The science of shopping

September 24, 2014 at 8:31 AM

DSC_3784.JPGScientists and data-hungry businesses have been studying consumer behaviour for years. When we’re bustling around the shops, there are numerous behavioural patterns that we seem to instinctively employ. Whether we’re on a quest to find a particular item, or simply working on auto-pilot, there are several strange quirks that you’ll find nearly all of us do.

We’ll introduce two of these findings scientists have come up with, and see how these can benefit your business. Many big companies have implemented them in the design of their stores – see if you can similarly take advantage of these consumer behaviours in your own shop.

  • We shop clockwise. Think about how you tend to enter your local supermarket or a retail store you visited recently. How did you move around the store? Chances are that, unless the store forced you to do otherwise, when you entered, you moved straight to the left.

a57ba88e-fe78-4fea-ad93-74318f6229ff.jpgNo one knows for certain why New Zealanders, Australians, and British people move around a shop clockwise. The best guess is that it’s influenced by the fact that we tend to walk and drive on the left side of the road. In contrast, Americans are very likely to move around a shop counter-clockwise (and as you know, they drive on the right).

A supermarket in Philadelphia apparently once tried to change the way their customers entered. They tried to force customers to enter from the left, rather than from the right, and blocked off the right entrance for good measure. The natural tendency to enter from the right was so naturally ingrained in some shoppers, that they simply ignored the left entrance and attempted to get around the barrier. Once inside, almost everyone moved straight to the right.

  • Customers pay attention to shiny things. Amazingly, people walking past shops with shiny, reflective store fronts tend to slow down and take notice. There seem to be a couple of reasons for this.

d6a66a1e-0532-4614-a650-d8e409465e97.jpgFirstly, people like looking at their own reflection – it’s a natural instinct. You can see this phenomenon all the time in elevators or hallways with mirrors. People passing by will usually have at the very least a quick, discreet look. The Apple store uses this quirky behaviour to draw people in. You’ll notice that their stores are largely made of shiny, reflective glass, which is very eye-catching.

Secondly, people tend to unconsciously believe that shiny things are expensive. A polished car or diamond ring will seem more valuable than an unpolished one. So beautifully polished, shining windows in stall malls are going to grab more attention than unpolished ones.


How this can help your store:

  1. DSC_8534.JPGPut important items that you want people see to the left of your shop. What do you want to hit people with straight away? Remember that your goal is to keep your customers in store for as long as possible.
  2. Have shiny things in the front of your store. Or consider putting a mirror inside your store, so that customers will linger for longer.
  3. Make sure your sales assistants stand to the left if you want them to greet customers.
  4. Call us, and we’ll put our industry knowledge into practice for you.