Understanding customer / shopper behaviour


By understanding how customers / shoppers think and respond to the store environment can and will assist to develop sales and strengthen the brands you sell.

Predicting customer / shopper behaviour is complex. However, there are some factors that affect the likelihood of people turning into a shop and the way they move around the space.

By understanding these factors and how they influence customer behaviour, retailers can anticipate footfall and direction thus building the store to maximise retail performance.


Store position.

People rarely approach a store in a straight line, in the real world factors such as buildings; columns, escalators and signage all affect how people will reach their destination. So as a retailer you need to stand back and look at which side of your store is more visible and accessible. Bear in mind customers / shopper tend to turn in 45 degree angles not in U turns so get the store approach right and customers will keep walking in.


The entrance.

In theory, centrally located doors give customers a choice of direction when they enter. This puts great emphasis on other elements such as products categories, counter and so on. If your store / shop has an off centre entrance its more likely to affect the direction of flow through it, there is a natural tendency for customers / shoppers to get closer to a particular side of the store. So you may want to create a natural path that creates movement to your top categories or featured products.


Product Categories.

Product categorisation is hugely influential in determining footfall direction when someone enters your shop / store. So make sure your categories / products are visible from the store / shop threshold or ideally can be seen from outside. Visual links between the shop / store interior and exterior have a clear impact – so it makes sense to replicate window displays in store thus pulling customers / shoppers in a set direction through the shop / store. By doing this you will give visual cues to those customers who are looking for specific items or categories.

Shopping missions.

Knowing your customers / shoppers key mission is important. Unlike segmentation which identifies different kinds of customers / shoppers missions are all about individual motivations and actions. For example, a single customer / shopper may exhibit different behaviour depending on their situation at that point in time. In one moment they may arrive tired and in need of an urgent item, in another they may be browsing for an impulse leisure purchase. Understanding your customers / shoppers differing shopping missions will allow you to create a retail environment that responds directly to the needs of the customer / shopper rather than generic. The influence of visual merchandising and categorisation is very strong for destination categories, so you should use it wisely to help customers / shoppers on an urgent mission to find what they need quickly and easily. On the other hand, anyone generally browsing will be more open to impulse categories, so you will want to consider where to position these to catch their eye as they wander around.

Watch people shop.

Once you have considered the shopping missions that are involved, it’s a good idea to watch how customers / shoppers move around and buy in a shop / store. This can be done either as a robust traffic flow analysis or just a simple assessment by your own team; it’s interesting to watch customer / shoppers behaviour at work. For example we worked with a retail outlet and observed customers entering the store short cutting to the counter, making the purchase and then leaving, we then developed a revised store layout that encouraged customers / shoppers to circulate the whole store. This offered customers / shopper’s additional browsing opportunities before they reached the counter, this new approach lead to a sizeable increase in overall browsing, sales and margin it also increased the overall customer experience as customers commentated on the new options for them to purchase and view.


Environmental factors.

Most sporting retailers manage a browsing environment, but other sectors of retail often don’t. This means customers / shoppers are more likely to avoid formal counters and team members till they need help, want something or need to pay. If you want to make build relationships or highlight your brands, your service, strong customer service and experience is vital, it makes sense to integrate service, demo areas, interactive areas, video walls, where your team and customers / shoppers can interact thus making the sales skills more personal and softer. Successful retail planning depends on internal and external factors, sometimes there may be little you can do to change the external but you have the internal space to capitalise on, by understanding the customer / shoppers missions you can build a layout that will guide customers in the direction you want them to go and thus create plans to maximise the potential of your brands, service and increase sales.



Andi Deeks