Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Use the Panorama Approach to Organize Your Store

By Melanie McIntosh

One of my most memorable experiences was when I first stood on top of Mt. Kobau, BC. The landscape spread out below, in a wide panorama from one horizon to the other.  Beyond the trees, and the sage covered hills, the mountain peaks stretched as far as I could see. At sunset, the view was simply stunning. I had to stop to take in the breathtaking vista.

The customer’s first view of your store has much in common with this mountain top view. When the customer sees your store, the view is a panorama, not a detail view. She gets an overall impression of the store. If this impression attracts and connects with her, she’ll stop to take it in.

In that moment, the customer gets oriented to the store. There are several questions she has to answer for herself:
What is the store about?
Do I like it?
Do I want to go inside to find out more?
Where do I go first?
The way the store is organized helps the customer answer these questions.

The panorama approach

The panorama approach organizes the store to make it easy for the customer to understand at a glance. It focuses on the big picture because that’s what shoppers see first. When a store is organized with this approach, the shopper can easily figure out what the store is about, and decide to venture inside. She’ll understand the layout in a glance, so she’ll know where to go.
So, how do you use the panorama approach in your store?

Using the panorama approach

To learn how to apply this approach to your store, there are three steps:
1) Choose 3 stories to tell
2) Group merchandise by story
3) Create a scene on each wall

Let’s look at each of these steps in detail.

1) Choose 3 stories to tell

The first step of the panorama approach is to simplify your merchandise selection. We all get overwhelmed by clutter. When the customer is presented with a huge selection of options, it all starts to look like clutter. By choosing three main stories the product selection, we get rid of the clutter. The product selection becomes more streamlined and organized.

What is a story?
 A story is a theme, or a message, that you want to convey to the customer. It is a method of grouping merchandise together. Different types of stores are going to have different types of stories.
A store that is fashion oriented like clothing or home décor tend to have colour or style stories. For example, a colour story could be black and white. A style story for home décor could be French Provincial. Depending on the store, these stories might change with every season.

A store that sells a wide variety of products such as pet supplies or hardware would have very basic stories. A pet store’s main stories might be food and nutrition, pet care at home, and pet care on the go (traveling, in the car, at the park). A hardware store could have home and garden, building and renovations, and seasonal. These main stories would not change, even though some of the products within each story change from season to season.

The customer can understand three visual stories quickly and easily. In a glance she can decide if one or more of the stories attracts her enough to step inside.
Now let’s look at how stories are used in the store.

2) Group merchandise by storyOnce you’ve decided on your three stories, it’s time to look at your merchandise layout. The products in each story need to be grouped together. Each story needs to be allocated to one section of the store.
Three examples of story layouts are:

Balanced: One story on the left of the store, another on the right, with the third at the back.

Sequential: One story at the front, one in the centre, one at the back.

Grocery style: One story on the floor (free-standing or on tables),  one on shelves in aisles, one on the walls. Think of the way supermarkets are laid out: produce on tables/bins, canned/processed foods in the aisles, basics (meat, dairy, bread) around the perimeter.

The way you layout your product stories will depend on the shape of your store, as well as the type of product you are selling. Some products are best displayed on tables, shelves or walls. You’ll need to decide which layout suits your situation best.

The panorama approach works because you have one section of the store for each story. And that all the merchandise for that story is placed in that section. It is easy for the customer to know where to look for the products she wants.

All the products are now grouped with their story into one section of the store. Let’s look at how to attract shoppers to that section.

3) Create a scene on each wall
The walls of your store are powerful attraction tools. They play an important role in the panorama approach. As customers pause at the front of your store, they quickly scan the store in a glance. As they look across the store at eye level, they will see the merchandise presented on the walls.
You could think of the walls as the main scenes of each of your stories. For example, when they see the back wall of the store, the shoppers should immediately understand the story for that section of the store.

The most prominent walls that shoppers will notice are the ones to the immediate right and left of the entrance, as well as the back wall. If your entrance is not located in the centre of the front of your store, you’ll have to determine which walls are most prominent. Do this by standing at the entrance and looking into the store. Take note of which walls you notice the most.

Focus your merchandise presentation on these walls. For the panorama approach, we are not paying attention to individual displays. Consider the wall as a whole. Plan a balanced arrangement of coordinating merchandise. At this point, you just want to make sure that the arrangement of fixtures and merchandise on the wall is organized, balanced and neat.

It’s also important to consider what merchandise to place on the walls. It’s not the place for clearance merchandise, or mismatched odds and ends. These feature walls are great for new merchandise and items that will catch the customer’s eye. They will help you to use the feature walls to draw shoppers deeper in the store.

So, you know how to use the panorama approach in your store. But what if you have too many products that don’t fit into your three stories?

When products don’t fit into 3 stories
If you’ve just started using the panorama approach, you might end up with some hard-to-merchandise white elephant items. This is a common challenge. You’ll need to fit them into one of the stories that seems to work the best. And work hard to sell this merchandise as soon as possible. It might take some time to eliminate those white elephants.

Once you do, you’ll find it gets even easier to use the panorama approach. Once the three stories have been developed it’s going to be easier to avoid them in future. Buying and merchandising will get easier because you’ll know your three stories in advance.

Give your customers the mountain top view
Use the panorama approach to get shoppers to pause, take in the view and be drawn into the store.
You know what to do:

 1) Choose 3 stories to tell
2) Group merchandise by story
3) Create a scene on each wall

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