Mmm…merchandising: Tasty ideas to make your coffee shop even more appetizing.

With cafes and kiosks popping up on every block, cornering the market on brisk sales can feel like a caffeine-buzz-kill. Fortunately, mastering merchandising can be the secret sauce to boosting sales and enhancing the customer experience. Read on then level up.

1: Window dressing for success.

Hot take: visual merchandising is not just about displaying products.

Hotter take: good merchandising is about strategically arranging your store to entice customers to make additional purchases and keep them coming back for more.

Visual merchandising is the art of using your store layout, displays, and signage to influence customer behavior and increase sales. While advertising attracts customers to your shop, visual merchandising seals the deal by presenting products in a way that encourages additional purchases–which in turn can increase the lifetime value of a customer.

2: Planning it all out.

Grocery stores do it. Amusement parks do it. Restaurants do it. And so should you. Behavioral scientists have spent decades optimizing environments to encourage not only a positive experience, but also a positive cash balance by influencing purchasing behavior.

A great layout can lay the foundation for success for your coffee shop. Start by planning your store layout thoughtfully. Consider the placement of pastry cases, product shelving, counter space, and seating areas to ensure adequate seating and product prioritization. Maintain a neat and organized store layout to facilitate easy browsing for customers. Invest in attractive displays and avoid overcrowding shelves to prevent decision fatigue.

Underestimating your merchandising space = missed opportunities


3: Prioritization, positioning, and presentation: minding your Ps.

What makes your coffee shop unique? What keeps the cash register ringing? What makes customers smile and come back for more? Discover the answers to these questions, and you’ll know what to prioritize in your cafe’s space. Whether it's brewing methods, mugs, or pastries, ensure that high-profit items receive prime placement.

Also make sure items are appropriately presented. If you place pastries in the case in their original packaging, it’ll look like you just went to the store and tossed them in. Unpackage and place food on plates, then arrange them with care. Also, be mindful if stock runs low. Polite patrons will be hesitant to take the last item and wary customers may worry that the items are old and have been skipped over for a reason.

Underground Tip Display six of any food item, four of any coffee bag or merchandise item, and two of any bigger ticket item like brewers for an enticing, sales-encouraging presentation.

Underground Tip

Display six of any food item, four of any coffee bag or merchandise item, and two of any bigger ticket item like brewers for an enticing, sales-encouraging presentation.

4: Add-ons that add up.

Add-ons and cafes go together like coffee and cream. Enhance customer experience by offering options that will take their visit from good to great. People who are in your shop are likely already in a “treat yourself” frame of mind. By offering goodies to go with drink purchases–or simply goods to go–you give customers another thing to love about your cafe and another reason to come back. Just make sure that goods like pastries, mugs, take-home coffee, apparel, and more, are visible–and accessible—while customers are in line. If a customer has to step out of line for a pastry and risk losing their spot, they likely won’t make the two-foot trek for that extra purchase.

5: Look good, play good.

It’s no surprise that people are attracted to visually appealing goods. What may be a surprise? How easy it is to shine a light on what’s great at your coffee shop.

Highlight visually appealing products to capture customer interest. Experiment with lighting. (Did you know that most pastries look better under gentler, warmer light, but certain frosted goods look better with cool light?) Add brightly colored packaging or seasonal decor to perk up presentation and pique the interest of patrons waiting in line. Your store’s goods should look good enough to eat and amazing enough to buy. Right. Now.


6: The 80/20 rule.

Eighty percent of your sales will come from twenty percent of your inventory. The trick: identifying that small but mighty 20. If you’re guessing that coffee drinks top the list, guess again. Cookies, brownies, whole coffee bean bags, pre-packaged teas, baked goods, mugs, and brewers typically top the list. Customers may come for the coffee, but your coffee shop will stay open because of the add-ons.

Track your sales to ensure that you’re continuing to provide quality, relevant products to your customers. Considering adding new inventory items? Know how it will fit in with other products and whether the sales will outweigh the cost of the product and marketing.

7: Signs, signs, everywhere a sign.

Signs grab attention, inform, and direct. They should be eye-catching, easy to read, and work to make the experience pleasant.

Utilize clear signage to guide customers and make ordering easy. Consider directing customers to different ordering stations for espresso beverages and pastries vs. brewed coffee.

Create menu signs that are clear, descriptive, and creative, organizing into categories such as Hot Coffee and Espresso Beverages, Frozen and Iced Beverages, Teas & Other Non-Coffee Drinks, etc. Offer recommended pairings at point-of-sale with signs that include taste characteristics, how drinks are brewed, and more, and use promotional signage to showcase special events, seasonal drinks, and discounts. Ready to get really creative? Host informational events like home espresso making or picking the perfect coffee blend. The more interest you generate, the more sales you’ll garner.

Underground Tip Don’t underestimate the power of signs that tell customers where to order and where to pick up their drinks. Lost customers mean lost sales.

Underground Tip

Don’t underestimate the power of signs that tell customers where to order and where to pick up their drinks. Lost customers mean lost sales.

8: Empower employees.

Your staff knows. They know when and where customers are confused. They know which products move and which stay on the shelf. They know why people come back–and why they go elsewhere. By encouraging your staff to actively engage with customers and make relevant product recommendations, you are raising the visibility of what–and who–makes your coffee shop great. Ask employees to step in to help customers who need assistance ordering, to taste what your cafe is serving so they can speak to it from a place of true authenticity, to know what’s in your cafe’s foods and drinks, and more. They are your greatest allies.