Traffic Flow: Make it Work to Maximize Sales

There are three laws of human nature that, when taken into account, may help you create excellent traffic flow in your store:

Law #1: Roughly 90 percent of customers will enter your store, turn right and walk through the store in a counterclockwise direction.
Law #2: Wide aisles encourage customers to walk briskly past your merchandise. Narrow aisles encourage browsing. Clogged aisles make customers turn around and leave the store.
Law #3: Like moths to a flame, so are shoppers to light.
Use these guidelines to form an effective strategy for managing your store’s traffic flow. Since people move in predictable patterns, why not utilize their tendency to maximize the effectiveness of your store’s layout and floor plan?

Bright Wide Isles

Things to Consider —
Turn Right.   It’s a fact that most people are right-handed, but did you know that they’re also right footed? (Next time you step up on a curb, see which foot you lead with – this is a good indicator of your dominant foot.) Right-footed people prefer to turn right and like to walk counterclockwise through a store. How can you use this to impact your traffic patterns? First, check to see where your cash wrap is located. Are most of your customers coming into your store, turning right, and facing the cash wrap? This is an immediate turnoff to people, who receive an unconscious message that “This store is going to cost you some serious money.” Also, a cash wrap at the front of the store can create a traffic jam. If customers entering the store must squeeze past other shoppers, be assured they will leave the store rather than push past the other people.
Wide, Narrow, Clogged.   
When it comes to traffic flow, nothing has greater influence than the design of your store. Wide aisles encourage your customers to “power walk” to the merchandise they have come to the store to buy. While this might be great in large box stores, it’s not so good for specialty retailers. Since a customer spends an average of eight minutes shopping in a single store, it’s impossible for them to see a large number of SKUs in such a short time.
We have to slow our customers down to get them to see more merchandise, yet we cannot create traffic jams in the store, or we’ll lose them altogether. The best strategy is to establish aisles that are narrow enough to force customers to slow down, but wide enough that they’re able to notice the products displayed.

Back of the Retail Store is light!

It’s a balance.   On one hand, we must avoid traffic jams in the front half of the store, but at the same time we want customers to stay. Therefore, the best place for customers to linger is at the rear of the store. To achieve this, position lower density fixtures at the front of the store, and higher density fixtures in the back – the higher the density, the longer a customer is likely to stay to look at merchandise. Increasing merchandise density at the rear of the store encourages customers to linger and browse. Another important note about fixtures: Rounders can hold a lot of merchandise, but think carefully before you place them along an aisle. Customers may not take time to walk completely around this type of fixture when placed along a traffic pattern, and those who do will face the exit of your store once they’ve completed their browse. Ideally, rounders in a specialty store are not the best answer. But, if you are going to use them, the best placement is at the rear of your store at a location where customers need to turn around anyway. Speaking of rounders, customer traffic patterns are influenced by shapes in general. Severe angles like those found in square columns or hard right angles tend to impede traffic flow. Instead, round out your square shaped columns and make wall areas concave. Both of these techniques make your store look more inviting while improving the flow of traffic.

fixtures and tables at multiple hights

Light and Space.  
When turning to the right as they enter your store, customers must look in front of them. Studies have shown that customers look to your right wall at a 45 degree angle from the entrance. This spot on the right wall of your store is an incredibly important visual cue to your customers. As such, you must provide something intriguing here to compel customers to commit to staying inside your store. Why not provide a destination at this visual sweet spot? The focal point they see here should reflect the lifestyle they are thinking about and aspiring to. Use lifestyle displays, vignettes and posters to welcome and inspire customers. Also, assess the departments within your store. Do any of them give a feeling that ”this department never ends?” If so, you are creating the impression of a spatial trap. Customers are more willing to walk through a department if they can see a way out. Help your customers avoid the feeling that they might get trapped within a department by using the floor and fixture layout to show them how to get in and out.
Mapping Store Layout.
  Is your store flowing well? Is there some area of your store that is not seeing traffic? Try this simple technique: Draw a store layout and count the number of people who shop in the different areas. Use this to determine what areas of your store are not receiving as much traffic as they should, then adjust your layout to change the traffic patterns.

Customer traffic is like a river. Use these basic techniques to keep merchandise and people in a healthy flow. Don’t forget: if your customers go too fast, they lose an opportunity to see something they will love and buy; if they move too slow, you may lose them altogether. It’s a delicate balance that always needs to stay fresh and inspired.