If you’re managing a physical store with a sizable layout, you’ll need to think carefully about customer navigation. Your customers need to be able to find what they need as quickly as possible, and without much confusion; they should be able to locate the aisle or shelf where the product they want is located, and should be able to easily find their way back to the front of the store from there. If you can do this, you can make your store seem much more convenient and accessible, driving customer loyalty over time. 

The question is, what steps can you take to help your customers navigate your store? 

Invest in Digital Signage

One of the best steps you can take is investing in digital signage. Digital signage exists to communicate information to customers (or other audiences). With the right digital signage software, you can customize your digital screens to convey exactly what you want them to convey. In this case, you might choose to display an overhead map of your store, with highlighted sections to show customers where they are. You could include these throughout the store to help customers who get lost, or you could even include interactive components so customers can better plan their shopping routes in real-time. Digital signage also helps you form a positive impression of your brand, making your store seem more advanced and more professional. 

Improve Visibility 

Customers find it much easier to navigate in stores where they have a clear line of vision; they’re able to see the numbers and names of different aisles no matter where they are in the store, and in certain sections, they’re able to get a clear line of sight to the other side of the building. This isn’t always possible, especially if you’re working with a small space, but it’s something you can optimize if you make it a priority. 

Organize Your Store by Section 

Most store owners attempt to organize their store by section or department, grouping like items together in the same aisle; for example, you might include soap, shampoo, and conditioner in the same location, while keeping plastic containers and glassware in another. If you do this, make sure you label your organization structure clearly; include big signs over each aisle that inform customers what they can find in each section. You’ll also want to include these labels as part of your map and navigation system. 

Pay Attention to Fringe Items

One of the only weaknesses of this strategy is that it doesn’t account for items that could fall into two or more different categories; a customer might look for the item in one section, then be forced to look in the other section to find it. One of the easiest resolutions here is to include a small quantity of the item in question in each section where it belongs. 

Allow Ample Room to Move

Part of your customers’ navigation experience depends on their ability to physically move around in your business. They should be able to easily turn around, even with a cart, and even with another customer in close proximity. They should also have plenty of room to move between aisles, rather than being forced to walk the entire length of an aisle to get to the next one. Increasing mobility in these small ways can make it much easier for customers to move around, and eventually find what they’re looking for. 

Properly Train Your Employees

Properly train your retail employees to give customers the best possible experience. There are two areas to consider here: knowledge and kindness. 

With knowledge, employees should all be trained to easily locate every item you sell. In which aisle is it located? How is it categorized? This will take time, but it’s worth the investment in training. 

With kindness, employees should be able to recognize when customers may need help, and offer their assistance proactively. They should also engage employees with a smile and a positive tone. 

Learn From Customer Feedback

Finally, go out of your way to collect customer feedback. What do customers like about your store? What do they think needs to be improved? Were they able to find what they were looking for? How long did it take? Did they look in the “wrong” area first? You can study your results from these surveys to analyze the effectiveness of your store layout and eventually improve it. 

If you can follow these tips and strategies, your customers should have no trouble navigating the physical layout of your store. Eventually, you’ll reduce the amount of time it takes for a customer to find the product they want, while increasing their engagement with other items in your store—and you’ll provide them with a much better overall experience.