Skip to content
Increase Dwell Time
Darren GilbertSep 20, 2018 12:05:21 PM12 min read

How to Increase Dwell Time And Maximise Customer Spend

Increase Dwell Time

While keeping shoppers satisfied should be a primary goal, you also need to look after your bottom line. A simple way of doing that is to increase dwell time. After all, the longer they stay, the more they are likely to spend.

Increase Dwell Time Icons 1

What is dwell time and why is it so important?

As a concept, dwell time is straightforward. It refers to a period, either brief or lengthy that your customers spend interacting with your product or brand. Most often used when relating to web pages and online advertising, dwell time refers to “the actual length of time that a visitor spends on a page before returning to the SERPs”.

However, it’s not necessary to confine it to an online space. It works just as well anywhere else, including a retail store. As we alluded to above, in the retail context, dwell time refers to the length of time shoppers remain in your store. As they spend more time in your store, their average spend will increase, and you’ll reap the benefit.

There is more to this than merely encouraging your customers to spend more money while in your store. Dwell time can also provide you with valuable insights into who your customers are and, more importantly, provide you with retail data that will inform you of how they behave while in your store.

Content 1-Enterprise-04

Let’s say, for example, that they generally spend a short amount of time shopping Category A. That could indicate to you that shoppers view this as a Convenience category and they want to get in and out with what they need. Thus, you wouldn’t consider stocking a broad range.

Of course, it’s not ideal for a customer to spend too much time in one area. As much as you want to increase their time spent in your store, you do want them to move around and purchase more than they had intended. If you find that shoppers are spending too much time shopping a category, that could indicate that they can’t find products easily due to incorrect merchandising, out of stocks or poor product layout.

Increase Dwell Time Icons 2

How can you increase the dwell time of your customers?

Considering that increasing the dwell time of your customers can lead to great shopper spend and thus more money in your pocket, there is no doubt about the fact that you need to know how to encourage it.

A word of warning though: this isn’t about forcing or tricking your customers into spending more time in your store. They’ll soon realise what you’re attempting to do and that could damage any trust that you might have built up.

Instead, you need to approach this subtly and in such a way that it becomes their decision to spend more time shopping at your store.

          1. Choose the right music for your stores

While the music you play in your store might seem trivial, that is not entirely accurate. Music plays a crucial role in helping shoppers to decide if they want to remain in your store to shop for longer or not.

Here are a few study findings cited by MotiveMetrics Research to prove that: loud music has a direct effect on the time spent in a store. Studies also suggest that it can lead to a skewed perception of how much time has passed.

The volume needs to be just loud enough to create a vibe for your customers to want to shop but not too loud that it becomes annoying.

The tempo also makes a difference - slow music tends to encourage more dwell time, leading to an increase in sales while a faster speed leads to shoppers moving through your store at a quicker pace. Of course, you do need to find a balance. Too slow and your customers could become bored.

So how do you choose the right music for your stores?

Besides finding the right tempo and volume, you must consider the type of customer that you want to attract. Are they young, old, male or female? Also, does the music you intend to play fit with your retail brand and customer expectations? It would make sense to play upbeat pop music if you’re target market is mostly teenagers or young adults, and you sell clothing, for example. But not if you intend to appeal to a broader audience.

If you run a grocery store or a pharmacy, it would make more sense to invest in a music playlist that appeals to as many shoppers as possible. An in-store radio station could work just as well.

          2. Choose the appropriate lighting

While music plays a crucial role in encouraging shoppers to remain in your store, so too does the lighting you choose.

That’s because using the right lighting helps you to guide your customers through your store, highlighting key areas that you’d like them to visit. This encourages them to browse different departments, exposing them to more of your product.

Of course, the right retail lighting does much more than illuminate your retail space and guide shoppers. It sets the mood and atmosphere and provides an overall backdrop to the customer experience. It’s also a key component in making your customers feel at home in your store. The more relaxed your customers are, the more likely they will spend.


Book a consultation with an Account Advisor to hear how DotActiv can help you to maintain store layout consistency across all of your stores


When choosing your retail lighting, it is crucial to consider all the different types. There is general/ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting, and decorate lighting amongst others. Next, you need to consider the products you sell and decide what type of lighting will best accentuate them. At the same time, you need to think about who your customers are and what kind of light would work best to entice them to remain in-store and purchase more.

For example, if you sell electronics, bright lighting could prove to be more effective since it helps customers to see products clearly. But not too bright that it’s distracting. Meanwhile, if you have an in-store bakery, you’d be better off using warm, soft lighting to encourage shoppers to stay.

          3. Use in-store product demonstrations

Another simple way to encourage your customers to spend more time in-store is to set up product demonstrations that will delay their exit.

Keep in mind, this is all about persuading your customers to remain in your store rather than forcing them to stay. Thus, with any product demonstration that you set up or approve, it needs to consider your customer first and look to solve a problem that needs fixing.

There are many different components to an effective in-store product demonstration that’ll drive more sales.

Firstly, you need to hire the right person or organisation. Most often, your suppliers and their field marketing team will conduct these demonstrations since they have the necessary experience. Because of their experience, they will have crafted a sales pitch that intrigues customers. Added to that will be a visual aspect, be it through colourful banners or an interactive display that will draw your shoppers in and keep them engaged.

If the demonstration is for an edible product, for example, you must provide samples, and if it’s non-edible, it’s best to have some form of live demonstration. After all, sampling a product or seeing it in action leaves a long-lasting impression.

