Design your front-of-house customer experience

Editorial Team

5 min read
Volkswagen Beetle in front of restaurant

Everyone knows it’s what’s inside that counts—but when it comes to your business, getting customers to come inside is half the battle. Designing your front-of-house customer experience, whether you’re a retailer, cafe, or beauty parlor, can make a huge difference in your foot traffic and bottom line. If this is the year to hone your in-store experience: you’ve come to the right place. Here are some ways small merchants can deliver a great visit to every customer who comes through the door.

Go on your customer journey.

We’re talking about your literal customer journey—the steps that a new customer takes to walk into your premises. Step in their shoes and try to look at your front-of-house objectively. Marketers have another version of the customer journey that you’re probably well familiar with. It’s the steps a potential customer takes to go from awareness, to consideration, to purchase.

The physical manifestation of the customer journey is equally important. What factors are keeping or preventing your consumers from becoming aware of your store, entering your front door, finding what they need, and making it to the register? Consider these things:

  • What is the signage outside?
  • What’s visible from the sidewalk?
  • What is visible from down the road?
  • What other smells and sounds engage a customer?
  • What do they see when they first walk in?

Match your online and offline branding.

Contrary to what you might assume, having an online presence does not mean that people won’t visit your brick-and-mortar location. Actually, one study found that three out of four shoppers who find helpful, local information online are more likely to visit stores.

At the very least, your online presence should be up to date with your store hours, address, and contact information. But, more importantly, don’t make a customer guess that they’ve arrived at the right place. Your signage is the first step toward reinforcing a consumer’s perception that your business is strong and reputable. Establish consistency with the same colors and fonts you use on your website. Make your brand unique and distinguished: make it yours by owning the color palette, imagery, and design across all your customer touchpoints.

Upgrade your signage.

Speaking of signage, is it time to refresh yours? One study discovered that upgrading a building’s sign, more than word-of-mouth marketing or social media, resulted in higher sales conversion. If you’re ready to redesign the look and feel of your front-of-house design, a new sign is a good place to start. Keep these tips in mind when designing your new signage:

  • For every distance of 10 feet, the height of the lettering should at least be one foot.
  • For outdoor signs, consider the speed of traffic going past your sign at 20, 40, and 50mph.
  • Experts (and science!) has found that about 80% of the brand recognition is done with color; so make sure to pick one or two colors to go on your signs.
  • Keep your font simple and easy to read.
  • Less is more! Keep your signs straightforward and clutter free.

Brush up on the other senses.

Sound and scent may not be two senses you’re thinking about, but they can be powerful tools in creating an engaging customer experience.

Picking the wrong playlist can have an adverse effect on your business: 44% of customers say they would leave a store if they didn’t like the music. What makes music “wrong” for your front-of-house? Partly, this insight comes from knowing your customers. But it also has to do a lot with knowing your own brand. A retail store selling custom shave kits will probably do better with an indie playlist, whereas a cafe where people go for work and coffee should stick to some soft rock or classical tunes. Music can also lead a customer to stay longer; buy faster; or buy more, depending on a number of psychological factors. Just be aware of the volume, and keep it fresh but mixing up your playlist every so often.

Scent design is a really interesting way to upgrade your customer experience. Humans can detect 1 trillion different smells; much like sound, scent can actually trigger a psychological effect where we are reminded of previous experiences. If you run a bakery, consider pointing your oven fans out toward the street to entice people in. Or, if you run a pet store, make sure the opposite is true; keep bad smells to a minimum as much as possible.

Consider your store layout.

Finally, think about how you’re using the space to make customers feel welcome. There’s a little psychology that comes into configuring your store layout, especially when it comes to retail. The first trick? Shoppers are naturally inclined to move clockwise while they shop. Stock your best-selling or most profitable items at eye-level. Make it easy for your customers to find what they need and navigate the space with signage, lighting, and wide enough aisles so no one feels overcrowded and stressed. It should be a pleasure to visit your store—not a chore.

Bottom line: each step of the way your store should draw the customer in, never drive them away. Have fun with it!

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