Extreme Makeover: Retail Edition

Looking at various retail stores, I can’t help but notice how important store layouts are.

CVS is one store that I believe achieves a distinct feel based on something as subtle as shelf height. When you enter a CVS, it just looks so open – you can see the entire store since the shelves are low enough to look over. It makes the entire store seem more inviting, cleaner and brighter. And easier to navigate (in theory at least).

Then there are the stores that let you play. Apple and Guitar Center come to mind. These stores are designed to really provide an “experience.”

At Apple you can touch all their iPods, iPhones and all the other i-stuff. They’ve also added the functionality of having associates to check you out around the store (check you out as in ring you up, not “check you out”). That means not having to stand in line at the designated area of the store where registers are located. It allows for a much more open and interactive experience between associates and customers.

At Guitar Center, people are literally able to play. You can play the guitars, the drums, the pianos. You can play around with the DJ and producing equiptment. And people literally stay there for hours and play. Seems like a good way to build up loyalty. Imagine customers that have been going to Guitar Center for years and spend their Saturdays playing with the equipment and practicing their craft. I have to believe that affects their purchasing decision when the time comes to actually buy something.

The functionality comes in the wayGuitar Center is set up to allow all this playing. You can imagine what it would sound like to be in one room where at any given moment 20 people are playing different instruments. It would be loud. So Guitar Center is divided up into several rooms – one area for drums, one for guitars (and beyond that, one for electric guitars, another for acoustic, and a couple more still), one for DJs, one for live sound, etc. It’s such a cool experience to walk through all these different rooms, each one with a different “theme.” And if it gets too loud, you just close the door to the room to contain some of the noise.

While “creating an experience” and offering “interactivity” may sound like generic ideas, it really does make you think: what am I selling? How can I differentiate my store in little ways that are relevant to my consumer? Is my product something people need to play around with to fall in love with? How can I get customers to interact with my product in a way that builds that loyalty and that bond?

What other stores are out there that offer a unique experience? How can retail outlets make subtle changes to differentiate themselves?

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