Ever-changing consumer expectations and trends can keep even the most agile business owners on their toes. With a new crop of innovative businesses in both the retail and services (offering on-demand everything) thriving alongside large retailers struggling to level-up their approaches, it’s clear we’re in the middle of a transition.

Businesses of all kinds are taking notice, and rushing to adopt some of these newly established best practices in order to deliver on inflated consumer expectations. So whether you’re running a niche boutique, spa, or landscaping business, there are lessons that can applied to optimize your physical location for conversions.

Pair buying psychology with intuitive layouts

Do you know the typical path clients take upon entering your business? Do they stall and meander, uncertain as to how to proceed, or just perusing the offers? Or do they enter with a purpose, and march directly up to the desk to request assistance? It’s important to understand the psychology and motivations behind various segments of customers, because your physical location affects the way that prospects come in contact with your offerings (even services!), and ultimately plays a significant role in transaction value.

Here are some of the most impactful takeaways for planning your layout:

  1. Customers need space upon entering. Any close displays or attempts to corral them risk overwhelming them, and causing them to leave. You should be aware of this, and create something experts call the “decompression zone” to give them time to adjust
  2. Most clients will inherently turn right upon entering, and peruse the store or office in a counterclockwise path
  3. Provide a wide enough clearance to avoid congestion, at least 3.5 ft

Strategically select the best plan for your business type

It’s important to consider the layout that makes the most sense for your business. You should spend some time plotting this out, either on good old-fashioned pen and paper, or using a software like Nielsen’s StorePlanner. The three most popular store plans are:Optimize layout for salons, spas, gyms

  1. Linear
  2. Circular (or Loop)
  3. Free-flow

A recent study found that when displays of beauty items were arranged in a more circular path, shoppers purchased 10% more items than when they were organized in a linear path. Linear paths led to a higher degree of interaction with products, but these were ultimately not purchased.

Some experts argue that once you identify the most frequently purchased items, or “staples”, you should place them far from the entrance. They believe this will force customers to spend more time in your location, and increase the likelihood that they’ll discover something else to purchase. However, be careful not to frustrate or confuse prospects when sending them on the equivalent of a wild goose chase that they never signed up for.  As with most things, it’s vital to strike a balance, because there is compelling evidence that the more ground they cover, the more money customers are likely to spend.

A free flow retail store layout is already popular with many niche boutiques, and can also be appropriated by services that also sell products, such as cleaning services, spas, salons, as it encourages creativity and has a more flexible structure for future tweaks and updates.

You can also think through ways to upsell existing customers. Fitness businesses could strategically place exit doors leading to their restaurant or food bar. This is a real win-win, as members can conveniently pair their exercise regimen with a healthy post-workout fuel up to charge their recovery. You can also have locker rooms exit through shops where they can purchase new gear, or easily restock anything they may have forgotten at home.

Create an atmosphere clients will want to spend time in

Finally, once you have an optimized layout, you have to cultivate an environment that echoes your differentiation and approach. Your physical location should be a tangible reflection of your business’s mission, approach, and philosophy. Consider each sensory stimuli in the environment and make it inviting to your target audience.

Details to consider:

Soundtrack: For retail or product purchases, classical music has been linked to higher spends, and slower tempo music slows shoppers down, causing them to spend more time in a store. Spas might want to focus on soothing rhythms or natural sound effects of a rainstorm or ocean waves. Whereas, gym and fitness businesses might want to use music to keep members motivated with fast-paced contemporary music.

Scent: Scent can play a role, so make sure that you’re creating an inviting environment. A cleaning business wants to evoke feelings of freshness and a sanitary environment. Beauty businesses should stick with calming, natural fragrances, such as lavender, but be careful not to go overboard, as clients might be allergic, or be easily nauseated by any strong fragrance.

Visuals: Consider different ways to creatively display merchandise, or visually demonstrate services. For salons, this could be everything from art and decor, to visualizing a menu of services and treatments. You could add monitors or TV screens at various stations showcasing different beauty treatments and packages, to plant the seed for their future appointments. Such tools or interactive displays help to educate your audience and showcase your work! You could also encourage customers to post photos on social media and share with friends and family by creating a “photobooth” or selfie area that includes the name of your business, it’s social handle, or hashtag. Some businesses use technology that pulls in all these posts, across users, and streams them on TV’s or displays. Similar tactics are equally powerful when applied in the health, fitness, and home services industries.

Whether your a traditional retailer, or innovative service brand, it’s important that your location is the hub of your business. By adapting current trends and best practices from across industries, you can create a unique experience for your business that will continue to delight your customers, allow you to stand out from competitors, and generate more revenue.