Good hearing is a sensitive subject. Customers not only want competent advice, they also want to feel as comfortable as if they were visiting friends. In terms of ambience, this means preferring a design hotel to a sterile medical practice and paying attention to every detail. Nothing is more off-putting than withered boxwoods at the entrance or dead flies in the display window. In the following article, independent decorator Karin Wahl shares her best tips for a coherent, inviting store window and store design.
Well, I belong to the generation of baby boomers (a strange term for people who are already advanced in age) or best agers (which I definitely like better!). Thank God I am still blessed with relatively good hearing, but I am starting to notice that something is coming up. Where would I go when that time came? I see myself as a modern, creative and young-at-heart Best Ager, who stands by his age, but would not loudly announce that he now suddenly has to acquire a hearing aid. It should be an audiologist whose store feels as if you are sitting together with friends. Not too sterile, not looking like a doctor’s office – I’m not sick. It should look more like the lobby of a beautiful design hotel. Here I am a guest, here I feel comfortable, here I want to stay. By the way, this was also the result of a survey in my environment (also baby boomers). But what exactly should the store or the store design look like?
There is no second chance for the first impression. That’s why, as with everything, it’s crucial. How does the store look from a distance? Does the company radiate competence and friendliness? Can you even tell from the outside what’s on offer here? I have to admit that when I was researching this article, I walked past a few hearing aid stores and didn’t recognize them as such. Is it a chain of stores or a sole proprietorship? Already in front of the door you can demonstrate individualism in order to draw attention to yourself and to appear inviting.
Spotlights, pedestals and unusual, carefully selected decorative objects effectively showcase even small and inconspicuous products such as hearing aids.
The second impression is usually made with the shop window. This is the business card and the door opener. The products offered in hearing aid acoustics are naturally extremely small and can hardly attract attention. This may be taken over by additional elements such as information boards or very targeted design elements. But please do not overload the display window with too much decorative material! It is better to place the product on a pillar to make it more valuable and bring it into focus, as in a museum. The highest attention has products or information, which are built up in a height between 80 and 160 cm. It is then essential to direct a spotlight on them, as this attracts the eye. Of course, corresponding content can also be played via screens in the shop window, also called digital signage.
However, it would be fatal to just pick up a TV at the electronics store. These devices do not have sufficient light intensity and are not designed for continuous operation. There is nothing worse than a black screen with the word “Error” on it, as I experienced during my visit to a hearing care professional.
A well-groomed appearance has a positive impact on a company’s image. This already starts in the entrance area.
You are also welcome to make sure that there are no dead flies in the window. Why they always die in the window is still unclear to me. But they do it and that mostly in the collective. Five to ten on an area of 1 to 2 m2 are not uncommon, especially in the summer time. If you are not careful as a store owner, you can damage your positive image, because unconsciously the passer-by notices every little thing.
So, the external appearance appealed to me and it could become “my” hearing aid acoustician. But now comes the decisive point: the entrance area. This is where I decide whether I want to enter or whether I would prefer to continue on my way. How will I be greeted? What kind of atmosphere awaits me? Does the store have a “soul”? Since I’m sure to spend more time there, I want to feel comfortable. A significant influence on this is not only a special, modern and appealing interior, but above all the right light plays an important role.
A pleasant, warm lighting atmosphere immediately makes the customer feel at ease. The lighting should not appear too cool. With the new LED lighting technology, there are already spotlights in various white light colors – from warmer to cooler tones – and certain LED luminaires can even be dimmed. There are also intelligent luminaires that can be conveniently regulated via a light management system. With the so-called Casambi control, the mood can be adjusted to the time of day. This can be done very easily with the help of an app via smartphone. Optimum illumination is achieved with general, indirect ambient lighting and individual spotlights directed at specific features. This gives the room a certain three-dimensionality. The back of the room can be a little brighter than the front, as no one likes to go into dark corners. Defective lamps must be replaced as soon as possible, because only what is in the light can be seen.
What should be the design of the store? Warm colors may be chosen for the furnishings. At the moment, muted colors, such as a warm anthracite wall color, are very popular in store design. If this is combined with natural wood tones, the result is a harmonious, modern image. Perhaps it is enough sometimes to paint only one wall anew, in order to pep up an in the years come Ladenbau again somewhat.
The waiting area can be furnished like a modern lounge. Two or three special chairs, along with a bouquet of flowers on a beautiful table, immediately convey a contemporary character and have an inviting effect. And not just for an older audience. When I think about my circle of acquaintances, there are a few DJs who needed hearing aids when they were younger. Even my 88-year-old aunt has assured me that she would choose a modern company. This generation is also changing and has become more demanding in terms of style.
Even in fashion retail, it has long been accepted that it is better to dispense with a few product carriers and instead offer a quiet zone with seating in a homely character along with a coffee bar. This is intended to signal to customers that shopping does not necessarily have to mean stress. Home away from home. Shopping is a leisure activity, and during this precious time I want to be as comfortable as possible. I want to arrive and be accepted as if I were with friends, especially in hearing care, because I have to trust them with my aches and pains.
So it’s a rather intimate story that I don’t like to share with everyone. And now, finally, you come into play and are allowed to. Smile what the stuff holds. As the German lyricist Edeltrud Wisser wrote so accurately?
Clean, but not sterile, modern, and yet with a feel-good character: the Lux hearing center in Cologne.
Information boards, signposts or current rules of conduct may also have character and radiate personality. A customer who immediately knows where to go, can orient himself and is informed will feel well taken care of. Beautiful signs, perhaps even written by hand, show the closeness and personality of the owner. If it then still goes into the back office for a hearing test, it may also have a special atmosphere here.
Disorder creates stress and is unconsciously transferred to the management. Various documents, parcels that the parcel service has just delivered, plants that are not watered here either, all have a rather careless effect. Clean and tidy it may be, but just with that certain something. Think also of how the customer is seen off. Overcrowded checkout counters with brochures, too many information boards or possibly even a colorful piggy bank (please don’t … your efforts are self-evident, aren’t they?) also create unrest. The customers take the last impression with them and this is stored in the brain. You want them to come back for sure and in the best case recommend you to others, because they spend a good time with you, which is then also fun.
Of course, restoring good hearing requires competence, know-how and experience. This is what a hearing care professional and his company should radiate from the outside. But the personal aspect should not be ignored. The sensitive subject of a hearing loss is something that customers – regardless of age – want to share with someone who is friendly and who creates a pleasant feel-good atmosphere for the time spent together, with spirit and soul.
This is exactly what a store should radiate, because – as the title says – a store has to smile before the staff can. After all, as a customer, I don’t know in advance how I will be received and advised by the hearing care professional on a personal level. Put on the customer glasses, see what the customers see, think yourself into your customers, feel what the customers feel. I, for one, know what criteria I will be looking for when choosing my hearing care professional, when the time comes.
What should a hearing care professional’s store look like today? The demands of the target group have risen. They expect a modern business with a feel-good character. This ranges from a well-designed shop window and an inviting entrance area to a more homely interior. Details determine the selection of the personal hearing care professional. Here I am a guest, here I feel comfortable.