Five Retail Design Tips for Bricks and Mortar AND Online

With the retail environment more competitive than ever and many shops operating both locally and online, retail design can make a huge difference in sales volume, whether it’s on the web or the high street. These five retail design tips are so fundamental, they apply equally well to real and virtual shops.

1. Design Signage and Window Displays to Draw Them In

In traditional retail shops, the design of the signage and the window displays are meant to draw customers in. Signage should be clear, distinctive and reflect the brand, and the design of retail window displays is an art form that has been refined for at least a century. This aspect of retail design is timeless and universal; in fact, the design of a storefront is just as important online as it is on the high street. An e-commerce home page is a sign and a front window, and it should also be designed to showcase top products in eye-catching and creative ways.

2. Define a Clear Path Through the Space

With bricks and mortar shops, retail designers seek to draw customers in and keep them browsing for as long as possible. A good shop provides a clear path through the space, usually beginning to the right of the front door. The path is easy to navigate and offers direct sight lines to featured products. Of course, not all shoppers are browsers, and that’s why it’s also important to organise the products and make it easy to find specific categories of items. Customers are more likely to venture deep into the space when they see products they’re interested in, whether or not they had those products in mind when they walked in the door. Because websites lack the tactility and spatial limitations that are basic to bricks and mortar shops, these principals are applied differently online. However, it is still important for an e-commerce site to feature the most exciting current products and provide easy navigation for more goal-oriented shoppers.

3. “Eye Level is Buy Level”

Every designer knows that in supermarkets and other shelf-based retail environments, the products at eye level are the first noticed and the first purchased. They draw customers to the shelves and suggest what’s stored above and below. Websites have an eye level, too, and it’s the part of the page that shows on a typical computer screen without scrolling down. Mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular for online shopping, and mobile design depends heavily on scrolling. However, two-thirds of e-commerce sales are still being made on computers, not on tablets or smartphones. A larger screen means a more complete visual experience, and retail design for computer screens is still quite important. Place top sellers and category markers above the scroll line on the website and at eye level in the shop.

4. The Customer is King (or Queen)

Fantastic customer service is evergreen in bricks and mortar retail, and certainly, a chat window can be a great addition to a retail site. However, not every customer is looking for live human interaction. Some would prefer to find the product they’re looking for and buy it quickly, without having to ask questions. That’s why clear, visible organisation is so important in retail spaces. Online, this means making it easy to narrow down choices by category and characteristics. For example, a customer should never be forced to click on a specific product to find out whether it comes in a particular size. In a large retail space, use signage and promotional displays as landmarks.

5. Design to Your Brand

When designing your retail spaces, give brand identity top priority. It will dictate the look of the design and the fundamental rules used to create displays and product presentations. If your brand is high-end, avoid overcrowding. A clean, clear retail design indicates high quality and exclusivity, while an overpacked space suggests lower quality products. Your website and your shop should share a similar, characteristic look and feel.

A well-designed retail site, either in the real world or online, turns a positive shopping experience into strong sales. Companies that value excellent retail design know they will see an impressive long-term return on investment. With e-commerce playing an ever-greater role in retail, businesses are realising that the same fundamental principals that guide bricks and mortar retail design often apply online, too. For a consistent brand and sales that exceed expectations, plan your customers’ experience for maximum impact, regardless of how they choose to shop.