Writer's Series

8. Learn what display and layout attracts customer attention

8. Learn what display and layout attracts customer attention

For decades, deciding what to put where in a retail environment was a matter of guesswork and casual observation. The store design was often a matter of trial and error – if we move this here, then what impact does it have on sales? Over time, we started to observe more, learning that people look left before they look right, for example. As well as this, think about your last shopping experience. You’ll probably notice that most stores are arranged for people to turn right and then walk anticlockwise around them. This is the application of science as we learn people’s preferences. But what if we could get deeper into the science and improve both sales and customer experience? More on that later. For now, let’s look at customer attention in retail.

What is customer flow?

This is the pattern of people entering, moving around, and exiting a store. You might think that this is random and each person navigates a store differently. But this isn’t actually the case. There are patterns that can be used by savvy retailers to boost sales and generate happier customers. And we know that happy customers come back time and time again.

It is possible to monitor the movement of people around a store space. This allows you to –


  • See how many people enter a store and at what time
  • Observe how purchases happen in real time
  • Watch back and monitor the way customers interact with your store

In recent times, this was possible by sitting and watching hours of CCTV footage to see the trends emerge. This is costly and talks up a huge amount of time. Plus, the human interpretation of a situation isn’t always taken objectively. But now, technology has enabled retailers to let AI take the strain.

HLDS’s Sensor Solutions can track the flow of customers, see the trends and allow the retailer to manage staffing levels, stock levels, and develop strategies that work with the observed customer behavior.

For example, seeing how many people visit a particular part of the store gives usable data. If one part of the store is visited infrequently, then the clever retailer will move their high-profit items away from that area as sales are less likely with fewer people walking past. And the data can deliver more adaptable and effective staffing schedules where staff are on the shop floor when needed.

Different designs and layouts of retail stores

The basic idea behind a retail store is to make sales and therefore make money. But there is more science behind this than you might ordinarily think. The goal is to guide people through the store, triggering buying behaviors so that people purchase from you.

There are many layouts used in retail, each giving a different way of allowing the customer to interact with it. Some examples include –


  • A grid pattern – best for products on shelves such as groceries, convenience stores, and books.
  • Forced-path floor plans – used by furniture stores mainly to send you along a predetermined pathway.
  • Free-flowing store – often used by fashion retailers at the higher end as well as personal care and beauty retailers.
  • Diagonal layouts – used by tech companies where customer-staff interaction is highly important.

These are all used by multiple retailers to ensure that their goals are met. And all of these have things in common, which we’ll take a look at now.

The decompression zone is the part of the store when people first enter – the initial 5 to 15 feet. Once your exterior display or reputation attracts a customer inside, they need a bit of space to look at the store and work out where they want to be. This area shouldn’t be too crowded, and items here are usually overlooked by customers, so don’t place key products here.

The first right turn (remember we said people turn right first) is where you want to capture the attention. People will usually turn right, so this is where you put your key promotional products as well as anything that helps to build your brand.

Turns are where people slow down, so their attention is much more easily attracted and retained. The products on ends are where you should place your promotions. If your products have a limited shelf life (such as in a supermarket), then this is where you place the items that you want and need to sell through quickly.

Using the data that watches and analyses the movement of people around your store can create that extra level of professionalism in a retail environment. Imagine being able to know exactly where people congregate and where people buy. Now, this is possible with sensor systems that put the retailer in control of the situation. Then use this data to make the necessary tweaks to drive success.

Visual merchandising

The next step when you have a layout that works is to consider visual merchandising. This is a great way to attract customer attention as it lights up the senses. Again, all of this can be measured by the use of HLDS’s Sensor Solution technology, observing the way customers interact with each display.

Light and color are great ways to both segment sections of a store and attract attention. Clothing retailers are able to do this to great effect, collecting items of certain colors together in order to enable the customer to find what they want quickly.

Signage in places that are easy to see also helps the flow of customers to the places they want to be. A layout might restrict free movement at times, but effective signage and store plans allow people to flow to where they need to be. Think of the way IKEA operates its stores – a large number of people flowing freely through a grid system to great effect.

HLDS Sensor Solutions help the retailer to understand how to display a product and place them to attract customers' attention and design the space appropriately in a retail business environment. If you have any questions about how our systems can help your retail business succeed, then please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.

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