How Merchandising Attracts Customers: Or Drives Them Away

You need to attract customers

If you have a brick-and-mortar store (a physical retail location), your job is to attract shoppers to come inside. These shoppers have many other choices. Other stores. Other neighbourhoods or malls. And online shopping.

Brick-and-mortar retail is becoming increasingly competitive. Even large, well-established companies are finding it hard to attract as many customers to their stores as they did in the past. These big giants are having trouble figuring out what customers want, and have been slow to adapt to shopper needs.

Customers are changing

The way they shop is changing. These shoppers are savvy. They know a lot about the products they want. Customers are also fickle. They are not as loyal to brands as they were in the past. Online shopping and social media have increased the impact of these changes. The last ten years in retail have seen dramatic change, and we do not know what the next ten years will look like.

But, it’s not all bad news. You can offer your customers what they need and want. And you can do it in a way that stands out from the competition. So, what does that look like?

To attract shoppers, give them what they desire

Let’s look at the four components of what customers want.

  1. Invitation
  2. Offering
  3. Experience
  4. Connection

1) Invitation

The invitation is what attracts customers. It entices the customer. Beckons the shopper into the store. So, what entices customers?

You entice customers with an inviting presentation. This is what people call branding. Your brand is your company personality.

You present your store in a way that makes people want to find out more. They’re attracted by what you represent. Your product. The way you ‘dress’ your store. Your values. The way you do business.

There are three key elements to invitation.


Invitation is communication. The message you communicate about who your are. And it’s an invitation for others to join you. You communicate who you are through your storefront, visual presentation and all your media.


Through your communications, you create a sense of anticipation and expectation. You create an image in your customers’ mind of what they’ll expect when they do business with you.


Consistency is a vital element for communicating with your customers. All the messages you send through your visuals, promotion, in-store experience and interactions with sales people need to be consistent. Every time a customer comes in contact with your company, they need to experience the same visual identity, the same values, the same level of service.

2) Offering

Your offering is the solution you provide to your customers. It’s your collection of products and services. To compete as an independent retailer, you need to offer something no else does. Something the shopper wants to try on, touch, explore with their senses. A solution that solves a problem.

If it’s just a commodity, the shopper can buy it online, or at a mass market retailer. You can’t just say what you have to offer is unique. You have to identify what you have that can’t be bought just anywhere. Something about what you sell, how you sell it, where you sell it or how you communicate about it has to be different, and compelling. It needs to be an offering that fills a need for a specific customer.

3) Experience

This is feeling you want your customer to have in your store. It is the mood you create with your physical space. The attractiveness of the space. The way your sales associates interact with your customers.

What feeling are you selling? Ease. Comfort. Cool. Pampered. Chic.

Once you’ve defined the feeling you want to create for your customers, every aspect of your business needs to evaluated. Look at how each part of your business can craft that feeling or mood.

4) Connection

Shoppers are looking for an opportunity to connect. To feel like they’re a part of something. The brands we buy or the stores we shop are a part of our self-identity. What we purchase has become a bit part of how we see ourselves. It is linked to our beliefs and values.

For many customers, that identity is about affordability, convenience and ease. For these customers, they’ll find their needs met at Walmart or Home Depot. If you try to get these shoppers to connect in a deeper level while they’re shopping, they’ll just find it annoying. The value they are looking for in a big-box store is convenience and affordability.

The type of customer that shops in an independent store has different values. Often they are looking for unique items that express their own personality. Many of these shoppers are looking for more than a generic, self-serve buying experience.

Some of the ways these customers may be looking to connect:

  • Ongoing two-way communication with a brand they feel is ‘their’ brand
  • Opportunities to meet like-minded people
  • Learning opportunities
  • Shared values

Customers don’t all want to connect in the same way. The key to connection is to get to know your customers. Ask them what they want. Get them to give you feedback on social media. And most importantly, act on what they tell you.

The companies that are the most in tune with their customers will be the ones who will be successful. In our competitive retail environment, it will continue to be those that adapt to customers’ changing needs that will stand out.


These four merchandising components attract customers:

  • Invitation
  • Offering
  • Experience
  • Connection

If any of the four areas are not in tune with your customers, you won’t attract as many shoppers as you’d like. In fact, if some of these factors are missing, they may drive customers away.

In future articles, we’re going to explore these topics in more detail. For now, start by looking at your business to see how you might be able to bring more of these components into your store.

Next steps

To get started, here’s some articles that describe how you can use store events to improve Experience and Connection with your customers.

The Secret to Running ‘Automatic’ Store Events
Education Events: How To Find The ‘Hidden Treasure’ In Your Business
Community Events: How To Avoid The Screwdriver Syndrome

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