Seeing the light

Have you ever wondered why storefronts tend to be eye-blindingly bright and highly illuminated? It seems every part of a store is designed to increase the likelihood consumers will make a purchase, and the choices on lighting is no different.

The use of attractive lighting in the windows of a store is there to draw people in – it’s likely that the more people who visit your store, the more sales the store will make. A study by Taylor and Sucov showed 75 percent of people are more likely to go towards the brighter-lit areas, such as a bright storefront.

It's no wonder design choices about lighting a retail shop will focus on highlight distinctive areas. To ensure customers walk through the entirety of the shop, strategically subtle ways of lighting the shop will lead customers through each part of the store. And it's certainly a good strategy to make customers buy more than they ever intended.

Creating an atmosphere

Lighting has a distinctive effect on people’s overall impression of a space, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, relaxed or tense, as demonstrated by case studies performed by psychologist Flynn, J. Being in a positive mood has been proven to increase the likelihood someone will make a purchase.

Another psychologist, Satyendra Singh, demonstrated the impact of colours on consumers, showing that 62-90 percent of people judge a product on the colours around it. She found that colours will affect a person’s mood, as well as change the perception of time and can be effectively used to keep customers calm. Blue or green ‘cool’ lights tend to make people more relaxed, while more yellow or orange ‘warm’ lights make a person feel happier.

Upping the appeal

High quality and brighter lights make colours look more vivid.  Psychologist Henri Christiaans and his colleagues demonstrated lighting effects on the appeal and perceived freshness of fruit. Vivid colours in fruits, vegetables and other foods make them seem fresher and more inviting.

The same principle applies to clothing and furniture, brighter lights create more lively looking colours that are more appealing, as well as catching customers attention.

Stay and browse

Inside of a store or shopping mall should be brightly lit to give a similar effect as casinos. A study run by Beatty and Ferell found that keeping people in a store for longer, increases browsing behaviour, which in turn increases the likelihood they’ll make a purchase. Lighting levels are therefore kept constant throughout malls so customers will ignore the passing of time and stay - they draw you in and keep you there.

Attention everyone

Brightly lit spaces make people more aware, active and attentive, according to a study from the 1970’s by Mehrabian and Russell. Accent lighting is used to focus attention on one particular product. It’s more brightly-lit than other products in the store, making the more expensive products stand out. By showcasing their products this way, stores ensure customers pay more attention to pricier goods.

Accent lighting lends itself to Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism, which says consumers come to believe that the object has intrinsic value in and of itself. By showcasing products separately and with bright lighting, the product appears more valuable and desirable.

However, not all stores follow the same pattern. Hollister, an American brand owned by Abercrombie & Finch, has a distinctive use of lighting, circumventing what has become conventional presentation by keeping their stores low-lit. The effect is that the dark stores stand out in brightly-lit shopping malls as something different, and has become a part of Hollister’s brand. 

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This edited article was originally published on our sibling publication, TheRegister.co.nz