When talk turns to how you can improve the shopping experience of your customers, you'll undoubtedly overhear discussions around customer service. Or, about which store policies to implement. And, over what products to stock to ensure shoppers return. That said, there is another matter worth considering that might not get as much airtime. That's your store atmospherics.
What is atmospherics (and why does it matter)?
As a retail term, ‘atmospherics’ is simple to unpack, so we’re not going to go into too much depth explaining it. It’s the ‘why does it matter’ that is the far more interesting question.
Here’s that brief explanation before we continue:
Atmospherics refers to the atmosphere or mood that you create in your store by way of introducing various elements and effects. When done consistently, it allows you to build and develop your store personality - the identity that gives life to your retail brand. That means you can also use it to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Of course, there is more to it. Marketing author and consultant, Philip Kotler, who was the first to coin the term - in a 1973 article in the Journal of Retailing - believes the atmosphere you create in your store to be just as, if not more important, than the products you decide to stock.
That’s because of one simple reason: An appealing in-store atmosphere has a positive impact on the overall behaviour of your customers. It’s a key tactic you can use to influence shopper behaviour. What’s more, it’s also linked to visual merchandising. And you’d only need to consider the different elements to understand the truth in that.
We’ll dig into each of the critical atmospheric components below. For now, it’s worth pointing out this: The difference between getting it right or wrong can mean a customer shopping for longer and increasing their basket size or walking out without buying anything.
How to make the most of atmospherics
While the specific atmospheric elements you chose for your store can vary significantly from your competitors, the fundamentals remain the same. That is because this is about creating a pleasant shopping environment that encourages customers to stay in your store for longer and, while there, spend more.
And the best way of accomplishing that is to appeal to the senses.
The first significant element that plays a role in creating the right mood is the lighting you choose. That’s because while subtle, it goes a long way to either encouraging or discouraging customers to walk into your store and shop.
For example, if you choose lighting that is too dark, you create a store mood that is foreboding. Unless that is your aim and it fits your retail brand, you’re subconsciously telling customers not to visit. Too light, however, and you could blind your customers and discourage them from returning.
So, how do you take advantage of your lighting?
Firstly, you need to consider your lighting options. There is general or ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting and decorative lighting. Each will suit a different part of your store and fulfil a specific role.
From there, it’s a case of looking at the products you sell and matching them to the type of lighting that’ll you believe will highlight them best. Also, ask yourself what you want your customers to feel when they see or interact with products in your store.
Do you want them to feel nostalgic? Then decorative lighting would be the way to go. Do you want them to believe that a product is important? Then accent lighting is a better bet.
Let’s say that you’re a consumer electronics retailer. In that case, you’d be better off choosing bright lighting to highlight your products. Meanwhile, if you sell groceries or have an in-store bakery, it would be better to pick warm, soft lighting since that encourages shoppers to browse your store for longer.
Besides the lighting for your store, the music you choose also plays a role in creating the right mood for your store (and retail brand).
There are a few steps you can take to choose the right music. Most are a result of answering a set of questions.
Firstly, what type of mood do you want to create? Do you want a fun and happy shopping environment? Then it’s worth playing upbeat music. Are you more interested in creating a calm and relaxed atmosphere? Then it’s a better idea to invest in classical or jazz music with a low tempo.
On that, the tempo of your music plays a key role too. While slow music encourages your customers to browse your store, high tempo music will see your customers moving through your store at a quicker pace. Of course, there are extremes to both. Too slow and you’ll bore (and even irritate) shoppers. Too fast and they’ll feel rushed.
Volume is another factor, albeit an obvious one. By turning the volume up too high, you’re again subconsciously telling your customers to cut their shopping time. There is even research, which shows that music loudness has a direct impact on how long your customers spend time in your store. But, by lowing the volume too much, you could sabotage yourself, making the shopping experience awkward and uncomfortable.
Lastly, you need to consider the type of customer you want to attract. Are you looking to attract young or older customers? Are they male or female? Then you need to choose music that’ll match what they expect while they shop.
Imagine you run a pharmacy, and you play deep bass. Or, you’re a clothing retailer explicitly aimed at the youth, and you play classical music. Both situations will work against you rather than for you.
If you’re unsure about what music to play, and you have the budget, it’s worth considering investing in an in-store radio station that caters to your target market.
While sight and sound are the two most prominent senses that all retailers should use, there is another sense that you would do well to consider. And that’s regardless of the type of retailer you are or the products you sell.
As the sub-heading points out, that’s the scent you’d utilise in your store. And yes, it can work for you no matter what type of products you sell.
That’s because you can use smell to enhance the shopping experience. The most obvious example is if you have an in-store bakery. With the smell of freshly baked bread or other baked goods, you can invite people in, and keep them there.
Another common tactic is to use floral scents. And there is a good reason why it’s so common. Floral scents are known to increase the time a shopper spends in a store.
Of course, you don’t have to use floral scents or baked goods and keep them near your entrance. There are other specific scents that also offer you positive responses.
For example, if you’re going for a relaxed mood in your store, it’s also worth including scents such as lavender, basil or cinnamon or orange as they are known for reducing anxiety.
Meanwhile, if you want to give your customers a feeling of warmth and ensure they feel comfortable while browsing your store, vanilla is a scent.
Besides that, you could also look at introducing a specific scent during a particular season or around an event. For example, over Valentine’s Day, you could think about ginger, chocolate or cardamom scent since this evokes feelings of romance and love.
Psychologically speaking, people attribute certain emotions to colours. That is why it is such a powerful visual merchandising tool. Colour can change the whole mood of your store and anyone who enters it.
For example, yellow evokes happiness and cheerfulness. It’s associated with summer and the beach and is upbeat. Red evokes passion and anger, but it’s also warm and the colour of love. Meanwhile, grey is a calming colour, and while it can appear elegant and sophisticated, it could also dampen the mood if misused.
That said, as much as there has been in-depth exploration around colour and the psychological influence it has on shoppers, that doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. Let’s say you decide to pick hues of brown for a store display that you want to put up in your store.
Now, if you consider colour psychology, it’s common enough to associate brown with the outdoors and treat it as a warm colour. You can also use it together with other colours to build a striking display. However, that doesn’t mean all shoppers think the same. There may be some who associate brown with dirty and uncleanliness.
Thus, when choosing your colour scheme, consider your target market and what they like. If they are the outdoors type, then browns are a good bet. But it’s not necessarily a good idea if you sell high-end products and you want to exude elegance and sophistication.
There is also another point to make here: it’s crucial that you don’t go overboard with colour. While it can be effective for a display, too many colours in your store could not only confuse customers - where are they meant to look? It could also frustrate them.
Colour is meant to draw the eye and help your shoppers instead of overwhelming them.
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