To most retailers, zoning a store means assigning an associate to a particular area.
To retailers who want to deliver memorable and effective customer experiences it means to focus on certain customer activities in different areas of the store.
Here are the three zones for everyone on the team:
Zone #1: The No-Engage Decompression Zone. The decompression zone is the area a customer enters immediately after walking into your store. The size of the zone depends on the store's overall size and layout. For some retailers the decompression zone might be only three feet wide while in other stores it could ten or twenty feet wide. Whatever its size, we should avoid engaging customers here. Customers need this time and space to acclimate themselves to their new surroundings.
A big mistake many retailers make is greeting and engaging customers while they are in the decompression zone. Watch how customers react when they are engaged too soon after they enter a store. They seem almost surprised to be greeted and are much faster to say they are just looking. They are also much more likely to see the staff as pushy and overbearing compared to stores that let the customers get through the decompression zone before engaging them. I strongly encourage you to identify the decompression zone in your store.
Zone #2: The Welcome/Greet Zone. This is obviously the area right after the decompression zone and this is where customers should be welcomed. By keeping the welcome to this area you prevent customers from being over-greeted. When customers are over-greeted the store staff appears insincere and pushy. Customers by and large find being over-greeted to be extremely annoying; I've left stores because of it. Once customers leave the Welcome/Greet Zone you should only greet or welcome them if you are positive that no other employee has done so.
You might also consider "banning" closed-ended questions and certain phrases in this zone including, "How may I help you?" and "Do you have any questions?"
Zone #3: The No Shadow One-to-One Zone. After the Welcome/Greet Zone is zone three, which is most of the store. It's in this area that experiences are delivered and sales are made. Or not. As we saw last week, being too overbearing in this area can actually upset customers. That's why zone three is a No Shadow Zone.
The goal in this area is to engage the customer in a one-on-one conversation. Not a sales pitch per se but a conversation to get to know your customer and develop a relationship with him/her.
If your customer clearly wants to be left alone then by all means do so. And this doesn't mean just stopping talking but also giving him/her the appropriate physical space to enjoy your store. No shadowing! I'm sure that if your customer has a question or wants to buy something he'll find you.
The no-shadow rule of course does not apply to people you suspect might have less than honest intentions. If you believe a customer is interested in your products but not so interested in paying for them then of course you want to show them so much attention they get annoyed and move on to another store.
Owners/managers of stores that aren't already sectioned into zones may well want to review this three zone system. You'll find that such an approach goes a long way to ensuring that every customer has a great experience and has the opportunity to share their money with you.