Gifts Today magazine

Floor patterns can boost spending

Academics show customers can be made to slow down past products with biggest profit margin

A study has revealed flooring patterns can be used to make people walk slower down aisles where the products have the biggest profit margin.

By altering lines and patterns, the academics in France, Belgium and the Netherlands were able to work out how to slow down the walking speed of shoppers.

The Altering Speed Of Locomotion study published in the Journal of Consumer Research demonstrated that changing the distances between lines on the floor can tap into subconscious desires to reach the end of the aisles.

The closer the end appears, the faster people walk towards it, while the closer the lines were together, the more customers dawdled, speeding up when the gaps were wider.

The academics, who observed 4,000 people in a series of experiments, said that if the lines were 20in apart, it created the optical illusion of making the end of the aisle appear further away, shoppers then tended to slow their pace, in order to conserve energy.

Slower shoppers were found to be much better at recalling what products they had seen than those who sped through, making them far more likely to reach for their wallets.

Retailers can also use the technique to speed people up, for example in congested areas such as entrances.

To conduct the study, Professor Nico Heuvinck and his co-authors made more than 4,000 observations of shoppers, both in-store and in a lab.

The researchers related their findings to goal gradient theory: when an individual is closer to their goal (the end of the aisle), they will walk faster to reach it.

Prof Heuvinck told Retail Times: 'The literature shows us that humans are influenced by the goal gradient effect.

'Coffee shop loyalty programs have us collecting stamps with the goal of getting a free coffee once we have 10 stamps.

'Initially, there is no hurry to get the stamps. But, when you get closer to the tenth stamp, it has been shown that consumers’ purchasing speed increases.'

The team, therefore, wanted to see if humans also respond to physical markers that would influence their subconscious desire to reach a goal: the end of a shopping aisle.

They found that when lines were closer together, consumer perception was that the end of the aisle was further away, and they walked slower. This is when their recognition was also best.

Prof Heuvinck added: 'The results are very robust and we saw significant influence on walking speed time and again.

'Retailers are interested in increasing sales and the work needs to be developed to provide a link between walking speed influenced by floor pattern, and retail sales.'

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