Why good-looking businesses are more likely to succeed

We’ve all been in shops that are so overflowing with stock that it’s impossible to find what you’re looking for, and others that are so sparse that you’re not entirely sure what they sell.

But both have one thing in common – neither create a positive customer experience.

It’s a simple fact – great design plays a big part in the success of your small business. From the physical layout through to the way you display your stock, all of it counts towards the first impressions that make or break a good customer experience.

Here we talk with interior design expert Alison Palmer from Jackson Clements Burrows Architects and small business owner Anne Nguyen, director of immaculately presented Melbourne-based homewares store, Simple Form about the importance of creating good-looking, functional stores.

Palmer, who has worked on numerous retail interior design projects, says a practical layout that promotes your brand philosophy is critical.

“The shopfront is your chance to draw in customers that may not be familiar with your brand,” she says. “Once they are in store, think about the layout and navigation – where do you want customers to go? Send them on a journey through your products.

“Food retailers will tell you that everyone needs milk and bread, this is why these are always placed at the back of the store navigating customers past hundreds of items they may be enticed to purchase. We buy experiences as much as we buy the products; creating a store that reflects how you want your customers to feel is critical.”

Palmer says a store that’s designed to appeal to all of our senses will entice more customers, and can help boost sales.

“This is not just visual, retail design appeals to all senses – smells, touch, sound,” she says. “Peter Alexander, Crown Metropol and Bank of Melbourne (among others) have developed their own scent, which reinforces their brand on a subliminal level.

“Think about the finishes you use and how this reinforces your brand and your products – you are telling a story. Are your products organic and earthy or high end and refined? Your retail footprint should mimic this.”

Nguyen says that while design and aesthetics are crucial, they should be part of a broader brand and marketing strategy.

“Once you have established your brand and visual identity, communicate this aesthetic methodically and consistently through the use of graphics, typography, colour palette, imagery, in-situ product styling and visual merchandising,” she says. “Everything about your store space should reinforce your brand identity.”

As Simple Form carries a range of products available elsewhere, Nguyen ensures her store stands out.

“The business has always been a ‘concept’ store which has therefore consistently steered the direction of our branding, product selection, colour palette, store layout and visual merchandising,” she says.

Everything in her store, from the physical layout, to stock displays and signage, is designed to work in unison.

“Each component contributes to communicating the concept behind Simple Form which is a Scandinavian, Minimalist and Japanese lifestyle store,” she says. “From first glance, many will not understand the idea behind our brand but once they are drawn in, our customers are able to experience our vision, our mindset and feelings.

“We like to think of the interplay of these element as being our silent salesperson – the great store design aesthetic, the music and aligned visual merchandising quietly engages with our customers even when we have our hands full.”

Palmer’s tips for creating a strong in-store experience include:

* Don’t over complicate it; stick with a strong theme that reflects your brand.
* Use social media and collaborate with other small businesses and locals to create hype around your brand even before a physical store has been built.
* Consult an interior designer before you sign a lease to ensure you’re selecting the best possible space for your business.
* Consider the customer journey and appeal to all senses.
* Don’t over clutter, focus on quality not quantity and try to be bold and unique.

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Mastercard seeks to help as many Australian retailers as possible, to grow their businesses by embracing all forms of payment to provide customers the choice to make transactions whichever way they want to, with no restrictions.

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