Designing a Precinct that Responds to Purchase Paths

It is believed that up to 35% of all food sales are generated form impulse purchases and this rises to 45% in some countries in Asia. But what does this have to do with the design of your space? Purchase paths are key to gaining these transactions within a precinct and it all comes down to the way a space is designed to allow customers to walk through, seek out and purchase with ease and sometimes without even thinking. 

We’ve all done days at a shopping centre, high-street shopping strip or cultural precinct where you’ve tired yourself out and all you want to do is have a break. The placement of food offers is crucial at this point. At that moment, a customer is likely to stop at the next place that looks appealing and ideal for a break. Better yet, if there is a menu that caters to this type of customer (maybe it’s coffee and cake or a cafe) there is a good chance they will purchase something even if they hadn’t necessarily intended to when they walked in. 

Laduree Chadstone  - strategically placed as a pitstop outside the specific food precinct zones within the centre  (image via Hospitality Magazine)

Laduree Chadstone - strategically placed as a pitstop outside the specific food precinct zones within the centre (image via Hospitality Magazine)

During the masterplanning and design analysis phase of a project, our team thoroughly assess the purchase paths customers of that space are likely to follow and we look at these in relation to the entire precinct or centre. By doing this, we can give our recommendations on how to incorporate these purchase paths into the design to ensure people can move through it as well as allocate space for F&B outlets to be placed that match and respond to those purchase paths and the customers which might be walking them. 

The overall aim of designing around purchase paths is to create clusters of retail and food and beverage offers which align to the greater retail statement but also nurture the customer who uses it.  Place a fun and easy going cafe with good coffee near the children’s shops so that families can easily take a time out, design spaces where carts and pop-ups can be set up along shopping paths to capture those impulse purchases, recognise that F&B offers do not need to be bound by the barrier of a ‘food court’ but can be dotted throughout retail clusters to ensure that a customer can stop and take part in a hospitality experience at any stage. The Emporium in Melbourne is a great example of how the design of a space has nurtured customer purchase paths with customers only having to consider they’d like something to eat or drink before they turn around and spot something that will appeal to them. As Managing Director, Francis states "it is all about the visual stimulation which creates the senses to feel and emotionally desire to buy and enjoy"

The Magnum pop-up at Westfield Sydney  (image via Westfield)

The Magnum pop-up at Westfield Sydney (image via Westfield)

Designing around purchase paths isn’t just considering how the customer moves either. It is a powerful tool to direct your visitors through your centre the way you would like them to. Think about IKEA who have masterfully designed and implemented a natural purchase path for you to follow that allows you to fill your trolley, eat some food and collect your goods without even really thinking about it. Their design ensures that there is a customer flow as well as a certainty for sales maximisation by designing in space for small items, impulse purchases and food offers to pop up along the purchase path. Before you know it, you’re checking out at the cash register with a hot dog in one hand, a bunch of items you didn’t even know you needed and the one item you actually came for. 

5 Key Points for Designing Around Purchase Paths


  1. Consider natural purchase paths in the design phase of your precinct to ensure you understand customer flow and use it to your centre or precinct’s advantage

  2. Masterplan your precinct according to these purchase paths to create a seamless and engaging hospitality experience for customers visiting your precinct  

  3. Create new purchase paths that take full advantage of customer flow and maximise the potential for sales in your precinct and to ensure there are no ‘dark zones’ in your centre

  4. Do not be limited by permanent tenancies. Pop-ups and food carts can be placed along purchase paths to respond to trends or provide a temporary offer. 

  5. Use a hospitality consultant to do a design analysis and create a strategy for your precinct that maximises the existing and created customer purchase paths to achieve your maximum sales potential

The design of a space can both respond to the customer’s purchase paths or create them making it a very powerful aspect to consider when creating a precinct that wants to maximise it’s sales opportunities. Without considering these paths and incorporating them into the plans of a precinct, you might be missing a large number of sales, particularly those based on impulse. Not only that, successfully creating and nurturing purchase paths through good architecture and design means customers use the space in a way that optimises flow and reduces congestion making it a more pleasurable experience for them when they’re in it. 

Credits - cover image via MasterCard of Eataly, Italy