Lost in Transition

Turning a browser into a buyer is trickier than you might think. Before you start practicing your sales pitch, think about your floor space.

Getting people in the door is half the battle for any retail jeweler. But once they’re in, there’s no guarantee they’re going to spend. Consider that five out of every six customers walk out of a ­jewelry store empty-handed. You need to create a transition zone and get them in the mood.

What’s a transition zone, you ask?

Before you dig out the architect’s plans from your last renovation, let me stop you; you probably won’t find it labeled on a blueprint. The transition zone is the entrance to the store—the area inside the doorway in which a person literally transitions from pedestrian to shopper.

But it’s not only a physical location. The transition zone also refers to the time frame in which your customers evaluate and get ready to purchase. For all my admiration of the clever marketing at McDonald’s, the company’s inability to understand the transition zone has always baffled me. Take the drive-thru: There never seems to be a menu board three cars back from the microphone, where you’d actually have a few minutes to think about your order. Instead, the first sighting is usually at the exact moment you’re asked for your order. Is this conducive to a good buying decision? Given the spontaneous appeal of many McDonald’s products, I suspect the chain is losing money—and slowing its queues—by giving customers so little time to consider their choices. If you’ve just negotiated a busy off-ramp with two screaming kids in the backseat, you’re not in the right mindset to make a purchase.

Optimizing the transition zone in your store is about getting a customer to adopt a shopper mindset as quickly as possible. The longer they stay in pedestrian mode, the more products they will fail to evaluate and the less responsive they will be to any approaches.

Have you ever been approached in a store the moment you walked in the door? Annoying, isn’t it? Customers need time to slow down and take in their surroundings. You can help achieve this with a few simple steps:

• Install flooring that fosters a flow between outside and in. Transitional flooring may help: Imagine faux wood paneling or ceramic tile that begins outside the door and runs into the store, so there’s no obvious barrier/entrance line. It’s not unlike the 25 mph signs you see upon entering a town. It tells customers to slow down and get ready to shop.

• Use lights that are of a lower wattage than the walkway that drop again upon entering the main shopping area. Save the bright lights for displays and more subtle lighting for walkways. People naturally slow down in subdued lighting.

• Don’t try to achieve anything in the transition zone. Most customers will be unresponsive to brochures or ­signage, and surely won’t be ready to see jewelry.

• Watch your signage. If you have a closed front door—and you’d better be operating in subzero temperatures if you have!—then don’t put anything on the door you’re expecting customers to read. They are looking for a doorknob, not for information on your ­latest promotion.

• Use the area as a greeting zone. (Note that I say “greeting,” not sales.) Passing out chocolates or stationing a staffer to say hello can help immensely. This may be costly year-round but worth considering for holidays and seasonal promotions.

• Get rid of the zone altogether. Putting merchandise outside the front of the store, for example, will halt customers and get them into buying mode straight away.

Acknowledging your store’s transition area is half the battle. You can prevent a lot of unnecessary effort and customer frustration simply by realizing it exists, and taking steps to work within the boundaries it presents.

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