Airports use many cues to guide aircraft to the runway. Initial cues like radio and satellite navigation are analogous to your marketing efforts. They get planes (customers) to the airport (store) vicinity, then down almost to the runway itself (your front door). This fancy technology essentially ceases to function just above the tarmac; the pilot must be able to see the runway during the final few seconds of flight. If s/he cannot see the runway and/or if everything doesnt look right, then s/he must abort the landing.
Virtually all airports have lights along the runway edges and most have additional lighting to mark the runway ends, measure glideslope (descent angle), and even extend beyond the runway itself (approach lighting). The pilot can proceed if s/he can see at least those lights just before landing.
Retail stores have their own approach lighting that could possibly determine whether a customer commits to coming through your door or keeps moving: the window display.
Most businesses use window displays to simply showcase an assortment of merchandise. Is such a static display your most effective option? How can you use your window display to increase the amount of traffic that enters your store?
I have a couple of ideas.
One hardware store I knew used their window to tell stories that revolved around things like painting, lighting, home repair, etc. Their displays depicted their products in use such as showing a piece of drywall in the process of having a hole repaired, a roller with a half-done streak of paint, or a faucet in little pieces with a washer kit next to it. This store also sold novelties such as Halloween costumes and not a year passed without an animated window display that drew crowds. How can your window display tell your story?
Why tell a story? Remember that people need nine impressions (contacts with your marketing message) to make a purchase decision. Create a display that tells a story as people walk from one side to the other, and passerby may get several of those nine impressions with every stroll past your store. Even better, what if you made the stories bilateral so as to attract people walking in both directions? Do it right and you may even enjoy the added bonus of a neat-looking visual from across the street
Further complicating matters is the fact that most window displays are aligned so that passerby must turn their heads to get a good look. Dont forget that you have three axes (height, width, and depth) to play with. What if you rotated your displays on a 45-degree angle so that people can get the full effect without turning their heads? If I have a choice of watching where Im going or looking in a window, Im keeping my eyes forward. Help me see your message and Ill be that much more likely to see it.
Your window display represents your last best opportunity to bring people into a store, and you have only seconds to influence that decision. No pilot commits to landing until the final seconds of flight; likewise people may not commit to entering your store until the final few seconds as they pass by your front window. Neglect to use your creativity to create an inviting storefront and you are deciding to turn away some people who might otherwise have bought from you. Its that simple.
Have fun, be creative, and test each new idea to see how well it goes over with the buying public. Once you find the magic formula, keep it. Your window display is part of your marketing message and you already know that you must keep that message consistent. You need not like your window or any aspect of your marketing. Your customers must love it.
In all honesty, your window display alone probably wont have much impact on your bottom line. So why bother? Well, youre already paying for the space, so you may as well use it to maximum advantage. Turn away even one potential customer and all of your marketing efforts and investments made to get that person in range will be wasted- a direct blow to your bottom line. On the plus side, attract even one person who might not otherwise have stopped in, and your bottom line may well thank you for it. Every little bit counts.
In my next article: Inside your store. Meanwhile, if youre in retail and havent read Why We Buy by Paco Underhill, then I urge you to run, not walk, to your local bookseller.