavior, you should focus on creating the best possible experience for your customers. That will translate into the best possible outcome for your bottom line!

Jump to our infographic to learn how to design your store to boost sales or keep reading for the 20 best tips to reel customers into your store, keep them there longer, and convince them to spend more.

What Is Retail Store Design?

Retail store design is a form of marketing that uses store layouts, displays, technology, lighting, music, and other elements to encourage customers to spend more time and money at your store.

While this field of design depends on visually appealing elements, it goes beyond simply creating a good-looking store. Think of retail store design as a way to maximize your customers’ positive interactions with your store.

Many businesses also use retail store design to emphasize their brand aesthetics and reduce shoplifting.

Top 20 Retail Store Design Tips to Boost Sales

Retail store design is a science. There’s a lot to think about, and it’s constantly evolving. Maybe you’ve missed a lesson or two or never heard of this concept at all. That’s okay.

Let’s start from the beginning and walk through the most useful design tips to attract customers to your store, make them feel comfortable inside, allow them to navigate your store with ease, and persuade them to open their wallets.

1. Remember That Window Displays Matter

Window displays used to be much more popular than they are today, especially among big retailers. Displays take a lot of time and effort to assemble, and, because of that, there’s a tendency to ignore them. However, if you have a window, you should take advantage of it.

Spice the display up a bit. Experiment with digital signage or video elements. Tell a surprising story and avoid displays that are too cluttered. Well-designed window displays can increase your sales by as much as 540%.[1]

2. Set the Tone in the “Decompression Zone”

Give your customers a sense of how expensive your products are and the “mood” of your store in the first 5-15 feet of space, the “Decompression Zone.”

Customers enter the “decompression zone” as soon as they walk through your doors. It’s the first five to 15 feet of space that act as the bridge between the outside world and your store.

This area allows you to pitch your business to your customers. Give it your best shot! Give your customers a sense of what you sell, how expensive your products are, and the overall vibe of your store. Are you aiming for a fun atmosphere? An elegant one? A rustic one?

While you should give your customers a sense of who you are as a business, you shouldn’t place any products or important displays in this area since customers are in a transition mindset and might miss them.

3. Design for the “Right” Customers

This one is pretty easy. 90% of customers automatically turn right after entering a store, and most prefer to move through stores in a counterclockwise direction.[2] Use that to your advantage, and put your most important products and displays to the right side after the “decompression zone.”

Avoid placing your checkout station off to the right side. Customers don’t want to feel cornered by employees when they first walk into your store.

4. Define a Clear Shopping Path

Think about what products you want your customers to see and in what order. Use furniture and displays to steer people in your preferred direction. Or, experiment with markings on the floor to show customers they’re on the right path. Stores can be overwhelming for customers, and providing a defined path can focus their attention on certain products and convince them to make specific purchases.

IKEA has taken the defined shopping path concept to the extreme, laying out its products along lengthy, winding paths. Certain customers enjoy this curated experience while others find it daunting and tedious.

5. Impress Shoppers With Compelling Signs

Enticing deals. Beautiful photos of products. Fun brand facts. Include all of these on signs throughout your store. Digital signs strategically placed within your store can increase customer engagement significantly, encouraging them to spend 30% more time in your store.[3] They also put angry customers at ease by reducing perceived wait times at checkout counters by as much as 35%.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Green

Incorporate some greenery into your store. Plants can convince your customers to spend up to 12% more.

Speaking of signs, have you considered building a living plant wall around a sign or display? Customers love plants in their homes and on their desks at work. Why not incorporate some greenery into your store design? In addition to their beauty, plants can convince customers to spend more in your store.

Customers believe that the quality of products in stores that have plants is up to 30% higher than the quality of products in stores that don’t have plants.[4] That translates into a willingness to pay 12% more.

7. Slow Your Customers Down

Make sure that customers don’t tear through your store too quickly. The more time they spend appreciating your products, the more likely they’ll be to buy something. Slow them down with “speed bumps” along the way. Create pop-up displays or other eye-catching visuals.

8. Consider Your Customers’ Comfort 

Here’s where the so-called “Butt-Brush Effect” comes in. As environmental psychologist Paco Underhill discovered, customers are likely to stop shopping or avoid entering an aisle altogether if they have been or feel as if they’ll be touched from behind.

Avoid placing aisles and displays too close together. Also, consider installing benches and seating areas to encourage shoppers—and guests of shoppers—to spend more time in your store. If possible, position the benches in front of your products.

9. Play Appropriate Background Music

The idea of background music, or “elevator music,” dates back to the 1930s when employers played music at low levels to increase workers’ productivity.[5] Many stores use background music to connect with their customers and generate more sales. Experiment with music of different genres and tempos to create different moods within your store.

