Grocery Store Indoor Mapping, Navigation & Positioning Software

What youll learn to do: Explain the value of a thoughtful store layout

A retailer measures so many things: the average ticket sale for each customer that comes through, the sales per square foot of the store, the penetration of particular product brands, and more. But one thing matters more than any other—customer foot traffic. None of those other metrics matter if you can’t get a customer in the door.

In the last section, we talked about the different kinds of store layouts and the products that are best displayed in them. Now we’re going to talk about traffic flow in a store, how ignoring our four customer behaviors can make or break a sale. A happy, relaxed customer who’s engaged in the shopping experience will spend more, and a confused, disoriented customer will leave.

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe customer shopping behaviors and traffic-flow patterns
  • Compare and contrast various store layout designs
  • Explain how a retailer classifies its products into layout groupings


What Is a Boutique Store Layout?


According to Ebster, the boutique layout (also cal

According to Ebster, the boutique layout (also called shop-in-the-shop or alcove layout) is  the most widely used type of free flow layout. Merchandise is separated by category, and customers are encouraged to interact more intimately with like items in semi-separate areas created by walls, merchandise displays, and fixtures. Typically used by boutique clothing retailers, wine merchants, and gourmet markets, this layout stimulates customer curiosity in different brands or themes of merchandise within the overall category. 

  • The downsides of the boutique layout include the following factors:
  • Reducing the total display space for merchandise with inefficient space management 
  • Encouraging too much exploration of separate areas within the store 
  • Confusing customers past the point of purchasing behavior. 

Ultimately, the exploration can distract from customer interaction with the merchandise.    

Heres How Grocery Store Layouts Are Designed to …

Of course, not every grocery store can be the same, but in a traditional layout, you’ll find that products like milk, meat, and eggs are located on the perimeter of the store, rendering you more …

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11 Most Common Aisles of a Grocery Store – …

2020-8-3 · This layout isn’t perfect, but It is a common general layout for a grocery store. Also read: – Grocery store layout tactics you should know – Why you should avoid grocery shopping Common Aisles of a Grocery Store. Every grocery store has about 11 common aisles. It makes shopping easy. Even if you are going into a completely new store, it will …

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Use Displays & Fixtures to Create Speed Bumps & Control Customer Flow

While your store layout should accommodate shoppers’ natural behaviors, you can also use your layout to control customer flow and create certain behaviors. Speed bumps are a great way to slow your shoppers down, get them to engage with your products, and drive your sales.

Speed bumps: Displays or fixtures designed to make your customers pause, so they engage with your products and slow down their shopping.

They help draw attention to surrounding products and create more customer interest. For example, at clothing stores, a cluster of mannequins by a table display will make customers more inclined to stop and look at the mannequins and subsequently explore the offerings on the table. Or a paper store might place a table of cards in the middle of the store, where shoppers will stop and look at all the options.

Speed bumps can look like anything from table displays to focal points to temporary POP displays. The thing that makes a design feature a speed bump is whether it causes people to slow down and engage.

This mannequin creates a speed bump where customer

This mannequin creates a speed bump where customers will stop and explore. (Source: Business Insider)

Your speed bumps should go in areas where there are not a lot of other displays; thus, there is low engagement. They are not typically fixed and can move when you better understand your customer flow and where those low engagement points are in your space. Play with different positioning and use an integrated POS system to track the effectiveness of your speedbumps.

How is a grocery store organized?

1. The front of the store

Most stores start by placing flowers at the front.

That is often the first item customers see when they get into the store. Produce is placed next to the flowers because of the freshness of the flowers. The freshest and most seasonal produce (and also often the cheapest) is placed at the front while that is not so fresh and is put in the back.

That’s designed to give the impression that everything is fresh, seasonal and low-priced.

Other products kept near the entrance are those that are referred to as “grab and go”. These are items such as bottled water, snacks, and even milk.

Customers can easily grab some to consume as they shop which they might not have done otherwise.

Large stores also place banks closer to the entrance. This makes it easier for customers to withdraw money to be used in the store. Apart from discounted items, new products or products that are in high demand during a specific season are placed at the end of the isles.

Candy, magazines and other products that can be bought on impulse are usually placed near the registers so that customers can pick them as they wait and they won’t have enough time to change their minds.

2. The departments around the perimeter

Bakeries are usually placed beyond the entrance. The fresh baking smell usually triggers hunger pangs and will most likely lead to shoppers buying more food items. I even know of 1 chain that has a special air conditioning system to pipe the smells from the bakery to the front of the store so it hits you the moment you walk in.

