chapter 3

How to Take Your Brand Offline

Once you’ve determined your motivation, goals, and scouted potential locations before finally settling on one, it’s time to start thinking about envisioning what you want that space to communicate to your prospective customers and what action you want them to take. If you’ve only been used to communicating with your customers through your ecommerce store, it can be hard to imagine what your physical retail store will look like. After all, there is still a world of difference between a website and a physical space, however, the interesting challenge here will be trying to bridge the gap and creating a consistent experience across the board.

You might be thinking, that sounds easy enough, but how do you actually go about doing something like that. In order to successfully create a pop-up shop experience that gives you a taste of success in the retail environment, it’s important to have a good deal of insights on two very important things. They are:

  1. Your Brand
  2. Your Customer

Knowing as much as possible about these two things will allow you to make interior and visual merchandising decisions that will attract your target customers and help them quickly understand who you are, what you sell, and what you stand for.

Defining Your Brand

If you’ve been running an online store for a little while now, you may already have answers to a lot of these questions. But it never hurts to revisit and take another look at how you project your company into the public domain and how you’d like to be positioned.

In order to have a good understanding of your brand, begin by jotting down the answers to the following questions:

  1. How do you differentiate yourself from competitors?
  2. What are your unique value propositions?
  3. What the benefits and features of your products?  
  4. What’s your story? (i.e. how was the company founded?)
  5. How does your logo and brand colors exude what you stand for?
  6. What are your mission/vision/brand message?
  7. What kind of experience do you want your customer to have?
  8. Why is the world a better place with you around?
  9. What words/phrases/messages do you want people to associate with your company?

Defining Your Customer

Side-by-side with knowledge of your brand comes knowing your customer inside-out and again if you sell online, you’ve already got an unfair advantage in being one step ahead in that department. You may already have a good grasp on your target customer profiles, in which case you marry what you know about who you are as a brand and who you want to attract into your store to create a cohesive and immersive retail experience.

Here are some questions you can answer to start to better defining your customer personas:

Determining Customer Demographics

  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • What’s their gender?
  • What’s their income level?
  • What’s their educational level?
  • What’s their relationship status?
  • What occupations are they most likely to have?
  • What’s their ethnic background?

Determining Customer Psychographics

  • How would you characterize their personality?
  • What kind of attitudes do they live by?
  • What are the values?
  • What are their interests and hobbies?
  • What kind of lifestyle behaviours do they exhibit?

Putting The Two Together

When you’ve got a good handle of your brand and your customer, up next, it’s time to start considering how your knowledge of your brand will translate into creating the ideal retail interior for your pop-up shop. Your newfound or additional insight will help you make decisions around important interior design elements like:

  • Wall treatments

    1. Wallpaper
    2. Paint
    3. Faux finishes
    4. Wood paneling
    5. Mirrored walls
    6. Wall systems
  • Floor treatments
    1. Vinyl tile
    2. Ceramic tile
    3. Hardwood flooring
    4. Carpeting
    5. Linoleum
  • Ceiling treatments

    1. Unfinished
    2. Finished
  • Lighting
  • Fixtures
  • Shelves
  • Display props

Key Areas of Your Store

Don’t sweat it if you’re already worried about how well you think your decisions around some of the interior design elements of your store will come to fruition, we’re going to be doing a deep dive into visual merchandising in the next chapter where you’ll learn about everything from signage to window displays.

For now, I want to wrap up with discussing possibly one of the most important metrics in retail called “sales per square meter,” which you’ll calculate by taking the sales you generate and dividing it by the square footage of your retail store. Why is this important? Simple, it emphasises that your biggest sales asset should be your retail interior, in effect, your displays and merchandise should be selling itself if you play your cards right.

It also means that you need to view your store as a collection of retail properties, with each section having a different weight for its value and potential for sales conversion. Curious to know about all the different areas that make up a high-conversion store?