10. Experiment With Interesting Scents

Use lavender scents to soothe customers and convince them to spend more or floral scents to encourage customers to linger in your store.

Like good music, good smells can leave customers feeling happy and persuade them to interact more fully with your products. Consider Nike, which found that scent marketing in its stores increased the intent to purchase among its customers by 80%.[6]

However, you have to be careful. Positive scents that seem to match the products in your store can positively influence customers. On the other hand, positive scents that don’t match your products likely will turn customers away. For example, customers shouldn’t smell freshly baked cookies if your store is not a bakery.

11. Allow People to Touch Your Products

Customers like when they can use all or almost all of their five senses in your store. Touch is no exception. If many of your products come in packaging, consider unwrapping a couple of samples and allowing customers to touch them. If customers can interact with your products, they’ll be more likely to open their pocketbooks.

12. Invest in Interactive Technology

There’s no limit to how much interactive technology you can incorporate into your store, and your customers will thank you for providing them with a fun, seamless experience.

With a good POS system, you can place a scannable QR code on a shelf and connect customers to coupons, chats, videos, and other valuable product information. Additionally, many large retailers have incorporated Bluetooth-enabled beacon technology into their stores. These location-enabled beacons allow customers to receive information about products when they pass by them in the store.

13. Design With Video in Mind

By nature of habit, customers will automatically interact with video display screens in front of them in your store. Incorporate touchscreens into your displays to provide customers with details about your products, reviews, and other information. You should also use in-store screens to promote the same content that you promote on your website and digital platforms.

14. Lighten Up Your Store

Adjust your lighting to experiment with warm, comforting environments or exciting, energy-filled environments. Also, incorporate interesting lighting fixtures from antique shops.

Light can contribute to stunning displays within your store. It also serves as an important aspect of accessibility. Make sure that your products are well-lit and that everyone can read price tags and other product information easily. Consider adjusting the warmth of your light to foster an inviting atmosphere or experiment with installing interesting lighting fixtures.

15. Draw Attention to One Focal Point Per Display

Just as it’s important to steer customers through your store along a fixed path, it’s also important to direct them to one focal point in each of your displays. You don’t want to confuse or overwhelm your customers, as it could turn them off from buying something. Think about what story you want to tell with each display, and highlight one aspect.

16. Declutter Your Space

While piling up products in aisles works for some large retailers, you should probably stick to a clean, simple setup. Your customers will thank you. Instead of displaying products horizontally and taking up space with big, bulky displays, experiment with vertical displays that occupy less space and draw customers’ eyes up, instead of side to side.

17: Update Your Displays Regularly

Some retail experts recommend changing up your window and in-store displays every two to three weeks to keep your store fresh and up to date. Customers will take notice and visit your store more regularly.

However, be careful that you’re not switching products around too frequently and confusing customers.

18: Look in the Mirror

Incorporate mirrors into your store design—not because you’re vain, but because you’re strategic! Here’s why. A mirror just behind your checkout counter can flatter customers just before they’re about to pay and convince them to put something else in their shopping cart. It can also serve as a deterrent of bad behavior. Rude or irrational customers can see how their behavior appears to other customers and employees. Plus, mirrors can help prevent shoplifting.

19. Speed Up the Checkout Process

Everything leads up to the checkout process. Make sure that this traditionally unenjoyable leg of the shopping journey is quick, easy, and pleasant. Look into the best merchant service provider for your business if you don’t have one already.

20. Display Impulse Products at Checkout 

Speed up the checkout process as much as possible and display impulse items at the register. 84% of Americans say they make impulse purchases.

Remember that the shopping experience doesn’t end at the checkout counter! A sizeable 84% of Americans say they have made impulse purchases at some point.[7] Use that to your advantage. Display products at the checkout counter that impulse buyers would have a tough time turning down. 

Check out our infographic for an in-depth look at how to design your store to increase sales. 

How to use retail store design to boost your sales (infographic)

Infographic Sources:

Shopify | smartsheet | Shopify | VendHQ | Houston Chronicle | Fohlio | FashionUnited | Shopify | Transforming Retail | Plant Plan | Psych2Go | Small Business Trends

Article Sources:

  1. Unibox.co.uk. “The Importance of Window Displays
  2. Books.Google.com. “Inside the Mind of the Shopper:The Science of Retailing
  3. Medium.com. “89 Digital Signage Statistics for 2020
  4. PlantPlan.co.uk “How Plants Help Retailers
  5. Money.HowStuffWorks.com. “How Retail Brands Use Music To Generate Sales
  6. Independent.co.uk. “The Smell of Commerce: How Companies Use Scents to Sell Their Products
  7. CreditCards.com. “Survey: 5 in 6 Americans Admit to Impulse Buys
Founding Editor and VP at Fundera at Fundera

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. 

Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.

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