IMPACT, SEDUCTION OR RELATIONSHIP? Some trends for in-store displays

It’s no laughing matter. A vast amount of non-academic literature states categorically that most of the shopping decisions take place in the store.

Barbara Grondin (1) claims that 50% to 70% of shoppers are influenced by at least one of the different in-store media: posters, displays, hangers on the shelves, stoppers, etc.

Millward Brown (2) mentions that around 70% of brand decisions are made in the shop.

Jeff Froud, Strategic Planning Director at OgilvyAction (3) points out that 72,4% of visitors in a shop take at least one of these decisions:

  • What amount to purchase (52%)
  • What brand to choose (39%)
  • Whether they purchase a new category they hadn’t considered before (29%)
  • Whether they leave empty-handed (13%)

The shop impact may vary depending on: the kind of product (going shopping -for leisure- is different from doing the grocery shopping -as a chore-), the customer context (for instance, when they just received their wage), or the personal profiles. Without a doubt, the impact will also differ according to the visitor experience the shop has prepared. This aspect is usually overlooked in many studies.

In any case, regardless of the numbers, what happens in the shop is of foremost importance.  Amancio Ortega (Inditex) already pointed this out: “The store is the best way to build a brand”.

The relevance of in-store displays
Displays are one of the top means to boost sales in the shops. Their relevance is such, that Liderpack grants awards to the very best every year in Spain. They come in all sorts, shapes, assembly systems, finishes…

And their purpose is multiple:

  • To impact visitors by making them aware of something that otherwise would be ignored.
  • To persuade them to buy something unplanned for.
  • To achieve a cross-sell: buy this, along with that, too.
  • To achieve an upsell, that is to say, elevate the product level of what the buyer intended to purchase originally: choose this (and more expensive) option.

On the whole, the aim of displays is to sell more, here and now.

Who could be drawn by such goals?
It’s not a fool’s question. One would answer head-on that both the shop and the supplier have an interest.

However, most of the displays submitted to the yearly Liderpack Awards belong to suppliers, who are very interested in promoting their brand in third-party shops.

The smart retail company (the chain) isn’t very keen on selling supplier-branded products… nor those of its own brand. What it really is eager about is selling the shop, or in other words, that buyers choose their shop over any other.

The best chains aren’t concerned so much about the average sale per receipt as they are about their customers’ frequent return. There’s mathematical evidence to back this statement. In the supermarket advertising of Aqui é, the company advised their shoppers to buy more frequently instead of too much, because their groceries would then be fresher, healthier, more flavoursome and in consequence, they wouldn’t go to waste.

When customers decide to do their shopping in a given chain, they select a product with a very big packaging: the shop. Inside this shop-packaging there are other smaller packs: the sections (with more or less appeal). Within this section-packaging there’s another smaller one, called shelf. Finally, the tiniest of them all is the item’s own packaging, what we colloquially know as product.

When customers reach this point, they have already gone through the three mentioned packagings, all of them chain-branded. It is easy to understand the implicit power of the own brand, when not using the ideological concept of private label. And it is also easy to grasp why more and more suppliers choose to sell directly to consumers, i.e. to be in retailing.

Until such a strategic decision isn’t embraced, companies opt for B plans, such as:

  • Shop in shop, just like those of Roca in some of their dealers’ stores.
  • Areas with atmosphere, like the ice-cream shops that Unilever has set up in collaboration with some chains.
  • The use of posters, or even better, displays, because they can include the products.

