Behaviourally effective shopfronts

I’ve been talking a lot about websites recently, so I thought it was time to revisit the offline world. In particular, I want to talk about the importance of shopfronts in communicating your value proposition.

Two shop windows in my local area grabbed my attention for the wrong reasons.

The day spa

The first is a day spa. And this is its window:


I’m not really worried about the ‘under new management’ sign – although before plastering one on your window, you should gauge whether this will help or hinder you. If the shop had previously been well regarded, the fact that there has been a management change may not be attractive.

I’m not even that worried about the handwritten sign – although it looks amateur rather than charming and doesn’t explain why the discount is being offered, so it looks kind of desperate.


No, I am most concerned about the disconnect between what the business is about – relaxation – and what it is signalling – chaos.

The photo doesn’t quite do justice to the extent of chaos inside. Peering through the window, there was barely a section of wall that didn’t have a piece of crappy sales collateral plastered to it. The visual busyness and ‘volume’ of messages being thrown at the client were completely at odds with the tone and atmosphere that people expect when visiting a day spa.

The photographer

The second shop front, a few doors down from the day spa, was for a professional photographer. Despite this being a quiet little suburban shopping strip, the portfolio photos showcased in the window were not of families, cheesy graduations and pets.

No, they were high fashion, strikingly posed shots of professional models. Think Vogue. If this is what that photographer does that’s great, but it is at odds with the clientele that pass by the window.

Creating the right sort of tension

The lesson here is there needs to be congruence between what your business does and how it is represented.

If the two are not aligned, you are effectively jarring your customer out of their comfort state into their “what on earth?!” critical state and reducing your odds of success. In behavioural terms, you are shifting them from system one to system two thinking, from receptive autopilot to analytical pilot.

Whether it’s your shop front or your website, remember that the tension you want to create in your customer is the positive tension. They should realise they need something only you have, not the negative tension where they can’t reconcile what you do with how you present yourself. After all, you want them to stop and come in, rather than stop coming.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns Pty Ltd, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.


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