Mar­ket­ing Mat­ters

… and mer­chants can take ad­van­tage of it

Alberta Venture - - Contents - By Kyle B. Mur­ray

Re­tail ther­apy is a thing, and mer­chants can take ad­van­tage of it

even small changes to a re­tail space can im­prove shop­pers’ moods and in­crease their will­ing­ness to spend

Are you in a bad mood? Has the dark and cold Al­berta win­ter got you down? Would shop­ping make you feel bet­ter?

Ac­cord­ing to re­search pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Psy­chol­ogy and Mar­ket­ing, for many peo­ple the an­swer is, “Yes.” In the study, pub­lished in 2011, re­searchers found that peo­ple could sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove their mood when they spent an av­er­age of US$59 on a treat for them­selves. A fol­low-up sur­vey in­di­cated that those shop­pers did not re­gret the pur­chase and did not ex­pe­ri­ence a down­turn in mood after the pur­chase was made. The au­thors con­clude that “re­tail ther­apy” is alive and well.

This fact is not lost on mer­chants. In­deed, many re­tail­ers be­lieve that their best de­fence against los­ing rev­enue to on­line sales is an en­joy­able in- store shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. Although e-com­merce cur­rently rep­re­sents a very small share of over­all con­sumer spend­ing in Canada, it is grow­ing rapidly and many busi­nesses are see­ing a steady yearover-year de­cline in store traf­fic. As a re­sult, the sci­ence of the shop­ping en­vi­ron­ment is quickly be­com­ing an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of con­sumer mar­ket­ing.

An im­por­tant part of this emerg­ing field is at­mo­spher­ics re­search – that is, the study of the im­pact of light­ing, colour, scent and sound on buyer be­hav­iour. The goal is to en­sure that the shop­per feels good about vis­it­ing a phys­i­cal store, even if it doesn’t re­sult in an im­me­di­ate pur­chase. Ul­ti­mately, the re­search tells us that when you are in a good mood, you tend to spend more time shop­ping and spend more money. When you are in a bad mood, you are more likely to rush through the store and spend less money. In ad­di­tion, peo­ple who en­joy be­ing in a store are more likely to put up with driv­ing, park­ing and shop­ping, and less likely to shop on­line. More than ever, stores are be­ing de­signed to pro­vide en­vi­ron­ments that en­gage you and make you a hap­pier shop­per.

Lead­ers in at­mo­spher­ics have been de­sign­ing en­vi­ron­ments to ap­peal to their tar­get cus­tomers for years. One ex­am­ple you are prob­a­bly fa­mil­iar with is LUSH cos­met­ics. Even if you have never been in­side one of their stores, you have likely no­ticed the scent of the re­tailer’s freshly made bath and beauty prod­ucts from well out­side their front door. Take a mo­ment to glance in­side and you will likely see a store over­flow­ing with cus­tomers. It might not be for ev­ery­one, but LUSH has de­signed an in-store ex­pe­ri­ence that is not eas­ily repli­cated on­line or by the com­pe­ti­tion. In a com­pletely dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory, Bass Pro Shops and Ca­bela’s have also used el­e­ments of store de­sign that aim to ap­peal to a shop­per in­ter­ested in hunt­ing or fish­ing. From the smell of Ca­bela’s fudge shop to Bass Pro Shops’ gi­ant fish aquar­i­ums, at­mo­spher­ics is less about what the re­tailer is sell­ing and more about an en­vi­ron­ment that fa­cil­i­tates sales.

Gro­cery stores are mas­ters at us­ing the bak­ery and the pro­duce sec­tions to en­gage your sense of smell and to cre­ate colour­ful dis­plays. In Al­berta, Safe­way has for many years been an at­mo­spher­ics leader in the gro­cery busi­ness with in­no­va­tive store de­signs that use light­ing and colour to cre­ate a more com­fort­able shop­ping en­vi­ron­ment, even go­ing so far as to add a Star­bucks or Tim Hor­tons to make your time in the store a more pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. Re­cent en­trants from Loblaws’ City Mar­kets to Fre­son Broth­ers’ gro­cery stores have de­signed shop­ping en­vi­ron­ments that im­prove their com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion.

The grow­ing in­ter­est in re­tail at­mo­spher­ics is sup­ported by a se­ries of stud­ies that in­di­cate a clear ef­fect on sales and prof­itabil­ity. For ex­am­ple, in a study of two IKEA stores with dif­fer­ent in­te­rior de­signs – that is, lay­out, in­te­rior colours, re­cent ren­o­va­tions, and fur­ni­ture pre­sen­ta­tion – Ger­man re­searcher Kordelia Spies and col­leagues found that when a store’s in­te­rior is seen by con­sumers as more pleas­ant to shop in, it af­fected their be­hav­iour. The store with a su­pe­rior at­mo­spheric de­sign stim­u­lated pos­i­tive feel­ings in its cus­tomers. More im­por­tantly, when the store’s in­te­rior made cus­tomers feel bet­ter, they spent more money. My own re­search, con­ducted with col­leagues at the Univer­sity of Al­berta, has demon­strated that even small changes to a re­tail space – such as adding win­dows or sky­lights to in­crease the amount of nat­u­ral sun­light in a store – can im­prove shop­pers’ moods and in­crease their will­ing­ness to spend.

Could it be that our dark and cold win­ters are part of the rea­son why Al­berta has such a high level of re­tail square footage per capita? If you are feel­ing like win­ter has been too long and spring is still too far away, maybe a trip to your favourite store will cheer you up. Re­search sug­gests you won’t re­gret it.


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