Designing a Store to Create an Exceptional Customer Experience

Experts in retail design and branding share secrets to maximize your retail space.
Pam Levine
Your store is an opportunity to build your brand, which all starts with excellent customer service. Here are some tips from Pam Levine, president of Levine Luxury Branding. (Photo: Pam Levine)

As a small business owner you are aware of how challenging it is to attract the customers you want to serve.

According to Pam Levine, president of Levine Luxury Branding in New York City, all good retail design is based on one premise: Retail shoppers desire an enjoyable and memorable experience.

She offered the following 5 tips for designing a winning store space:

Branding matters

Think of your store as an opportunity to develop your “Brand Culture.” Brand Culture, part magic and part lightening strike, is the totality of your relationship with your customers.

“Consider everything you say as your brand message, everything you do as brand engagement and everything you present as brand visual merchandising. See it all as an opportunity to communicate and engage with your shoppers,” Levine said.

Know your customer

Know what makes you different from your competitors and what your customers are seeking.

“Ask yourself what is important about your services or merchandise that will mean something to your customers?” Levine said.

Give your shoppers what they want then help them share it.

“Millennials and others will want to share a good experience, cool product or new store discovery with others. Encourage shoppers to photograph, tweet, use Pinterest, social media and more while inside your store,” Levine said.

Interaction is key

Harry Selfridge is the father of modern marketing, and his most important question was “Are you being served?” Use Selfridges’ philosophy and make shopping an experience.

“Hospitality and pampering goes a long way – respect your customer,” Levine said. “Interest matters. Invite them in, personalize the experience. Make them feel at home. Serve coffee, cookies or wine,” Levine said. “Remember names and get to know your customers.”

Visual marketing is your silent salesperson

Ted Manley

“Effective visual merchandising is the ability to communicate to your customer.” -Ted Manley

Store design is all about visually stimulating your customer.

“In order to attract customers and keep them shopping longer, store owners must learn how to effectively communicate visually. If possible, hire a pro,” Levine said.

Use the concept of visual storytelling. “Remember, your product is the hero,” Levine said.

Ted Manley, vice president for soft-line products at NTY Franchise Company, believes all visual marketing is storytelling.

“Effective visual merchandising is the ability to communicate to your customer by allowing your product to be a series of storyboards to excite your customer,” Manley said.

Storytelling with visual merchandising is a four step process:

  • Preparation: Understand what your product mix will look like for the display you are planning. What products are best sellers or hot right now? Spend time looking at your competition and other stores’ displays.
  • Advertising: What products, events or promotions is your store planning? “Decide how you want to communicate that, and then decide how you want to carry that theme into your store,” Manley said.
  • Development: Start with the store front. Your goal is to express the story you want to tell your customer. “Think of your windows or entry way as a billboard. You have 2­3 seconds to look at it and understand what that display or product is trying to tell you,” Manley said. Move inside and plan out your feature areas and endcaps and their stories. Consider color. “Color is the most dominating aspect of visual merchandising,” Manley said.
  • Execution: Your signage helps communicate key aspects of your visual story. “Signage is an art not a science. Be careful not to “over sign” your store, but don’t be afraid to tell the obvious in a sign,” Manley said. Next create in­-store displays. “Demonstrate how an arrangement of merchandise can enrich a room or home. Help the customer envision the items in their homes or wearing a great outfit on vacation or at an event,” Levine said, “but don’t over do it. Less is more – keep your presentations simple and uncluttered.”

Visual marketing is an ongoing process. Be willing to review and change as often as needed. This will depend on your traffic pattern and how often your best customers visit your store. “Customers love newness, change and stimulation. A good visual merchandising program will deliver in sales,” Manley said.

Consider all customer touch points

Customer touch points include every contact a customer has with your brand from beginning to end. These may begin with seeing an advertisement for your shop or finding your website and continue through shopping and customer feedback. Touch points create a cumulative experience for your customers, so consistency is key. Service is imperative.

“Enthusiasm, care, sincerity and authenticity touches people on an emotional level. It’s key to building brand loyalty and is positively contagious,” Levine said.

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