The Shopper Transition Zone

Preparing customers to shop your store well begins with the transition zone.

What is the transition zone?

That space just inside the door is often referred to as the transition zone (sometimes referred to as ‘the landing strip’ or ‘decompression zone’). It’s often overlooked and not a very effective selling space but is very important none the less. It was first coined by Paco Underhill in his national bestseller, “Why We Buy, The Science Of Shopping.”

Why does it matter?

It takes a while for shoppers to adjust to the pace and environment in each store when they are hurrying from store to store or just browsing. It’s rare to see people picking up items and noticing all the merchandise around them when they first enter. Subconsciously when people enter a store they’re making adjustments, their eyes are adjusting to the light, they are maybe processing the smells and sounds and noticing if the store is hot or cold, busy or quiet as well as examining the store layout. It’s actually a lot to process. It’s almost as if they are not really “there” until they’ve crossed the transition zone, slowed down and prepared themselves to shop.

This doesn’t mean however that the transition zone should be ignored. To nudge customers along retailers can use a few tricks. Until they are physically ready to shop, start by engaging them in the shopping experience. Here are seven ways:

1. Put discounts at the front
To stop shoppers as they come in, display deeply discounted or promotional items at the front of the store. Although shoppers may not want these items, this tactic will increase the chance that they’ll come deeper into your store to browse other items.

2. Welcome customers
To make customers relaxed and ready to shop, have someone at the front greet them with a warm smile. This helps to calm them down and put them in the mood to shop.

3. Big sellers in the middle
At the middle or mid-back of the store place items with the highest gross margin or the items you want to sell most. These items typically have a higher price tag and would be off-putting if presented upon first entering the store.

4. Offer something helpful
Offer a coupon, basket or store map when they enter. This helps to slow them down and adjust to the store atmosphere. Special promotions or big discounts should be introduced here to excite the shopper and make them more receptive.

5. Extend the transition zone outside the store
Why wait until shoppers are in the store to start the transition process? Big eye-catching displays (UNIQLO’s big logo) as well as scents and smells (think Lush bath balms) can be used outside the store to attract customers inside. This way by the time they enter the store they already have a feel for the store, are past their transition zone and are ready to shop.

6. For smaller stores keep the transition zone as small as possible
Space is at a premium for smaller stores, so a smaller transition zone is better. One way to achieve this is to have a large horizontal display that acts as a barrier but doesn’t obstruct the view across the store. This helps to slow shoppers down sooner and give them time take in the layout and decide where they want to go next.

7. Create a neutral transition zone
Make sure the entryway isn’t crowded with baskets, flyers or jammed with displays. First time shoppers need a bit of neutral space in order to decide where they want to go next. Most shoppers entering a store at normal walking speed will simply not notice or read signs and merchandise displays that instantly crowd them the minute they step through the door. Rather than waste the space with a cluttered front entrance that has little chance of being noticed it’s better to create an effective transition zone.

In summary, shoppers need to get into a comfort zone upon entering a store before they are ready to shop. Creating an effective transition zone is key. These seven shopper insights can be used to provide a superior customer experience and ultimately improve sales!

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