Optimising supermarket environments to increase shopper interest

Phillip Adcock

How often do you consider the senses when thinking about in-store layouts? Or think about whether your products are having an emotional impact on your customers? Phillip Adcock, founder and managing director of shopper research agency Shopping Behaviour Xplained Ltd shows that by thinking about how your customers experience your store, you can improve their shopping environment, making them happier and more open to additional purchases

The eyes have it

Shoppers may use their eyes to navigate around the store, but their sensory involvement doesn’t end there. By using portable eye tracking software, it’s possible to find out what your customers are seeing in-store — and what they aren’t looking at. Many shoppers won’t pay attention to marketing elements that they’ve seen before, which means that you’ll need to try something new to attract their attention.

But what about the other senses?

The two most emotionally linked senses are smell and taste. These are linked to the amygdala and the hippocampus meaning that smell and taste can both trigger emotions. The two senses are interlinked; when we smell products in-store, we are also imagining the taste.

When shoppers are in experiential mode, the sense of smell is at its most persuasive. Research into shopper behaviour has shown that smells which trigger nostalgic memories can increase the motivation of the shopper to buy. Other smells — such as bleach or cleaning fluids — often have more negative connotations, which can make the shopper recoil.

One of the key things to remember about scents in store is that you need to consider whether product scents are clashing. If the fish counter is too close to the fruit aisle, for example, shoppers will connect the smell of fish with your fresh produce.

Sound is another element that can easily make a store unpleasant to both work and shop in. You should consider the genre and volume of music, if any, that is played over your sound system. Recorded announcements and adverts can also be off-putting. Music speed can even play a factor. Calm, low-tempo music can reduce the speed that your customers walk, increasing the amount of time they spend in-store.

Using the shop floor to make shopping an experience

By turning shopping into an experience, you can capitalise on the trend of smoothies (healthy and otherwise). This could be carried out in several different ways. Stores could have a section containing fruit and vegetables specifically for smoothies or, more simply, provide smoothie recipe cards. Shoppers considering buying one type of fruit might then see the smoothie recipe, which may prompt them to buy more fruit.

Recipe cards are a good way of marketing an experience to sell products. Many Britons are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. Whether that is by eating or exercising, they are likely to be attracted to anything that makes this easier. By providing an image on the recipe card, they are engaged visually and are imagining the taste of the recipe. By giving them the instructions for a healthier diet you are improving their chances of buying more of your produce — and potentially becoming repeat customers of new products.

Making sure your signage is up to scratch

How long have you had the same signs up? If you think they’re doing just as well as when you first installed them, you may be wrong. Consumers quickly become blind to marketing when they see it regularly. An SBXL study demonstrated that many people no longer register the words on your signs after the third or fourth time of seeing them. 

A change can pique consumer interest, but too much change will confuse and frustrate them. Customers lose patience quickly when they can’t find the products they are searching for. Moving products around will make them look at the section with new eyes, but will also make it harder to shop.

One way to persuade customers to look at something again without inconveniencing them is to change the colour scheme. Even without changing the text, a colour change is enough to register as a new stimulus.

If you are re-ordering your store, make sure that any changes you make will benefit the customer. Don’t just overcomplicate for the sake of making a change.

Customers shop with their eyes first and foremost, taking 70% of information in visually. This means that large colourful displays will stand out as they are in view for longer as the customer walks past. The bigger and brighter the sign, the greater perceived value of the product. We are drawn to bright and contrasting colours such as red and yellow, red and white, or yellow and black.

How are your signs sited? Whether your signs are in a “natural” place to look depends on how high they are on the shelf, whether they are in front of the viewer, or whether they are to the side. The ideal placing for signs is below eye level, as this is naturally where we look; human beings evolved with most of their threats and opportunities coming from ground level. In the UK, the average woman is 5’5” and the average man 5’10”. By moving important signage to this important eye-level area, you increase the number of shoppers who will see it.

By gaining insight into how your shoppers act in-store and by acknowledging that the environment, not just the product, can play a large part in how your shoppers act in-store, you can create a better environment for both your shoppers and your staff. All of this leads to more satisfied customers and higher spend in baskets and trolleys.

Phillip Adcock is the founder and managing director of the shopper research agency Shopping Behaviour Xplained Ltd (SBXL). The business uses psychological consumer insight and retail technology to explain and predict customer behaviour. SBXL operates in 17 countries for hundreds of clients including Tesco, Mars and B&Q.



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