The science of shopping

There are several visual techniques used in a shop to dictate which products are discovered and how they are interpreted. We might believe we have full control of our purchases and the way we shop – but that is not always the case.

All retailers are interested in increasing sales, using advanced and detailed procedures in terms of marketing and displays techniques to influence purchase decisions and light is one of the key factors. 

Research suggests that more than 65 percent of buying decisions are made in the physical store. All decisions are made consciously but the products and brands in a shop must pass our non-conscious filter to pop up as a viable choice. This amplifies the importance of the retailer to set the stage – since a lot of valuable decisions are made on site.

Jens Nordfält, PhD in store marketing, is dedicated to research and education at the Stockholm School of Economics and at the ICA, one of the Nordic region’s leading retail companies.

“We know that the store experience affects the consumer significantly. Many customers allow themselves to be influenced of what to buy, but also what they should think about a product’s price and quality. In fact, it is impossible to consider a product without being influenced by the perceptual system. And the perception is mainly affected by visual impression”, Jens explains.

There are many factors that affect the decisions made in a shop; the product assortment, the brand, the pricing, how the merchandise is positioned and displayed both in the shop and on the shelves. Research has shown that the shop atmosphere is central; defined by the colours, lighting, scent, sound, design, size and shape. Correlations between feelings such as joy and excitement affect not only the time spent in the shop but also the share of purchases made.

The impact of light

As a large percentage of the purchase decisions are made in the shop, the atmosphere is an decisive factor as well as colours used. We believe that the lighting is an important element not only setting an atmosphere but also enhancing and signifying colours of the merchandise. Furthermore the light itself can enhance or generate colours by using Tunable White or RGB. 

There are a couple of experiments that have tested the effects of lighting, which is often treated as only one of many elements in the store. To summarise, the research studies show that warm colours draw more attention but conversely cool colours are more appreciated. 

These findings are something we at Fagerhult have incorporated in the way we plan light. We have examples where we have illuminated displays positioned next to the walls with blue LED strips casting blue light in the whole shop and using warmer light levels on the actual merchandise. Then we achieve a cool, encouraging atmosphere but also draw attention towards the products. This atmosphere can also be achieved with Tunable White that gives even greater flexibility for the retailer.

Light has been proven to significantly affect two human areas: vision and sense of excitement. Lighting is necessary for us as customers to process the relevant information in the shop, but it can also enhance specific products where the retailer wants to boost sales. In that way, a well planned lighting solution can increase sales. The commercial impact of a lighting installation can also relate to how well it correlates with the brand values and the total shop experience. These values can be more difficult to measure in direct sales, but we know a good lighting solution can reinforce brand value and give the visitor a better experience, even if the actual purchase is later made on-line. 

Lighting is an effective tool when you deliberately want to take the customer around the shop in a predetermined order, and a perfect way to complement and strengthen the effects of the layout of the store. 

Light that sell

We have done tests in shops where we displayed soft drinks bottles with narrow beams and a warm light to bring out the warm colours of the bottles. We compared this with the same display using only the general store lighting, which is very common in supermarkets today. The customers paid more attention to the accentuated bottles and the sales of those increased. It all comes down to how our eyes and senses work. Our eyes and senses are always looking and searching for the brightest spot, that’s where the information is – no light, no information.