In-store display trends
I believe we shall see the following trends in displays:

  • Sustainability should be something considered upfront, right from the briefing stage. Whatever is temporary must contemplate its recyclability, for there is only one planet.
  • They must be attractive in order to break the customer’s lack of attention, which in turn is a consequence of today’s hyper-stimulative way of living. Nonetheless, shouting louder is no longer the right path. The word impact has a suspicious undertone; It would be much better to attract, stimulate and seduce instead. It would also be convenient that shops weren’t visually polluted by displays. When a rowdy store is put in order, and its assortment is arranged in relation to a semantic sequence of customer-oriented criteria, the turnover increases around 7%, according to my experience in several cases.
  • Make customers interact with the display. One way would be through mental interaction via story-telling, in which customers get carried away if their imagination is properly stimulated. Thus, they co-create the message and adapt it to their taste. A second way could be through a multi-sensorial physical interaction like the Sony display, for example, that won the 2010 Award. The visitors could try any of the photo cameras on exhibit and once they did, an interactive screen would come up with product information. Customers could then choose to expand whatever info they required.
  • Because of the human nature, communication is bidirectional, but today only a minority of displays allow visitors to get in touch with the company, for example, by giving their opinion or suggestions or similar. In this respect, many museums are one step ahead of everyone else, for they offer visitors the possibility to write about their experience in guestbooks when leaving. What customers say to other customers is much more convincing than what a company can publicise about itself. If the brand is good, it needs to persuade less and can work more on facilitating customer interaction through different platforms.
  • In my opinion, an in-store connection with someone at a distance is another growing trend. Through the display and via internet, customers can ask for help, information or advice. If half of the Spaniards already use smartphones, why can’t a shop display be connected to the internet?
  • A display with these afore mentioned features could easily be turned into a market research tool, developed in real-time, which could provide insights on what the public likes about a product or doesn’t understand about it -and of course, this would be done without having to ask anything to the person who’s experimenting with an exhibited product.
  • All in all, the display can facilitate the sort of shopping process that people do now: just like with cars or carpets, their experience often starts on the internet and ends in the store. Sometimes, customers are in the store and check something via their phone’s internet, with the possibility of finishing their shopping at home and online. This multi-stage vision of the buying process (by fusing online and offline) will prompt a great degree of innovation in retail.

Where will the purchase decisions be made?
Given that barriers between the digital and the physical have nearly disappeared in customers’ eyes, it would be sound to create displays that could merge:

  • Presence + distance
  • Functional information + boosting imagination
  • Bidirectional communication (from/to shoppers)
  • Understanding of what aspects of the product really attract the customer.

From now on, the decisions shall be made in both types of shops: molecular and digital. Shall the percentage of shopping decisions made in-store become one day an urban legend?


Lluis Martinez-Ribes

Source: Código 84, (Burbujas de Oxígeno)

nº 165
July-August 2012

A STORY ABOUT SEDUCTION. The shopping experience and its evolution in academic investigation


583 million results in 0.47 seconds. That’s what you obtain when searching “shopping experience” in Google. It is a hot topic, an expression on everyone’s lips… and as a result, paradoxically dangerous.

Here we shall see the evolution of the concept shopping experience in academic literature and conclude with some practical thoughts.


The playing field

This experience takes place in the store, where many shopping decisions are taken. How many? I’m not sure, as I doubt that a fully validated percentage even exists. If it did, it couldn’t be applied in the same way to people who are doing their shopping (chore) as to those who are going shopping (leisure). In addition, there are two kinds of buyers who represent different situations:

  • Those who are replenshing, well aware in advance of what they want to repurchase. They know their products so well, that they spot them at first sight on the shelf, just by their shape or colour.
  • Those who make up their mind on the go, based on what they see, read or perceive in the shop. Whatever these end up buying will be much more influenced by what they have experienced in the point of sale than the previous ones. In particular, what shall be influenced is their motivations, beliefs and attitudes.

From 1973 to the early 90s

Philip Kotler (1973) was the first one who claimed that the atmospherics of a shop was a marketing tool. When the design is consciously thought up, it produces emotional effects on the visitor and this increases the probablity of a purchase.

Then, companies in retailing understood the importance of interior and exterior design as a way to stimulate the willingness to purchase. That is, they intended to influence customer behaviour and this aim was their prevailing mindset.

