How the Layout of your C-store Influences Buyer Decisions

Well planned c-store layout with ample space for shoppers to walk between aisles allows the retailer to expose customers to a wide variety of products and maximize sales in every section. While layout shows the size and location of fixtures and items within the store it also aims to create a comfortable atmosphere for customers so they can take their own time to browse and buy. Most consumers follow a standard pattern of browsing through convenience store’s shelves that helps them locate and buy the products of their choice within the shortest possible time. Though customer behavior is usually influenced by environmental and psychological factors c-stores and grocery stores try to identify buying trends to help them make cost worthy purchases.

Consumer behavior is influenced by a wide variety of factors like shopping environment, marketing factors, personal and family influences. C-stores and convenience store brokers try to influence buyers’ behavior by merchandising, pricing and advertising techniques to entice larger purchases. While some of these marketing influences are aimed to cause temporary influence, some are expected to have long term influence. A store’s layout depends on retailer’s knowledge and experience of customers’ buying trends and some sections generate more sales than others.

 The environment within c-stores and grocery stores are different as the variety of products in former format is wider and many factors like lighting, signage, shop assistants influence buyer behavior. Suppliers like food distributors and wholesalers that distribute products to c stores have a large role in the decision making process of store layout to push sales of their products. 

Factors to consider while designing a convenience store layout

  1. Smart use of space – Take the advice of an expert store designer to use each square feet of space within the convenience store in best possible manner. Break up the area into functional areas with logical space for storage area, back office, sales counters, refrigerated goods section, changing rooms and toilets for employees.
  2. Inviting customers – Each section of your store should be laid out in such a manner that it should appear inviting to customers that walk in by encouraging them to explore the merchandise by walking through inviting counters and interesting merchandise. This foyer of the convenience store is called a “decompression zone” which gives shoppers a feel of things that can be bought from the store. Inviting signage of combination offers, friendly greeters and deals can induce customers to explore further to discover these deals on their own.
  3. Interiors – The décor of convenience store with regard to walls and floor colors, lighting, music, racks and shelves colors and designs should be taken into consideration when planning a layout. Depending on shoppers’ convenience, some of the layouts can be changed at different hours when customers are less during middle of the day.

Environmental factors affecting buyers – Store environment comprising of music, lighting, color, design, ambience and odors around the store have a strong effect on buyer’s behavior as these affect them on a psychological level and affect their emotions by inducing buyers to stay and browse or make a quick exit. Human behavior is unpredictable and as such different people will react the way their brains are hardwired to deal with certain situations. Studies show that store layout which has a racetrack like format forces shoppers to follow path defined for them and they rarely spend thought or emotion on the layout. Cognitive processes of shoppers also go through various stages based on the store environment and influence their shopping patronage of the store in future. This will affect their evaluation of the store further based on available merchandise, display and service.

Designing layout and marking sections to influence buyers positively

Front layout – Inviting aroma or food is the most common factor which drives shoppers into convenience stores as they pass by even without a decision to stop and buy. The appetizing aroma of freshly baked pies and breads urges you to grab a bag of donuts and garlic bread that was not there in the shopping list as you walk into the convenience store. The packaged product section will be a few steps away and you will be tempted to load the basket with fruits and vegetables that are freshly stocked and at a bargain if you buy more. The front sections of c-stores also have promotional offers that manufacturers have recently launched and could be on special offer by grocery store distributors.

Center section – Packed convenience items consisting of food products in small sized boxes and packets are generally stocked in the center. You are also likely to find healthy foods like nuts and dry fruits along with staples while dairy products and meats will be next to the wall in the freezer section. Full price items like clothing, plastic products and stationery items will be interspersed with other items on sale in the center section. The dairy product section will be next to cold beverages display so you can grab a couple of cold coffee cans along with milk and eggs for breakfast. 

Checkout area – Stores have a very valid reason for keeping the checkout counter in the front as you have to walk through most of the aisles to get to the queue in front and may end up buying a few things you never realized were important. While you are waiting for others to finish the checkout you will tend to browse through accessories, chocolate combos or kitchen towels in the low price bins leading to the counter that are tempting to add to your original baggage.

 Retailers work with consultants and psychologists to design their store layout in such a manner as to encourage customers to spend more than they actually planned. But as a store owner you have to understand that all customers are unique and layouts that appeals to one person can be tiresome for others. Combinations of a store’s environmental factors and service have a strong influence on a buyer’s perception of a convenience store which can affect their buying behavior and also affect their evaluation when they speak about the store to others.