INDY LIVE 2012: Easy merchandising actions will engage customers subliminally

Publish Date: 
Feb 18, 2012

You don’t need a PhD to be an expert in the psychology behind your customers’ purchasing decisions. In fact, just knowing some of the basics of merchandising can provide a boost to your business. So says Jim Rasmus of Retail Design Associates, who led seminars Friday and Saturday on the Psychology of Merchandising.

Simple tricks -- like putting the price tag on the back or side of a product to force the customer to pick up said product in their hands -- is just one of the small physical changes you can make in your store to affect a customer psychologically. When a customer picks up a product, he or she immediately is more familiar with it than if they just glanced at it on a rack.

“It doesn’t take much to get a customer to do what you want them to do,” Rasmus said. Merchandising doesn’t just exist within the parameters of your showroom. It starts in the parking lot, even down the street, and with the store façade. Rasmus mentions Killeen Power Sports, a Top 100 Dealer in Killeen, Texas, as a fantastic example of an inviting storefront — bold colors, clean lines and manicured parking lot.

If your store looks like it belongs in the 1960s, Rasmus said, you should start thinking of an upgrade. “Even if you can’t afford it today, you have to be putting money aside for future remodels,” he said. Steer clear of overusing glass. “When you go to the big-box stores like Best Buy, how much glass do they have? Hardly any,” he said.

Freshening a showroom can be as easy as swapping endcap racks, or even turning racks 180 degrees so the merchandise in the back of the rack is now at the front. Group apparel and accessories by color to create a uniform look.

“We tend to first be attracted by color, then style of product, and prices last,” Rasmus said. Arranging helmet displays vertically by color also better attract a customer’s eye than when grouping them by color horizontally. People generally will glance at the top row of a rack, and if everything is the same color, they will think there is less of a variety.

In terms of walls and the fixtures themselves, colors should be muted, but inviting. “I still don’t believe that today you should be painting your store Battleship Gray,” Rasmus said. “[And] you don’t paint your walls pink to attract customers.” Sticking with neutral colors allows for the packaging and products to stand out.

And stay away from black slatwall. “The majority of products out there are black,” Rasmus noted. One of Rasmus’s biggest pet peeves are the extra-long parts counters that most stores still have — which do a good job of drawing a line between customer and employee. “You have to have the parts people out on the floor doing all the merchandising,” Rasmus said.

As a solution, Rasmus suggests placing standalone kiosks around the showroom floor to encourage staff to engage with customers. – Cynthia Furey