Have you ever studied how customers shop in your store? Observing your customers’ shopping habits may reveal some areas where you can maximize your profits with a few simple changes to your store’s operations.

Shoppers who anticipate long wait times buy less

Researchers at Duke University recently studied how waiting in line affected buying behavior by comparing line length with loyalty card data that tracks purchases over several months. They found that the perception of long wait times could be a deterrent even if wait times were not actually long. So a pooled longer line (say 9 people) being served by 3 employees was perceived as being a longer wait than having three single lines of three people, each served by a single employee. However, pooled lines may be more efficient, since multiple lines could result in an empty line if customers do not switch lines.

The study also found that customers who care more about low prices are less concerned about waiting in line, while those who are not as price-conscious care more about long wait times.

How can you use this to your advantage? When offering a promotion that appeals to price-sensitive customers, you could place these items where lines tend to be longer. More expensive items could be placed near a checkout area that typically has multiple, shorter lines.

Of course, having a user-friendly, intuitive point-of-sale system also speeds up checkout times and improves customer relations. And a simple acknowledgement from an employee when the customer steps in line works wonders for keeping shoppers in line long enough to make a purchase.

Give customers a place to put impulse buys

Shoppers are often carrying phones, drinks, purses, coats, children, and more when they enter a store. Thinking she just wants one thing, a customer may not grab a cart at the front of the store. As she walks through the aisles looking for that single purchase, she sees several other items she needs, but doesn’t have a place to put them! That temptation to make an impulse buy is suppressed and you’ve lost a sale.

A simple solution is to place baskets at the ends of aisles and other various locations in your store. You can also train your employees to offer carts or baskets to customers who are juggling a number of items, or have them offer to take the items to the checkout line for them while they continue to shop.

Social analyst Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, was asked to help a struggling business. When he suggested that employees hand out baskets to any customer carrying three or more items, sales rose instantly. Underhill explains, “because people tend to be gracious when someone tries to help, shoppers almost unanimously accepted the baskets.”

Keep an eye on how customers enter your store, and how they shop. Try to spot the little inconveniences and problems, and offer solutions. Customers will sense that they matter and will reward you with increased loyalty and business.