Optimizing retail store layout

A representative summary of duration of time shoppers spent in each zone for one store. Note the vastly different layouts, and how time spent in the zones differed accordingly.

Optimizing retail store layout

How shopper behavior is influenced by path traveled
Noldus Consultant: Leanne Loijens, PhD
Case study write up: Abbe Macbeth, PhD

"Would you buy this new mascara?"

When asked this question via survey, respondents will often answer “Yes” in their desire to please the questioner.  
But, when actually confronted with dozens of different options, does a shopper select the new mascara from the cosmetics wall? Does she even see the item when entering a drugstore? Which route does she walk when going around the store? Does changing the layout of the store in any way affect her choices?

A cosmetics manufacturer approached us and asked:

“Does store layout affect beauty care buying behavior?”

Our client requested that Noldus Consultants analyze shopper behavior in two similar stores, located in a major European city. Both stores had different, distinctive store layouts (represented in the pictures). In one store, the beauty care items were laid out in a circular path; in the second store, a more linear path.

Noldus Consulting’s task was to examine shopper behavior, including areas visited, the path traveled, and specific behaviors in target zones. In doing so, we could provide insights to determine: Does store layout influence shopper behavior?


The Noldus method

Detailed observations of shopper behavior can be time consuming, and result in large amounts of data to analyze. However, this methodology is being turned to more often due to its objective nature, and accurate assessment of what shoppers actually do, not just what they report they will do, or have done. By getting away from self-report, Noldus Consultants were able to provide insights into specific shopper behaviors engaged during the shopping trip, in an unobtrusive fashion, in both stores. 

A total of 120 shoppers were recorded via four cameras in each store; behaviors during shopping were analyzed after video collection. 

Noldus consultants divided the stores into zones based on product (makeup, skin care, cash register, etc.). In doing so, the path traveled by the shopper through the zones could be easily compared across store layouts. In each zone, example shopper behaviors included: 

  • Looking at a shelf item for at least 5 seconds
  • Touching a product on the shelf
  • Buying a product (placing it in the cart)
  • Final recommendations

Place beauty care items in a circular path in the store to result in more product purchases.

Avoid the area behind the registers, as it was the least visited area in either store.



Does store layout matter?

YES! When beauty items were arrayed in a more circular path, shoppers purchased 10% more items than when the same items were arrayed in a linear path. Shoppers in the stores with a more linear path through beauty items looked and touched the products more, but did not buy. Shoppers purchased beauty products more in the store with a circular path, yet looked without buying more in the store with a linear path through the beauty care zone.

Does zone of choice matter?

Our client hypothesized that moving their product near central check-out stations would result in more product purchased than in the old layout, where the product was at the back of the store. However, in both store layouts, the zone directly behind the cash registers was the least visited zone, regardless of the product being sold in that zone. Moving our client’s product to this area would not help their sales.

Does day of the week affect buying behavior?

We assessed shopping behavior on both a weekday and weekend in the store with the circular layout, where makeup purchases were higher. On measures of looking, touching, and buying, shopping behaviors did not drastically differ between weekday and weekend. Shoppers engaged in a higher percentage of looking and buying on the weekend compared to weekday. The decrease in time spent touching items on the shelf on the weekend could be due to the store being busier, which limited interaction time with the items.



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