Businesses focus on different sensations to attract customers

Colours, textures and music connect with consumers’ memories to enhance shopping experience



Retail businesses have traditionally drawn in customers mainly through visual design. Today, as stores compete for the attention of potential customers, businesses are trying to offer other sensory experiences.

Statistics Canada recorded a 0.6 per cent drop in retail sales from $66 million to $65 million. With this in mind, some visual merchandisers are taking this into account when designing stores’ layout and esthetics.

According to Aviva Philipp-Muller, assistant marketing professor at the SFU Beedie School of Business, the design of the outside of the store has a different function than the inside. What consumers see through the windows is intended to draw them in, especially for those who aren’t planning to step inside and shop.

“Maybe how things are interesting to look at and how different visual elements catch the eye,” Philipp-Muller said.

Philipp-Muller said the brain has a visual centre that gets stimulated by certain colours, textures and patterns which can be accommodated to create a higher degree of connection to someone’s past experiences and memories. She said that you can “set things up visually so that it maybe plays into consumers’ emotions in an interesting way and maybe tugs on their heartstrings a little bit.”

Some consumers acknowledge they can be drawn in and influenced.

“I do admit that some stores look a little bit more inviting than others,” said Anastasia Chuvacova, a shopper on Robson Street in Vancouver. “It comes to essentially the first impression.”

Music matters

But businesses are trying to appeal to more than customers’ sense of sight these days. Different auditory or olfactory experiences can also change their perception of a product.

Saanvi Chaudhry, a former Aritzia style advisor, said that the Robson branch has different set of music for each section of the store.

“All the music that they play is really associated with the clothing that you’re selling,” Chaudhry said.

Store layout directs customer shopping

The way the store is mapped out is also important in getting the best response from the consumer.

To try and direct customers to their preferred clothing, Aritzia stores are split into three different sections, each tailored to a specific clothing style. One section is more tailored to trendy styles of appearance, while another might be more formal dresswear, and the last one appeals to athletic styles of clothing.

Depending on what the store is selling, Aritzia carefully positions its clothing within the store. For wintertime, Chaudhry said that “the first thing you see when you walk in is those super puffs and the way they organize it is they’ll put the pops of colours on the front.”

Planning is key and there has to be a lot of consultation between visual merchandisers and their clients who want the most out of their investment. Each store has different layers that keep the consumer interested and focused on what’s for sale.

Visual merchandiser Kaitlyn Sloan said, “anytime we do change over a display in an area, we always see an increase in sales of that product.”

Bigger is better and merrier

‘Christmas designs stick to the classics’

With the holidays coming up, visual merchandisers are going for large and over-the-top displays.

Visual merchandiser Kaitlyn Sloan says that she is going for a more exaggerated show of display techniques, colour and lights where customers can take pictures.

“Stuff that kind of connects to the emotional side of the customer,” said Sloan.

Aviva Philipp-Muller said that while displays tends to be larger, a classic esthetic is often woven into store front designs. Displays use more greenery, pine trees and snowflakes to give the feeling that it’s Christmas.

“It’s a very classic esthetic that you see repeated in lots of different display,” Philipp-Muller said.

There is a lack of variation when it comes to winter design. Philipp-Muller said that because the Christmas designs follow classic themes, winter displays have fewer differing designs compared to summer presentations.

But these designs can only vary based on branding. The creative process involves working closely with various clients and partners to create plans for in store displays and layouts. Sloan said she draws various merchandizing plans from their clients and then creates “carpentry plans, graphics, different layers needed for that media, and fine planning.” Once the plans are put into action, they check on their retail store clients to adjust and change their displays over time.

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