Store Optimization – Hot Zones within your store – Part 1

Where do customers spend the most time in your store and how are you interacting with them in these areas are both crucial questions for store optimization.  Answering these questions can help you unlock the potential to gain those incremental sales that we are all looking for.

Understanding ‘traffic flow’, that is, how customers make their way through your store, is the first part of the formula. In all stores there are areas that receive low, medium or high attention from customers or have the corresponding low, medium or high traffic passing through that area.  These areas translate into cold, warm or hot zones for incremental sales opportunities.  Examples of some of the more obvious hot zones would include the cash area, a lottery kiosk or the cold drink coolers.

When looking to define the hot zones you need to have an unbiased view of the traffic flow in your store – don’t make assumptions.  Look at how the shelving is set up and how the aisles are formed within the store as this has a direct impact on how customers navigate your store.  Understand how they get from the front door to the till and what they have to walk past in order to get there.

How do you measure customer attention?  Handing each person a GPS unit as they walk in the door (it’s been done – with the tracking device built into the store’s shopping carts) would be the best way, but not necessarily realistic on a smaller scale and budget.  Rather, a proxy for measuring attention or traffic is to look at sales for each of the categories (category management) within your store – that is, how do the sales of soft drinks compare to dairy or to cleaning supplies, etc.  Identifying sales within each area of the store will help you to understand where your best opportunities are to interact with customers.  In addition to evaluating sales in this way you can simply ask your customers if they noticed a display that you placed in the hot zone – tracking the answer to ‘Did you see the sale on DVDs we have on right now?’ can tell you whether or not you are taking the right direction on getting the attention of your customers (and might even gain you an incremental sale in the process).

Ripping the roof off of a store, virtually, and drawing a map of where each section is located is the next logical step for your store optimization.  Combining this map with the data gathered as mentioned above will allow you to understand how customers are shopping and will give you a good visualization of the traffic flow in your store.