Optimizing retail store layout

Recommendation: place beauty care items at a location in the store where traffic is less and shoppers have more privacy to compare and try products.

Optimizing retail store layout

How shopper behavior is influenced by path traveled
Noldus Consultant: Leanne Loijens, PhD
Case study write up: Leanne Loijens, PhD & Abbe Macbeth, PhD

"Would you buy this new mascara?"

When asked this question via survey, respondents will often answer “Yes” in their desire to please the questioner.  
But, when actually confronted with dozens of different options, does a shopper select the new mascara from the cosmetics wall? Does she even see the item when entering a drugstore? Which route does she walk when going around the store? Does changing the layout of the store in any way affect her choices?

A cosmetics manufacturer approached us and asked:

“Does store layout affect beauty care buying behavior?”

Our client requested that Noldus Consultants analyze shopper behavior in two stores of the same brand, located in a major European city. Both stores had different, distinctive store layouts (represented in the pictures).

One of the stores was a square space with the beauty care items on one side, the other one a rectangle one with the same items at the back (far from the doors).

Noldus Consulting’s task was to examine shopper behavior, including areas visited, the path traveled, and specific behaviors in target zones. In doing so, we could provide insights to determine: Does store layout influence shopper behavior?

The Noldus method

Detailed observations of shopper behavior can be time consuming, and result in large amounts of data to analyze. However, this methodology is being turned to more often due to its objective nature, and accurate assessment of what shoppers actually do, not just what they report they will do, or have done. By getting away from self-report, Noldus Consultants were able to provide insights into specific shopper behaviors engaged during the shopping trip, in an unobtrusive fashion, in both stores. 

A total of 120 shoppers were recorded via four cameras in each store; behaviors during shopping were analyzed after video collection. 

Noldus consultants divided the stores into zones based on product (makeup, skin care, cash register, etc.). In doing so, the path traveled by the shopper through the zones could be easily compared across store layouts. In each zone, example shopper behaviors included: 

  • Looking at a shelf item for at least 5 seconds
  • Touching a product on the shelf
  • Buying a product (placing it in the shopping basket)
  • Final recommendations

How shopper behavior is influenced by path traveled, so...

place beauty care items at a location in the store where traffic is less
and shoppers have more privacy to compare and try products.



Does store layout matter?

YES! When beauty items were arranged at the back of the store more shoppers took an item from the shelf and put it in their shopping basket (30 versus 17 people). This was surprising because less people entered the aisles with the beauty items in the rectangular store. Not all the shoppers that were observed walked to the back of the store, 20 people in this shop did not enter the aisles with the beauty items whereas all the shoppers (120) visited the zones with the beauty products in the square shop.

The number of people stopping and watching the items in the beauty aisles was slightly higher in the square shop (70 vs. 62 people) and also stopping and touching items (without putting them in the shopping basket) was seen in slightly more people in the square store (54 vs. 48 people) but apparently this did not lead to more purchase behavior.
Of course it is difficult to compare the two shops. The shops were located in different parts of the city and the square shop was much newer.

Does day of the week affect buying behavior?

We assessed shopping behavior on both a weekday and weekend day in the rectangular store. Buying behavior was similar on both days. Touching items and looking at items was (slightly) lower in the weekend. This could be due to the store being busier.


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