I talked earlier about booths with so much stuff in them, you can’t get in. This common booth layout flaw is similar.
The way(s) into and out of the booth are way too small.
I called this essay “Alice’s Tiny Doors” because it reminds me of one of John Tenniel’s illustration in the book Alice in Wonderland. It’s the one where Alice is trying to get through a door that’s only two feet tall.
I’m guessing this booth layout problem happens when people design their booths on graph paper. You start to lay out these little squares and rectangles, lining everything up just so and squishing in as much display as you can. You plan a three-foot wide entrance, and leave a little three-foot wide path along here. The idea is the booth visitor will come through the little entrance and work there way along the path you’ve created.
In fact, years ago when I was part of a large group booth, the original plan was just that–a long, narrow booth with a U-shaped path consisting of two narrow entrances at the front. The idea was we would have display tables lining every wall. Visitors would come in one leg of the U and walk through, looking at every exhibit.
Everyone was very excited about the layout. Until I said, “How many people do you think can shop in that booth at one time?”
I pointed out that the aisles were less than three feet wide. “That’s plenty of room for people to get through!” protested one artist.
Well…maybe. Though that didn’t mean people would WANT to walk through such a narrow aisle. “What happens if another person comes in the other ‘leg’ of the U?” I asked.
“People can scootch by each other”, one guy said. I noticed some of the women beginning to look uncomfortable. Women do not like people scootching by them when they are shopping.
“Okay, so let’s assume people will be willing to scootch. Buyers often shop in pairs. Now we have three people–or four people–trying to squish by each other. How conducive is that to shopping?” People began to nod their heads.
“And we’re supposed to be manning the booth. If two or three of us are in this aisle, that means every single shopper has to squish by every single craftsman working in the booth. How conducive is that to shopping?”
The layout was scrapped.
In this case, we had a beautiful booth location–four back-to-back booths at the end of a double row. We ended up keeping one large back wall (for our banner, wall art, etc.) and made multiple islands of display. Let people come into the booth no matter what aisle they’re in, I suggested. We ended up with almost six points entry.
That meant whenever one special item caught a buyer’s eye, they could immediately and easily pop into the booth and look. Once they were in our space, it felt like a department store. They could see many other intriguing displays, and they could easily move from one to the next.
This was a highly successful booth, because once people came in, they stayed. And the longer they stayed, the more they bought.
Try not to herd people through cattle chutes in your booth. No scootching! Pablo Underhill used the term “butt brush” in his excellent book Why We Buy
The butt brush is when aisles are too narrow and someone brushes someone else from behind as they attempt to pass buy. The reaction of the brushed person is profound and extreme–they immediately stop shopping. It is an especially powerful reaction in women. So by all means, if you want women to stop shopping and leave your booth, make sure they are getting brushed and bumped from behind as people scootch by.
Guide people subtly with your display layout, and use visual cues to move them through your booth. Arrange your work so that one display leads to the next. Signage, dashes of color in a neutral display, lighting, work angled in interesting ways–all of these are so much more conducive to shopping than narrow paths and rigid layouts.