Retail Crowd Control Basics: Setting Up Your Store for Efficiency and SalesArticle published on Mar 27, 2018
Everyone who owns a retail business has one goal in mind: keeping their customers happy.
How do you keep customers happy? Keeping the crowds controlled.
Data shows that reduced wait times, increased browsing opportunities, and in-store all organization improve customer retention for retail businesses, regardless of the types of products you sell.
Not sure where to start? Read this guide for tips and tricks on creating a more efficient in-store experience with crowd control solutions.
What is it?
When done well, crowd control is a system of directing customers in such a way that they don’t realize they’re being controlled.
Customers should flow naturally from the front of your store, through your sections or aisles, to the register and back out of the store without any confusion.
Confused customers = Customers who are going to shop some other guy’s store next time
RETAIL CROWD CONTROL
Why do I need it?
1.6% of retail customers leave checkout lines after they already entered the line without purchasing a single product.
That might not sound like a significant number, but across hundreds or thousands of customers, it starts to add up.
Do you want to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars from customers who already decided to buy?
Didn’t think so.
Retail crowd control expedites checkout times, so customers associate your business with efficiency, not waiting in line all day.
There are long-term benefits to good crowd control, too.
When people experience excellent customer service, they are more likely to return to the place they received that service, and crowd control is a part of excellent customer service.
Imagine in you walked into a grocery store and they were using water or sand-filled road barriers to block off registers. As a customer, what would you think of that grocery chain?
You would probably assume the people who owned that grocery chain didn’t have the first clue about their business. Then, you would start shopping at the store down the street with the retractable belt barriers because those stanchions make sense.
Organized stores cut down on theft, too. When you have a chaotic shopping experience, it opens up the opportunity for pickpockets to steal because your employees aren’t able to properly monitor everything that’s going on in your store.
When your stores are well organized, your staff can keep an eye on what people are doing and make sure no one is walking out with a 12 pack of Coke underneath their jacket.
SAFETY CONSCIOUS AND ADA COMPLIANT CROWD CONTROL
Creating a safe, calm shopping experience
Every year, we hear tragic stories about stores with poor retail crowd control that inadvertently caused injuries to their customers. We’re looking at you, Black Friday.
The saddest part is that, in almost all cases, it could have been avoided.
If you set-up a demarcated line outside of your store the night before a big sale, people are less likely to injure one another trying to get inside.
Before setting up your crowd control plan, make a list of all the places in your store that could be a potential hazard and the items you need to prevent incidents.
Do you have a hot food section? You need portable sign stands that warn customers of the potential hazard.
Have ladders on bookshelves that are only meant to be mounted by employees (and most definitely not by toddlers)? Invest in classic stanchion posts with ropes to visually show people the ladders are only meant for employees.
Something else to keep in mind, you need to make sure you leave lots of open space in your store. ADA compliance guidelines require that you have enough space in your store for a disabled person to navigate the area comfortably.
Creating open space also provides a better shopping experience. Open spaces give the illusion of “time to think” to your customers. Cramped spaces make people feel like they’re being forced to make a decision, which leads to a stressed and angry shopper leaving your store without making a purchase or asking to speak with a manager (Hello again, Carol).
Ideally, you should leave extra open space next to your registers. During the holidays or at other particularly busy times, this will give you the space to put up additional retractable barriers.
STORE LAYOUT AND DESIGN
Be a Boy Scout: Prepare for Crowd Management BEFORE Crowds Appear
You recently opened your first retail store, and you’ve received a decent amount of traffic. You advertise a Memorial Day sale and, because you’re expecting more customers than usual, you buy some retractable belt stanchions.
Then you put those stanchions in the storage. You’ll just set them up when you need them.
The guy in this scenario? He went out of business six years ago.
Don’t wait for your store to get busy before laying out your retail crowd control. One bad experience is all it takes to make sure a customer never returns. Stop that from happening by having both permanent wall mounted retractable barriers, and moveable retractable belt barriers ready before people show up.
