Tricks of the trade: where retail design meets display technology


No other industry has moved on as quickly technologically as old-fashioned or “bricks and mortar” retail. Why? Retailers have the advantage of daily direct access to the general public, giving them a huge advantage in feedback time and frankness over online retailers or tertiary retailers of services. By connecting daily with customers face-to-face, shopkeepers or retail managers have a unique insight into how their space can better serve- and sell to- the customers it already has. In addition to considering the numbers, a shopfloor manager is able to observe customers as they interact with new and existing displays, giving them a better understanding of customer behaviour, a valuable insight which we should not take for granted. Retailers know what their customers want. Increasingly, what their customers want is effective and novel technology.


The personal touch

Interacting with the customer on a personal and emotional level is key to all non-essential transactions. The vast majority of valuable one-off purchases are non-essential, motivated by more ephemeral concerns such as status, lifestyle and fashion, all of which are underpinned by the most basic human needs: esteem, love, and security. By tapping into these concerns, retailers can motivate customers to make the high-value non-essential purchases that turn a good balance sheet into a great balance sheet. Use the space you have cleverly to insinuate that you are a reliable, benign brand whose product is valuable and desirable on a personal level. Glamour lighting, strategically placed mirrors, and signage with a strong lifestyle slant are all key to making an emotional connection instantly.

The final frontier

Space. We all wish we had a little more of it on the shop floor. To make the most of what you do have, make a detailed and realistic plan of the area. If in doubt, take it out: clutter makes your space and your products look cheap. Take a leaf out of the book of a high-end retailer: designer handbags and luxury cars aren’t sold all jammed together like a rack of tin-openers at the pound shop. They’re tastefully displayed, usually in single units, carefully lit and visible from every angle. Technology is your friend here: a digital display which changes every minute can get across a hundred times as much information, while providing an eye-catching source of light and motion and creating an impression of investment and value.

On a more practical note, customers need to be able to see and easily access every item on your display, especially if you’re hoping to attract impulse buys. Making products difficult to reach creates an instant and obvious barrier to purchase. Keep shelves stocked to the front, and nominate a staff member responsible for each shelf to ensure tidiness and frequently replenished stock. In larger shops it may be appropriate to encourage tidiness and make the most of natural competitiveness by proposing a small prize for the best maintained “zone”. Use technology such as programmable LCD labelling to keep shelf signage consistent, clear and correct.

Finally, remember to make the most of the advantage you have over Internet retailers: they may have lower overheads, but you have your eye on the prize: your customers, in the flesh, interacting with your retail space and providing feedback in real time.

The author is an experienced retail worker who writes dispatches from the shop floor on all areas of the industry, including careers and training, customer service, human resources and retail design. She often visits to find out about the latest advances in retail display and design.

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