By doing the above successfully and connecting with shoppers, you can expect an increase in same-day sales and even a change in long-term purchasing habits.

          4. Include promotions throughout your store

There is no doubt about the fact that your shoppers love a good deal. That’s precisely why it’s always worth setting up a promotion in-store throughout the year.

Of course, you do need to plan them properly if you want them to be effective and draw shoppers into your store and keep them there for longer. The last thing you’d want is to spend money on a promotion for it to fail because you didn’t take the necessary steps to present it accurately.

There are, thus, a few aspects to keep in mind when thinking about setting up a promotion.

Firstly, you need to brief your in-store promoters thoroughly on the product or products before they enter your store so they can answer any customer questions. Then there is a need for in-store signage and advertising indicating the promotional period and price print. This signage needs to be both clear and unmistakable to your shoppers. Promotions without a clear price point will discourage shoppers from buying.


Get more share of shelf space with a data-driven category management approach


You must also attempt to supplement your in-store advertising with external advertising, be that through TV adverts, newspaper pull-outs, flyers or pamphlets. If your budget is small and you’re undecided about which advertising channel to choose instead pick one that is likely to give you a higher return on your investment.

With that out the way, it’s time to choose the location for your in-store promotion. Be mindful; wherever you decide to place it, it must be convenient both for yourself and your shoppers. That means it needs to be visible but also not in the way of your shoppers.

          5. Use hotspots effectively

In a piece that we wrote about overlooked merchandising basics, which you can read here, we touched on the importance of creating and using hotspots. We want to reiterate that point.

That’s especially true in the context of enticing your customers to stay for longer in your store.

Since you should place your hotspots throughout your store, while a customer might not necessarily spend more time in individual categories, they do spend more time walking around your store and passing multiple products, which leads to an increase in dwell time across your entire store. As they move around and see more products, there is every chance that they’ll add one or more products to their basket.

Of course, the placement does need to make sense to your shoppers. For example, if you sell Electronics, you wouldn’t necessarily place Kitchen electronics in the middle of a Computer department or vice-versa. That will only cause shoppers confusion as they wonder if you have what they need.

Utilising your hotspots needs to work in conjunction with the customer’s shopping experience. You need to think like them and consider how they will shop your stores. Where do they enter? Where do they walk? Where do they exit your store?

As soon as you understand how your customers shop at your store, you’ll know how to present your products to maximise your sales opportunities.

          6. Have strong exclusive brands with competitive pricing

There are many good reasons why you should introduce house brands into your store. For the sake of brevity, we’re only going to touch on two: exclusivity and competitive pricing.

Since your house brands are, by their nature, exclusive to your store, you can use them as a drawcard to entice customers to visit. That’s, of course, if you’ve priced them right as well as merchandised them appropriately.

Let’s say that you’ve presented your house brand correctly. The first time customers come across it; they will likely ask themselves two things. Firstly, should they consider the brand? Secondly, is the quality of that brand just as good as the market leader? That simple internal debate can lead to an increase in time spent in your store as they evaluate their purchase decisions.

Content 1-Enterprise-04

But it also leads to more.

By evaluating that one house brand, comparing it to the market leader, seeing the price difference, and accepting that it’s high quality, there is every chance that they’ll believe that of the next house brand they find and the next. Since you merchandise your house brands between the market leader and secondary brand leader at eye-level and in hotspots, shoppers will undoubtedly find them everywhere they look.

The result is an increase in customer loyalty because you’ve shown your customers that you have their best interests at heart. You have also become trustworthy. That means they’ll keep returning and become more reliant on your store because they can’t find the product anywhere else.

If you already have a house brand and are looking for opportunities to grow it, here are a few tips.

          7. Reduce any unnecessary shopper obstacles

The last but certainly not least thing you can do to encourage shoppers to stay in your store might seem the most obvious. It’s to reduce any obstacles that will stop them from shopping at your store. And yet, you could argue that this is the most challenging issue to combat.

That’s because these obstacles can come in all sorts of shapes and forms.

On the one hand, there are your physical obstacles. For example, you have a merchandiser packing a palette, which happens to be in the middle of the aisle and blocks access to products. In some cases, a shopper might come back to pick up the product when the merchandiser has completed their work, but they also might not.

Another physical aspect could be the width of your aisles or even the shelving that you use. A narrow aisle makes any shopping experience uncomfortable and even more so during peak shopping hours. Meanwhile, a flimsy shelf that isn’t packed correctly or is threatening to fall over doesn’t instil any confidence in shoppers. More importantly, they won’t want to hang around.

Instead, plan your store layout to ensure that you know what you’re dealing with. That includes looking at the position of your aisles, hotspots, till points and more. It’s also worth walking your store as a customer to see if you can spot any obstructions.

On the other hand, there are your decisions obstacles. These are, as you guess, revolve around not having enough information for your customers to make an informed decision. Alternatively, you might offer the wrong information that could confuse rather than advise shoppers as to their options, thereby frustrating them.

To combat this mistake, it’s a simple case of looking at your product range, your price points and the options you are presenting to your customers. Then, you need to determine if what you have available helps them to make a choice or just confuse them when the time comes to make a decision.


DotActiv Lite, Pro, and Enterprise are all different versions of our category management software that allows you to drive category performance and in-store experiences. You can visit our online store here or book a free custom exploratory consultation here.


Darren Gilbert

Darren Gilbert joined in 2017 and is the content manager. He has a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of Stellenbosch.