CROWD CONTROL PRODUCTS AND DEVICES
What are my options?
These are some of the most common crowd control products used in the retail space.
Retractable Stanchions: Posts and retractable belts that create temporary barriers that allow you to section off parts of your store, or, create lines outside the entrance of your store. These types of stanchions are easy to set up, move, and rearrange should you need to create more or less queues in your store.
Classic Stanchions and Barriers: These are the ropes (velvet or otherwise) you’ve seen used in movie theatres, hotels, or clubs. They are a “classier” form of crowd management and, like retractable stanchions, are easy to set up and rearrange.
Wall Mounted Barriers: A more permanent crowd control solution, wall mounted barriers attach to walls or other stationary objects. Because they don’t require putting down new posts or poles, they take up significantly less space. In stores where space is at a premium, these are an ideal solution.
Plastic Barriers: Typically used in outdoor or outdoor spaces, plastic stanchion posts and barriers are weather friendly options used to create lines outside your store. Remember that Black Friday scenario? Plastic stanchion posts could’ve stopped the stampede before it started and kept that guy in business.
DIRECTIONS AND SIGNS
Communicating with your customers is key
Imagine walking into a 10,000 square foot hardware store that had no signs. How would you find the 2x4s you came in for? Forget about the lightbulbs your wife asked you to pick up.
Signs communicate to customers where they can find the products they are looking for, where they can get help if they need it, where to check out, and where to leave.
This method is known as “soft” crowd control. Customers don’t realize they’re being corralled into specific areas, but your in-store signs have the same effect as substantial metal barriers.
What do we want? Fast check out times! How do we do it? A single line!
Pro tip: setting up a single line that funnels into multiple registers is always better than having multiple register lines.
There is a common misconception that more choice is always better, but choice often leads to stress. When you have multiple register lines, people spend more time thinking about which line to go into, if they should switch lines, which cashier is working the fastest, how many items the people in individual lines have...
Instead of browsing all of the products you’ve placed along the checkout line with your expertly designed in-store merchandising, your customers are becoming stressed right at the moment of purchase.
Improve your customer experience by creating one line that funnels into all of your open registers.
DISTRACTING CUSTOMERS FROM LONG WAITS
Pay no attention to the man behind the green curtain…
People hate waiting on lines, they think of it as an inconvenience at best and a waste of time at worst. Remember that 1.6% of customers who leave a line without purchasing?
Tricking customers into thinking they’re spending less time waiting in line than they actually are is one of the keys to good crowd control.
Placing new, exciting products along the checkout route is one of the best ways to do this. Customers can continue to browse while they wait, rather than scrolling on their phones and checking the time every 30 seconds. Turn empty areas in your store into sales opportunities with merchandising solutions.
The key is placing products along the checkout route that people wouldn’t regularly shop for.
Think of a grocery store checkout line: grocery chains don’t place things you came in to buy on the line like milk, bread, or eggs. Instead, they put candy, magazines, and gum.
In other words, they place exciting, inexpensive extras on the checkout line that give customers something exciting to think about buying.
Do I need that Milky Way Dark? No. Do I want it? Yes...
Exit through the gift shop
A common mistake retailers mistake is not providing enough space for customers to exit your store comfortably. Poorly planned exits can lead to traffic jams in the checkout area which in turn slows down the checkout process.
Create a decompression zone between your checkout area and store exit. A place customers can pull all of the goods together, put a coat back on, and take the necessary time to get themselves together before leaving.
Happy Customers = Happy Bottom Line
Customers are what keeps your store running. Ensuring their happiness and satisfaction is the key to customer retention and the repeat business your store needs to be a success.
By optimizing your store for retail crowd control, you’re solving one of the biggest complaints people have about in-store shopping - it’s stressful!
Implement the right crowd control solutions for your business, and you’ll see happier customers and an increase in sales.
Not sure where to get started?Browse Crowd Control Warehouse to get a sense for all of your options.