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Light, sound and scents in retail

Some say people eat with their eyes – and the same notion applies to retail. Effective visual stimulation is an essential consideration for retailers, irrespective of their size. So, too, sound and scents in retail.

For example, if a customer in a fashion store decides they look good when trying on something, it will obviously influence their purchasing decision.

store ambience

Ambience Lighting MD, David Justice, believes it is vital for fashion stores to have the right type of lighting in their fitting rooms, and that the lights are positioned to provide minimal glare and shadow while promoting warm skin tones.

This helps ensure the product and its detail are the hero. The resourceful use of lighting within stores can also be instrumental in creating an engaging customer experience.

“Research has shown that effective fitting-room lighting can also reduce product returns but increase customer returns,” said Justice.

“Whether you are a multinational retailer or boutique, lighting is not only an important consideration, but crucial to promote interest, dictate mood and generate sales.”

Practical and emotional

Lighting can be both practical and emotional when used wisely on the retail journey, and can entice customers at the shopfront. Effective lighting can invite customers on a journey through the store, and be critical in their buying decisions.

Dimming also represents an unexplored avenue within retail, and can be a resourceful and inventive way to enhance a store’s atmosphere.

“Other innovations include LED downlights that can be fitted with modules specific for skin-care applications, fashion or food,” explained Justice.

There are also digital lighting systems that use an app to control focus or angle, or to dim the lights.

“We recently developed a smart pad fitting at make-up stations where a cosmetics retailer ’s clients could test how they would look in real-life settings,” said Justice. “They could adjust the lighting to see how they’d look under daylight or when at a bar, and we even matched the settings of an iPhone flash so they could see how they’d look in a selfie.

“These are the sorts of innovations we like to build with our clients to contribute to the customer’s retail experience.”

Camper store inside 1

Justice suggests retail area lighting should have flexible recessed or track luminaires positioned at well-considered points.

“Concealed LED strips within joinery, troughs and bulkheads with well-resolved mounting detail can be used to avoid unwanted ‘spotting’ and reflection.”

The introduction of lighting design guidelines throughout most shopping centres in Australia has necessitated specialist lighting approaches. The result has been quality retail lighting fit-outs offering a far more engaging experience for the customer.

“More and more retailers are realising that engaging a lighting specialist to help deliver the customer experience is no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” said Justice.

More bright ideas

Strategically placed lighting is a theme that resonates with Philips Lighting’s head of indoor positioning Gerben van der Lugt, who argues that the impact of lighting is beyond what most people actually imagine it to be.

“We have a system for a dynamic shop window, which can also be replicated in store, but has a bigger effect in storefronts,” he said. “It basically dynamically changes the lighting effect in the shop window, so your eye is attracted because something’s happening. We have research proving that it actually increases foot traffic into the store.”

Philips has also developed an LED-based indoor positioning system that both lights up a retail space and provides accurate location information (within 30cm) via the shopper’s smartphone.

This service enables shoppers to navigate stores, find products and receive promotions related to where they are in the store.

“It is using the light for more than what we call illumination,” says Van der Lugt, who notes that retailers are demanding smart lighting for indoor positioning so they can offer their shoppers location-based services.”

With lighting being an influential factor in how a store looks, incorporating technological innovation can let retailers capitalise on the many technological platforms available. Research from professional services firm Deloitte shows that 79 per cent of shoppers prefer to use their smartphones for help rather than ask a store assistant.

“Since lighting has become smart – being enhanced with communication capabilities and sensing capabilities – it can be used for different purposes,” says Van Der Lugt. “Retailers like a system that can steer shoppers toward promotions.”

Using store lighting infrastructure to target smartphone shoppers is just one of many innovative opportunities in omnichannel retail.

Camper store inside

Scents and sensibility

Identifying the essence of a retailer’s brand is fundamental in catering to the right senses and influencing the customer experience. Good design methodology that can influence customers depends on the individual retailer and the type of product, according to Amanda Young, commercial director of commercial space consultant, Storepro. Scents in retail are an invaluable tool.

“For example, if the products have some sort of scent, such as candles or skincare, then smell becomes an important part of the sensory experience in the store,” she said, citing cosmetics retailer Lush as an example. “You can smell the [Lush] store from four or five shops away.”

Sound can also be undervalued and not used to its full potential by retailers.

Young said that creating energised environments through the use of sound, particularly in stores like General Pants, where millennials are the key target group, is essential to convey the passion of the brand.

“A store can look as great as it wants to, but if it doesn’t have effective music or some sort of sensory aspect, it doesn’t connect with the customer.”

store ambience 1

But not all brands need to cover all of the five senses. “Visual is usually always important, even in a discount department store where it’s all about creating an ambience of mayhem, so if you put merchandise in a white box with no ticketing it would lose its impact.”

Young believes the days when customers could be typecast in specific demographics related to age or income are long gone. A retailer needs to consider store ambience that can identify with the multiple “personas” of customers.

“They have the work self, the home self, the friend self, the parent self,” she explained. “It’s all about how they want to feel.”

A reason to go in

Whereas hairdressers and salons once set design trends for stores, customers now look to retailers for special experiences. “It’s about creating or designing something that’s going to amaze the customer and really draw them, and have them recommending the store and wanting other people to go and see it for themselves.”

Using the whole space of a store can contribute to its overall energy.

Camper store

Storepro worked with Brazilian architect, Marko Brajovic, on a Camper footwear store in Melbourne, devising an undulating ceiling featuring thousands of bright red shoelaces.

“It created that point of difference there was a reason to go into the store,” explained Young.

Because price point has become a decisive factor online, it is now more important for stores to offer a sensory experience for shoppers, rather than try to attract them on price alone.

There are different challenges to designing stores with an effective ambience within a shopping centre or boutique space – and meeting the retailer’s budget. Also, retailers may not be fully convinced on the ROI potential of a design and may need a little convincing.

“It depends on what the retailer is trying to communicate to the customer, and price goes into it, unfortunately,” according to Young.

There is a trend to economise by recycling and using everyday items for fixtures. However, Young reminds retailers that the items need to have some connection to the actual brand. Customers could be attracted by a low-key installation, so long as it’s shaped around the retailer’s brand DNA.

“It’s all about the ability of retailers to curate their merchandise, and use their retail environment to stimulate and show customers what their brand is all about.”

It is more about an environment that stimulates the customer, rather than a retailer showing they have a lot of merchandise to sell. Developing brand followers is the key to boosting sales overall.

A sense of place

Dimitri Sotiropoulos writes for Inside Retail Magazine Australia
Dimitri Sotiropoulos writes for Inside Retail Magazine Australia

Bricks-and-mortar stores give retailers the chance to communicate the essence of their brand through an in-store experience. For the customer, it is about the ability to be immersed in a brand experience.

“Every brand is now an international brand,” said Young, quoting something she heard at a fashion festival in Melbourne. “You have to think internationally when you develop a website or you’re on an app or on somebody else’s shopping website.

“People want to engage with your brand no matter where they are in the world, and you have to think about that when you’re creating what becomes an extension of your store’s physical environment and ambience.”

This article was published in Inside Retail Hong Kong magazine. To subscribe to the digital or print edition, click here.

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