Experience Your Store as a Consumer

Whether you walk through your store door seven days a week, five or only one, chances are you don’t walk through wearing “consumer eyes”. Yet as you walk into anyone else’s store, you naturally take on the role of a consumer… therefore viewing things as a customer would. Even with your trained retail eye, your role is clearly defined as a consumer in someone else’s store. Here’s a thought, though… what would happen if you walk through your own store as a consumer?

For starters, try and avoid being too emotional, subjective or personally invested in this exercise. Truly try and remove yourself as invested in your business, but rather take on the role of a consumer fast and furiously. Be just as assertive or quick to judge or simply pass something by as you would if you were a consumer. Ignore things that look bad, take notice of things that look good and experience your store as a real customer would. Now do this exercise again, except this time take clear notes on your entire experience. Identify the following:

1. What strikes you as most appealing in your store? Why? 

2. What strikes you as least appealing? Why? 

3. Are there any distractions in your store that take away from you shopping or wanting to browse the store – whether people, noise, displays or anything else? 

4. What did it feel like when you first entered the store? Explain your emotional reaction, such as “welcoming”, “claustrophobic”, “engaging”, “distracting” or anything else you may feel. 

5. What items look out of place? 

6. What items stand out the most and why? 

7. What items strike you as should be “on sale” or completely removed from the store assortment? 

8. Are there any items you don’t see but would make sense with your current assortment? 

9. How do the displays lend themselves to you engaging as a customer? 

10. What merchandising areas are easy and welcoming to shop? 

11. Which ones are not easy or welcoming to shop? 

12. Is the store clean – including dusted? 

13. What impression does your store restroom give off as a customer observing it? 

14. Is your cash wrap area easy for customers to rest their purse, sign a recipet and enjoy their check out experience? 

15. Do your walls need a fresh coat of paint? 

16. Are there visible areas of your store that look unkept or need any repair? 

17. Do your fixtures overpower your inventory or restrict customers from shopping and engaging with your items? 

18. How does your store signage measure up? Is it easy to identify what is on sale, store policies, special announcements and more? 

19. Does your stock room trickle onto your selling floor? 

20. What is your ultimate, final impression of your store after experiencing it as a customer? 

Often, this exercise opens up retailers eyes and brings things to light they have been ignoring. Other times they still only see what they want to – and ignore what they want. Of course, there are many retailers who are doing well and doing it right, so this exercise isn’t necessary. But reminding yourself to wear your customer’s shoes and view things as they do is a great practice to routinely participate in. Asking store associates and trusted allies can also bring things to your attention that you may not notice otherwise. In the end, you will gain a stronger understanding of your store and your customer – two strengths in delivering outstanding experiences and gaining sales for your store!

Want to really help your store help your customers? Check out Retail Minded Magazine! Available in print or digital, gain in depth, expert support to help you manage your retail business! 


  • Angela Shaffer
    September 6, 2012

    Great article, Nicole! During my time as the Retail Recruiter for Downtown Highland Park, my assignment was to attract and reach out to businesses that rounded out the desired tenant mix for our downtown. With a very strict criteria, and after personally visiting 400+ retailers in the Chicagoland area and Milwaukee, I can’t tell you how many times I walked out of a store completely shocked at the poor customer service, dirty shelves, or junky displays. Some stores had really poor lighting or even had a bad odor to them! But, before even going into the store, the most important thing was determining whether I even wanted to go into the store. Was it appealing enough from the exterior to want to go in? Every so often I’d venture into a store I had no interest in going into and left pleasantly surprised. To wrap up my experience and discovery, there are many retailers with great passion, a great product line, and who truly understand what it takes to sell product. Your checklist is super, and I think retailers can greatly benefit from having it posted by the register for all employees to see. But, again, I just can’t emphasize enough how important the exterior and window displays are to consumers.

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