Deli and coffee bars are usually located closer to the bakeries in one of the corners. Free cooking demonstrations and samples of free products are usually placed on one side of the walls on the outside.

Top Store Layout Design Strategies that Impact the Customer Experience

Moving merchandise from the end of the supply chain to the customer is a retailer’s primary function. Successful retailers do so by creating value and delivering a differentiated customer experience. How customers experience your merchandise is determined by how your store is designed to guide them to interact with it. A retail management strategy that successfully leverages store design to drive customer flow and create unique experiences is a big part of your overall retail brand. It is a proven method for producing the kind of value that keeps retailers competitive and profitable.


Allison Walzer, Sr. Retail Channel Marketing Manag

Allison Walzer, Sr. Retail Channel Marketing Manager at Microsoft, believes store design is a direct reflection of your brand and a vital part of staying competitive with e-commerce trends. “One of the main challenges for stores is how they will stand out from competitors and a busy [retail] marketplace,” says Walzer. “How do they create the convenience and experience to drive customers to come into the store?”

“Store design really has to stand out from the pack right now,” she says. “It’s crucial for brick-and-mortar stores to create experiences that encourage people to visit stores.”

Visual Merchandising Strategy

Visual merchandising is a core retail strategy. It is the “language of the store,” writes Ebster — the way retailers communicate with the customer through visual imagery and the presentation of merchandise. Part art and part science, visual merchandising involves everything that helps create a unique customer experience. The well-lit entryway, the strategically placed furniture, fixtures, and promotional displays combine with the store layout to influence customer behavior and make the customer’s journey efficient, unique, and memorable. 

“[We] are noticing a turn to lifestyle- and experience-driven retail experiences,” says Walzer. “Stores are integrating materials from home or outdoors to create a comfortable, beautiful shopping space that leads to longer dwell time in stores.” She describes a visual merchandising strategy that luxury brand retailers use to promote health and beauty by placing living plants inside their stores. 

Visual merchandising brings together the overall environment of the retail store. It is a strategic element in retail management that distinguishes a retailer from the competition. The type of merchandise offered is a crucial consideration in the how the retailer influences uses visual merchandising elements to target customers. As Malcolm Gladwell writes in his feature article, “The Science of Shopping,” “the clothes have to match the environment.” 

Walzer recommends that retailers deciding how to plan for visual merchandising elements that work for their concept consider their customer flow in a way that guides the customer through “the path to purchase.” 

“Aesop is killing it right now,” says Walzer, when asked about retailers that highlight the importance of store design. “Their stores are beautiful and each one is different and contextual while still keeping in step with their brand. They concentrate on materials and even acoustics to create a personal environment. Each shop is individual and takes the environment and city into account when building a new store. It’s the right approach to make a memorable shopping experience and delights customers with its idiosyncratic design-led principles.”

The visual merchandising techniques that a retailer chooses can alter the customer’s perception of the retailer’s value. Ebster recommends looking at visual merchandising from the customer’s perspective. For more retail merchandising tips and best practices from experts and researchers, check out “The Art and Science of Retail Merchandising.” 

Zone Merchandising Strategy 

Customers also respond to where products are placed. A zone merchandising strategy combines visual merchandising with your store layout design to highlight high-margin merchandise or merchandise you want featured. Creating zones using walls, merchandise displays, and signage develops semi-separate areas. Merchandise displays are set up as speed bumps to keep the customer in the zone and slow them from leaving the area. 

“Stores need to be thoughtful in their layout, and have clear zones so navigation is easy. Not everyone likes to ask sales assistants for directions,” says Walzer. She recommends creating “instagrammable” moments in-store. “Make it fun and easy for people to share their stories on social media,” she says. This includes using hashtags in messaging, or on merchandise displays, creating “set-designing” zones, and favoring natural light with “unique designs that make for cool backdrops or host events.”

Lighting Strategy

Proper lighting is more than just making sure the customer can see and interact with the merchandise. When done well, light can help structure and influence the customer’s mood while shopping. 

Store planners and designers use lighting solutions to highlight or downplay specific areas of the store to draw in customers and create an environment that works in sync with the retail brand and the merchandise offered. Lighting specialists provide expertise in the appropriate types of lighting for specific store layouts, based on natural light exposure, and can recommend solutions that suit budgets and environmentally conscious business models.

