If first impressions are everything, helping your customers find what they need quickly comes in a close second. And in a welding store, where inventory includes not only the big equipment but also lots and lots (and lots) of accessories and small parts, creating an easy navigation system can pose a challenge.
Before you dig into the details, however, it’s important to take a step back and think about your customers, and how they shop. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Are they experienced skilled workers who know exactly what they need?
- Are they brand-loyal, or always on the lookout for the best price?
- How much is the typical spend?
- What are the most commonly sold items?
- Are there items that everyone asks for but no one can find?
- When they come into the store, what path do they take (ie., do they go to the right or left first?)
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Having a clear understanding of what your customers need, as well as their pain points, can help you determine a layout that will make their experience best-in-class. You can take several approaches:
Overall Display Approaches
Solution-Based: Group equipment and all of its accessories and parts in one place, with clear signs calling out each product category. For example, someone looking for a MIG welder will find torch choices and all compatible consumables and parts in one section.
Budget-Based: If your customers are budget-conscious, consider a good/better/best approach that groups products by value. Make each grouping of product easy to find via clear color-coding and signage. With this setup, it’s important to clearly state part compatibility.
Brand-Based: Allow individual brands to group their products, centered around eye-catching displays with big logos that make it easy for brand-loyalists to find what they need. This is also a good opportunity for some extra cash flow by allowing individual brands to purchase additional feature space.
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What to do with the misc?
Even the smartest, most streamlined setup will still leave you with some miscellaneous products that don’t fit into the layout. In this case, consider a combination merchandising strategy where the main parts are solution-based, but the misc. parts are sorted by brand or budget. Consider displaying related apparel (both work-related/PPE and branded apparel) in their own section that looks more like a clothing store.
If a display is working well, don’t change it. If the dump bins you’ve set up near the register get emptied on the regular, keep them there — and keep them full.
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Making your store easy to navigate will make your customers happy. Bringing in that little extra touch will make them tell their friends. These best-in-class examples can turn it up a notch:
- Hang TV screens that play how-to videos, and maybe even a few that are just tuned to a favorite channel or sports event.
- Turn up the lights so the store is bright, friendly and inviting
- Include digital part finders for an easy, space-saving way for customers to find their parts
- Display accessories and parts on 4-foot sections to mimic a retail store
- If possible, set up a safe, well-ventilated area for customers to test your tools
- Consider a special section of “online best-sellers” to integrate your physical location with your digital store
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