Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “new normal” to describe our current moment, one characterized by the coronavirus, social distancing guidelines and reality-shifting municipal lockdowns. Our present is not business as usual. Checkout lines at stores are broken up into six-foot segments, for example, and policies limit in-store shoppers to one per household. But Covid-19 has also accelerated the adoption of pre-existing innovations. Whereas curbside pickup was a niche service, today many stores and restaurants offer it as an alternative to indoor transactions. Another niche-turned-widely adopted response to the virus is directional arrows on store floors. Previously unique to a few chains, most notably IKEA and Stew Leonard’s on the US East Coast, directional arrows are now mainstream. While one-way aisles aim to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, they can also affect the effectiveness of visual merchandising. How so? Let’s dig into this topic.
Pointing Customers in the Right Direction
Perhaps you’re asking yourself, what’s the thinking behind arrows on floors? While their immediate benefits are self-evident – shepherding shoppers from a store’s entrance to checkout – their effect goes deeper than directions. Some thinkers have puzzled over IKEA’s arrows, for example, and offered several theories. Chief among them: many of their stores are very large – one estimate puts them at roughly 32,500 square meters – and pointers are a customer courtesy.
Another theory suggests stores such as IKEA and Stew Leonard’s are destinations that offer customers products, services and an experience. Here, displays are curated and this curation gets much-needed support from arrows, which set the path and pace for shoppers, who are sent zig zagging through a delightful maze of aisles and standalone displays.
More than that, arrows aim to expose shoppers to every product, boosting the potential for impulse purchases. Shoppers tend to embark on a trip to a retail store with a set goal in mind, such as buying a table lamp. As the theory’s author notes, there’s a brief window between conceiving a notion to buy a product and completing the purchase. By dictating how shoppers move through a space, arrows short-circuit this process. Instead of bee-lining to their desired product, shoppers weave through a store, creating innumerable moments for impulse purchases. And that’s a game-changer.
Arrows as a Response to Covid-19
While there are near-constant Covid-19 updates, enough evidence has emerged to strongly suggest a number of points, which are expertly captured in this video. When we speak, we emit droplets, which can carry the coronavirus. Distance, duration and ventilation are crucial factors affecting our risk of contracting the virus. Outdoors, wind, sunlight and other environmental influences act on the virus, reducing our risk. But absent these factors, our risk goes up. As shown in the video, far more people are reported to get Covid-19 when indoors.
Arrows are one of the many safety guidelines to curb transmission. Back in April, Walmart implemented its one-way aisle rule, designed to “increase social distancing and give customers more space on each aisle,” the company said on Facebook. Stop & Shop, Kroger and Morton Williams have also done the same, according to the New York Post. Directing customers aims to limit face-to-face interactions as well as customers crossing one another. Despite these benefits, some shoppers have resisted the mandate. A pair of shoppers at a Florida Goodwill exchanged blows during a conflict over floor directions, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Both were arrested and charged with battery.
Adopting a Visual Merchandising Strategy with Floor Arrows
Store layouts tend not to be optimized for one-way aisles. Without directionals, retailers have largely relied on “hot spots,” or areas with new or discounted items, and essential products – such as a grocery store’s bread, milk and eggs – to draw customers inside and keep them moving. Arrows fix that issue.
Start with the assumption that most of your customers will abide by one-way aisles. Place yourself in their shoes and ask which items are most likely to spur impulse purchases. Of course, there are new and discounted items – but expand your horizon. One-way aisles create a captive audience. Delight them! Grocery stores may display hand kitchen utensils, which solve issues customers didn’t know they had!
When we move away from the hot spot model of visual merchandising, retailers are freed up to present shoppers with off-beat, quirky or niche products that would ordinarily be relegated to an obscure shelf. Lean into your creative side! And don’t be afraid to experiment.
Get Creative With Scorpion Planogram
When you’re ready to expand into uncharted visual merchandising territory, get Scorpion Planogram. Perfect for designing, redesigning and experimenting with store layouts and displays, Scorpion is a powerful tool for visualizing assets in two and three-dimensional. Give us a call today to schedule a free demonstration.