Signage Strategy

Signs serve multiple purposes for retailers. They are the graphic representation of the retailer’s brand and merchandise. Signs provide product information for specific merchandise, help customers navigate the store layout efficiently, and create the desired price perception. Retailers should keep signs fresh and updated based on the merchandise offered, the season, or specific promotions. Keep in-store signs and messaging consistent with the brand voice and use standard fonts and colors that are easy to identify and read with your lighting. 

“From a strictly visual perspective, it’s key to have clear readable signage from the outside that leads customers in the store. From there, plan the customer journey from [a] high level,” says Walzer. She recommends using signage that encourages overall shopping (for example, placing old and iconic imagery – specifically for tech stores – towards the front of the store). When the customer arrives at specific merchandise, or the “buy level,” use signage that builds the buy messaging. 

Display Strategy 

The word “display” comes from the French word “deployer”, which means “to unfold.” Far from being exclusive to clothing, however, promotional displays help “unfold” the merchandise you offer to the customer. Along with your store layout design, displays set the stage for your customer’s overall experience when navigating the store. In general, displays come in all shapes and sizes, and refer to the movable units in the store that feature merchandise such as tables, racks, or gondolas. 

Careful selection of the type and placement of displays is crucial to the overall retail strategy of using space management and store design to influence customer flow and in-store behavior. Also, treat displays as flexible, cost-effective investments and ask your product manufacturers and suppliers about providing low-cost options specific to their products and brands.

Fixture Strategy

If displays are the flexible, freestanding, and modular units used to present merchandise, then fixtures refer to the more permanent units in the store. Counters, wall mounted shelving units, support columns, and bench seating are examples of fixtures. The purpose of fixtures is to coordinate your store layout and influence customer flow and interactions. In other words, they are designed to impact the customer flow and bring attention to merchandise in a consistent, familiar environment. 

In general, fixtures are less versatile than displays and in-store design layouts, but when planned carefully, they become a defining part of a retail space. Walzer recommends minimal, clean, and uncluttered fixtures, and modular signage areas to promote offers. Fixtures need to drive a premium look and feel. Materials that are “authentic and have some warmth to them” work best (real wood versus laminate, stone or marble versus coated plastic, glass versus acrylic).    

“Fixtures should be made from premium authentic materials that are durable and uplevel the experience,” says Walzer. “If the table is shoddy and falling apart, why would you want to buy what is merchandised on it?” 

Window Strategy

Windows welcome customers from the outside and draw them into the store where layout design and the various elements of visual merchandising go to work. The window display requires careful attention to lighting, size of display units, type of merchandise featured, props (like mannequins), and signage. Because the customer has yet to enter the store, a window display must combine all of the visual merchandising elements to successfully pique the customer’s interest and promote the retailer’s brand and personality. 

Communal Design Strategy 

Concentrate on how to create community and engagement with store design. “What makes a consumer want to come and repeatedly spend time in a retail store in the digital age will be based on the feeling you get when you are shopping,” says Walzer. “Create a rapport with the customer, pull in elements from the community as part of the design inspiration. If there is a local artist or ceramist or musician, use those pieces in the stores.” Walzer mentions the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport showcasing Sub Pop artists and Pearl Jam artwork as an example. “[They] are currently doing a great job. It’s creating pride for residents and a sense of joy for travelers, who are also customers that purchase Sub Pop gear at the store.”  

Other Space Management Considerations

As discussed, the visual presentation of merchandise and the influence of store layout design is vital to retail strategy. There are also functional considerations involved in the overall store layout that impacts the customer experience. One example is to keep design functional with the overall space. 

“It’s not so much about the space as how the space is designed,” says Walzer. “If it’s a crowded or awkward space, build in open walkways, keep merchandising elegant. If it’s a large space, don’t let it look too cavernous. Create walkways to guide the purchase journey with easy wayfinding.” 

The following is a list of additional space management factors to consider:

  • Legal Requirements: Review the standards issued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to understand the legal requirements for retailers in the United States. For example, the ADA requires a minimum of three feet of aisle width for customer accessibility. Consult with qualified professionals if you’re planning changes to your store layout design that may impact customer accessibility. 
  • Seating: Provide customers with comfortable seating to enhance the overall customer experience and slow customers down. Clothing stores with dressing rooms are the primary example of this strategy in use. According to Ebster, an extended store visit increases the likelihood that customers make a purchase.
  • Checkout: The checkout area of a retail store is critical to more than cash handling and payment processing. This space accommodates all customers and a variety of interactions, and is typically the last area to make an impression on customers. Depending on the store layout, the checkout area provides additional visual merchandising opportunities. Retailers use this space to encourage impulse purchases of complementary merchandise while customers wait to pay.
  • Back-of-the-House Operations: The retail store layout should factor for store operations and activity like shipping and receiving, inventory storage and retrieval, and the employee’s overall workspace and break area. Storage options are essential to the overall store layout design because it impacts how much merchandise you will feature on the sales floor where customers navigate. Ebster recommends keeping the customer in a flow state and focused on shopping. Therefore, maintaining back-of-the-house operations concealed from customers is a visual merchandising strategy.