As a marketing tool, the ambience has three main contributions to make:

  1. If properly differentiated, it draws attention to the shop.
  2. It is the message. The shop communicates something to the visitor.
  3. It’s a way of bonding with the shop and its assortment, which increases the immediate intention of purchase.

From the early 90s to nowadays

At that time, it started to become clear that which today is an actual clamor: markets and audiences are increasingly fragmented, and therefore it’s difficult to achieve an effective communication with limited resources. Using the shop as a means of communication could become more cost efficient.

In this context, the main goal was to identify what has most influence on the shopping behaviour.

We can highlight two of the most relevant investigations in this second stage:

Donovan & Rossiter (1982) studied the works of Mehrabian & Russel in further depth, in order to investigate the responses that certain stimuli would cause on visitors. These are some of their conclusions:

A high degree of novelty and sophistication in the shop creates stimulus and interest.

In appealing surroundings, a high level of interest derives in a larger probablity of positive reaction. Conversely, if the interest and attention of a customer are activated in an unpleasant ambience, the reaction is negative.

That behaviour might also determine the time in the shop, the eagerness to explore, the readiness to talk or interact with other people, the predisposition to spend more money than forseen, the intention to return and the customer satisfaction.

Baker et al. (1992) completed the previous model by classifying the variables of the shop’s interior ambience:

  • Atmospherics: music, light, fragrance.
  • Social: presence of sales assistants, furniture and customers. An empty store discourages customers… in the same way that a crammed one would.
  • Design: both functional (wide corridors, e.g.) and aesthetic.

All these points are of proven relevance, but their combined use hasn’t yet been sufficiently ascertained in order to foresee a given outcome out of each mix.

The shopping experience today

The emphasis is currently put on a shopping experience that expresses the differential sense of the chain brand. Firstly, to draw customer attention, and next, to feel the values of the chain at their fullest.

On the other hand, today the shopping experience cannot be complete without taking into account the internet. Similar guidelines to those of brick and mortar shops can be applied, even if less senses are involved.

It is basic that the shopping experience shows the same brand sense as the retail firm, both in the offline and online shops. The interaction experience must be nearly equal, because digital and physical media are every day more intermingled. (87% of people who buy a car in a dealer have checked them all out on the internet previously).

The players

At the beginning, the first companies that enhanced their customer shopping experience were in the retail business already.

Later, suppliers who saw that many of the purchases were decided in situ awakened and chose either of these two paths:

  • To strive to draw visitor attention towards their products in third party shops. Consequently, all sorts of displays and exhibitors have thrived, including sophisticated ones with augmented reality. An avalanche of digital media is now available, yet its focus is in many cases more appropriate for the second stage we mentioned (communication by improved impact) than for enhancing actual brand experience.
  • Other suppliers, conscious of the power of multisensoriality but seeing the limitations of acting upong third party shops, have decided to launch their own retail outlets, both offline and online. The examples flourish in every sector and corner of the world. In the mass consumer sector in Spain there are several yogurt shops opened by Danone, and Nestle launched the webside (tell him/her with chocolate, in English).

In any case, it’s important to remember that communication flows in both directions. Customers now can and want to say things to companies. Thinking about only improving the unidirectional communication just comes to show an obsolete and ineffective management approach.


Lluis Martinez-Ribes

In collaboration with my former student Aline Adam (MSc Esade).


Bibliography, in order of appearance:

Kotler, P. (1973). “Atmospherics as a Marketing Tool”, Journal of Retailing, Vol. 49, Nr. 4, pp. 48-64.

Donovan, R.J. Rossiter, J.R. (1982). “Store Atmosphere: an Environmental Psychology Approach”, Journal of Retailing, Vol. 58, Nr. 1, p. 42.

Baker, J. Grewal, D. and Parasuraman A. (1994). “The Influence of Store Environment on Quality Inferences and Store Image”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 22, Nr. 4, pp. 330


Source: Código 84, (Burbujas de Oxígeno)

nº 163
May 2012