The Power of the Landing Zone

consignment shop landing zone

Beware the “Landing Zone”

The following “Landing Zone” tips are adapted from Paco Underhill’s book, “Why We Buy.”

Imagine yourself circling the parking lot of a store you’ve never shopped in before. The temperature outside is 92 and the parking lot is packed. You are wondering if the visit is worth the investment of time and energy to park the car and get through the lot to the front door. You finally find a spot and make your way toward the door. When you arrive at the entrance, there is a piece of furniture coming through the front door on a set of hand trucks and you have to wait for it to get maneuvered out. Sweat is running down your brow and you drop your purse. You reach down to get it and finally make it into the store with all the clutter of the previous 5 minutes running through your head. Now you’re standing inside the front door and your mind switches to trying to figure out how to navigate through this new world. How the owner of this shop has managed this critical “landing zone” will have a huge impact on whether another visit to this shop will be worth the effort. Is this store an oasis in the desert of life or are you just more confused and frustrated as you try to shop this cluttered and confusing consignment or thrift shop?

The “Landing Zone” is the first 6-8 steps a person takes into the store. Paco Underhill in his why we buywork, “WhyWe Buy: the Science of Shopping” (buy it here) calls this area the “Decompression Zone” and reminds us of all the psychological activity that happens in the mind of the customer as she makes the transition from outside to inside the store. The mind is so active during this time that it is important to “help” the customer have a good first impression by providing a well managed landing zone.

The following considerations should come into play when considering the “Landing Zone”

  • Extending the “Landing Zone”
  • Merchandising the “Landing Zone”
  • Directing Through the “Landing Zone”

Extending the “Landing Zone”

As the customer approaches the store the adrenaline rush of turning into the parking lot, trying to watch for pedestrians, finding a parking spot and trying to fit that big SUV into that skinny space is beginning to subside. Running through the mind of the shopper is a myriad of projects that have to be completed before picking the kids up at 3:00. And now she has to bring her focus back to filling that empty spot in her dining room or finding the perfect dress for Friday night’s dinner date.

extending the landing zoneThe earlier you can help her make that transition, the more effective shopping time the customer will have in your store. That is a primary reason for extending the “Landing Zone” to the sidewalk. When we have a nice vignette set up just outside the door and some nice pieces running up and down the sidewalk, the customer starts their “shopping experience” a few moments earlier, leading to a smoother transition when they get to the real thing.

Merchandising the “Landing Zone”

Keep the following principles in mind when considering how to merchandise the landing zone.

Don’t try to accomplish too much

Remember all the transitions taking place with a customer through the landing zone. Do not add to that with complicated displays or overcrowding.

Make it like home.

Remember the old saying, “There’s never a second chance for a first impression.” Well, the landing zone is where that first impression inside the store happens. We want our customers to feel like New Leaf is their second home. Create an atmosphere of home with the “Landing Zone” vignette.

Help them linger.

The longer they linger in the landing zone, the more prepared they are when they hit the sales floor. This is a great place for coffee, ice water or a treat. As they linger in the “Landing Zone” the tension eases and the adrenaline subsides.

Put on the brakes

Paco Underhill states that the transition through the landing zone takes about five to six steps. Therefore, it is effective to put something about six steps into the front door that stops the customer in their tracks. This completes the transition process for the customer.

Directing Through the “Landing Zone”

The customer greeting is one of the most important aspects of making the customer feel welcome and attended to. However, knowing how to greet a customer is just as important as actually greeting them.

Paco Underhill says, “Greet people too early and you scare them away. Talk to them too late and you get a whole lot of frustrated customers.” The most powerful greeting takes place about five steps into the store and doesn’t require the customer to think or answer uncomfortable questions such as, “What are you looking for today?”

Our first greeting should be within the first 60 seconds and should sound something like, “Welcome to New Leaf” or “Hello, how are you doing today?” A follow up greeting should happen within the next 1-2 minutes that would make a sales person available to help with the needs of the customer. “Is there anything in particular you are looking for?” or “Can I help you find anything today?” are appropriate follow up greetings.

Results of an Effective Landing Zone

As you pay close attention to the first five or six steps into your shop, you will create an environment for your customer that contrasts with the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Your customers will savor the moment when they walk in your front door and look forward to the retreat from the chaos of life. As you might imagine, this will lead to repeat visits, and therefore, repeat sales!