Store Layout Designs

Each store layout has its pros and cons, and each layout provides a retailer with some ways to influence traffic flow. Here we’ll look at a couple of different layouts, what the pros and cons are for shoppers who are experiencing this type of layout, and some ways that retailers can maximize their sales conversions.

Grid Layout

Pros of the grid layoutThe grid layout is the most common store layout you’re going to find in retail. Used in supermarkets, drug stores, and many big box retail stores, it’s used when stores carry a lot of products (particularly different kinds of products), or when a retail location needs to maximize space.

Pros of the grid layout

  • It’s easy to categorize products
  • Shoppers are used to the grid layout style and shop it easily

Cons of the grid layout

  • It’s boring, and it’s difficult to use this layout to create a “shopping experience” for the customer
  • Customers often can’t take shortcuts to what they need
  • Line of sight is limited, forcing a customer to look up and down aisles
  • Visual “breaks” are needed to keep shoppers engaged

That said, the grid format is so common in retail that it’s been well studied and retailers know how to leverage it to increase sales conversion. Here are some ways they do that:

  • Well-placed promotions. Eye level and a little to the left, in fact. If you’re walking through a grid format store counterclockwise, you’re going to notice that which is a little ahead of you. On a turn, that means the promotion will be at eye level and a little off to your left, where you’re looking as you walk. Things don’t get noticed in corners.
  • Power walls. Because you can leverage your wall space so well in a grid format store, you can take advantage of this to build power walls. Power walls allow you to display merchandise to draw shoppers into an area they might otherwise skip over in normal traffic patterns. Retailers use repetition by putting a lot of a particular product on the wall, perhaps in different colors or sizes. Check out this great one-minute video about power walls.
  • End caps and visual displays. Aisle fixtures have to end, and usually the ends of those aisles are prime real estate to put up a product display. We’ll learn more about these in the next section, but suffice it to say, you have more opportunities to leverage the ends of those aisles with displays and signage in this format than any other.

Racetrack or Loop Layouts

Pros of the racetrack layoutIf you’re selling a product that people want to browse, touch and look at, then the racetrack, or loop, layout is one to consider. Customers follow a prescribed path through the merchandise and experience it the way the retailer wants it to be seen.

Pros of the racetrack layout

  • Retailers can provide a great “shopping experience” using this layout
  • Promotions are easier to execute, because the layout really controls what the shopper sees
  • Encourages browsing

Cons of the racetrack layout

  • Customers who want to run in and pick up something quickly are often discouraged when faced with this layout
  • Not a good layout for a high-turnover store, like a pharmacy or a convenience store

In this kind of layout, the retailer doesn’t really need to influence traffic flow, because traffic can really only move one way. This is what makes the layout so perfect for executing promotions. The retailer knows where the shopper is going to look next, and promotions are arranged accordingly – eye level and a little to the right.

Mixed, or Free Flow, Layout

Pros of the mixed layoutThis layout can be anything the retailer wants it to be, in any shape or place. Customer behavior is the only consistent aspect of this kind of layout: we know they will enter and turn right, we know that they won’t want to go up or down a floor and that they won’t shop in too narrow an aisle.

Pros of the mixed layout

  • Ideal for a store offering smaller amounts of merchandise
  • Easy to create a shopping experience in this layout

Cons of the mixed layout

  • Less space to display product
  • Easier to confuse the customer

Traffic flow can easily be disrupted if there isn’t some logic to how items are displayed in the store, and if that logic doesn’t exist, it’ll create shopper confusion. Confused shoppers exit the store nearly immediately and usually without purchasing anything.

Retailers can control traffic flow by placing promotions and visual displays as “speed bumps” can entice the shopper from one merchandise “lily pad” to the next. Power walls can be created in this format to attract the shopper as he or she moves along the store. If customers are missing a part of the store, retailers can alter traffic flow by altering the fixtures within to create a new path.

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