We’ll start with the beginning of the customer journey and end with the ideal circumstance of them at the checkout handing over hard cash or plastic in exchange for your goods.

Here we go:

The Decompression Zone:

You've probably heard the saying before but you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Which is why the decompression zone is so vital, it's the very first space that prospective customers step into when they enter your store. It typically consists of the first five to fifteen feet worth of space, depending on how big your store is.

It's also the space where your customers make the transition from the outside world into your store where they automatically make critical judgements like how cheap or expensive your store is likely to be and how well coordinated your lighting, fixtures, displays, and colors are along with the unconscious signals that they send. Since they're in a transition mode, more often than not customers are more likely to miss any product, signage, or carts you place there.

The Power Wall:

It's a well known fact in the retail community that in North America roughly 90 percent of shoppers will turn right upon coming into a store unconsciously. Now, the first wall they see is often referred to as a "power wall", which typically acts as a high-impact first impression vehicle for your merchandise, so you should be sure to give it extra special attention in terms of what you choose to display and more specifically how you choose to display it. You'll want to make sure you entice and arouse your customer's attention with the products you put on display, whether it's your new or seasonal items, high profit or high demand products, or a place you design to tell your product's stories and create vignettes.

The Pathway:

Your pathway will vary quite a bit depending on the size of your store, however knowing that your customers want to turn right, your next job is to make sure that as they do that, but then that they also continue walking throughout your store. By doing so, customers will gain maximum exposure to your products which increases the chances of them stumbling upon something they'll end up buying. A well thought-out path can also be a great way to strategically control the ebb and flow of the traffic in your store.

Typically, most stores will use a circular path to the right to get customers to walk through to the back of the store and come to the front again. You can make this even easier for them by covering the path with a different texture or look from the general flooring, paying homage to the old saying "where the eyes go, the feet will follow."

Another thing to keep in mind is that you want to use the path to lead your customers somewhere, which often means putting a eye-catching and attention-grabbing display at the end of an aisle for example.

The Speed Bumps:

Given that you'll be putting in a great deal of time and effort into effectively merchandising your products, the last thing you want to happen is for incoming customers to simply rush past them without a second glance, which will ultimately limit the number of products they'll purchase. One way retailers combat this is through creating breaks or what are sometimes referred to as "speed bumps." Essentially, this can be anything that gives customers a visual break and can be achieved through various means, including signage, and special or seasonal displays.

Ensuring Customer Comfort:

When designing your interior, it's important to be aware of the "butt-brush effect," coined by consumer behaviour expert Paco Underhill who discovered through observation that a typical customer, especially women, will avoid going after merchandise in an aisle where they could potentially brush another customer's backside or have their backside brushed, even f their very interested in a given product. To avoid this problem make sure that your aisle, floor, and displays give customers adequate personal space when browsing your products.

Another way to make your store comfortable is by incorporating some type of waiting area with comfy seats and benches which will indirectly encourage customers to spend more time in your store. This will be especially true if a prospective shopper is accompanied by someone who's not interested in making a purchase or kids for that matter.

The Cash Wrap Area:

Where you place your check-out counter and your POS in a physical retail store is highly debated question and there's many pros and cons to the popular options that generally consist of choosing between the back of the store or to the left at the entrance. However, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the checkout should be located at a natural stopping point in the shopping experience or path that you've purposefully created and designed.

So when customers naturally turn right upon entering, and you've managed to have them go through and circle all the way around, you'll most likely come to the conlusion that the left-hand side at the front is probably the ideal location for your checkout counter. However, it's best to use your gut judgement on what's the most natural point to have that check-out counter.

Up Next

Now that we’ve got you thinking about how to start putting the wheels in motion when it comes to taking your brand to a physical retail environment, the next chapter will walk you through the basics of visual merchandising. It’ll give you a solid understanding of what you need to know and do to make your pop-up shop inviting, attractive, and most importantly, profitable.

Next Chapter

Next chapter

4. Visual Merchandising 101

9 min