How can stores make customers spend more?

How can stores make customers spend more?

The overall atmosphere and look of a retail store can have a big impact on sales. As a business, you will have to think about how the lighting, music and layout within your stores is making your customers feel and how to attract customers to buy your product. If your store environment is making your customers feel good, then it is likely that they will stay and make an impulse purchase.

In store lighting

Lighting plays a huge role in the overall atmosphere of your retail store. You can use it to shine a literal spotlight on the products you want to promote, create an ambience throughout your entire retail space, or draw attention to promotional material.

Unibox states that there are four types of lighting in retail [1]:

  • Ambient lighting is the main lighting source in a store, usually the brightest ceiling lights. It is there to provide enough general lighting for customers to be able to navigate around the shop.
  • Task lighting is used to provide more lighting in areas of the store that need it, for example: a changing room or checkout area.
  • Accent lighting is used to direct attention to a certain area to attract a customer's eye, such as shelving and table displays.
  • Decorative lighting is not used to highlight products within a store, it is there to simply add to the shop's decor.
"Lighting has a direct influence on our mood, with 80% of the sensory information the brain receives coming from our eyes." Mihaly Bartha, Head of Lighting at GPStudio (Unibox, 2017)

An eye-tracking study carried out by the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences found that "[p]eople’s eyes were naturally drawn to areas of contrast, rather than the most brightly lit areas and were attracted to areas of blue light more than any other colour" (Unibox, 2017).

Store lighting

Studies have shown that using dimmed lighting in store can relax customers, which encourages longer browsing. This works well for more expensive stores, where even impulse purchases have to be considered for longer due to the higher cost.

In contrast, using bright lighting in less expensive stores can actually encourage customers to think quickly and buy impulsively.

UK POS has a great variety of products that can use lighting to draw attention to your products or promotions.

In-store music

The type of music you play in store can be just as defining for your brand as your store design. A new brand that stocks clothing aimed at the younger market would be unlikely to play classical music in store for example, unlike established luxury brands which would be more likely to as it gives off an air of quality and superiority.

Four out of five small retailers believe that they would damage their business if they stopped playing music, while 99% of retail staff who work in shops that don’t play music say that shops that do play music are more appealing places to shop [2].

The speed or rhythm of the music you play in store has an impact on the behaviour of your customers (LS Retail, 2017).

A high tempo beat has the effect of making customers move through your shop faster, which can have one of two effects: encourage customers to make a snap purchase decision, or increase the chances of customers leaving the store without making a purchase.

how to attract customers to buy your product

As is the case with lighting, the music you choose should be dependent on the style of your brand. While research has found that classical music can help to boost sales of luxury products, there are other fascinating examples of how music influences our decisions subconsciously. In 1997, a study on the impact of music was published by Nature within a wine store [3]. They found that if French music was playing, customers would buy more French wine, and if German music was playing, they would buy more German wine.

Store layout

The way that your store is laid out has perhaps the biggest impact on your customers’ impulse purchase decisions. Have you ever wondered why fresh fruits and vegetables are always the first products you see in a supermarket? Or why confectionery is displayed by the checkout? Retailers have carefully considered reasoning behind these decisions, which is backed by consumer research.

decompression zone at the entrance of a retail store

Entering the store

The area that you find yourself in as you enter the store is known as the ‘decompression zone’. This can refer to the foyer or simply the first display that you come across within a shop. This area is designed to provide a snapshot of what is awaiting customers inside. Fashion stores usually use this area for sales racks.

Supermarkets tend to display large stands of their best deals, which encourage impulse buying and also let customers know that they can find more great deals within the store. Over 90% of people who shop make occasional impulse purchases that they didn’t intend to buy initially [4]. A great way of ensuring that customers’ minds are opened to the possibility of making an impulse purchase is to display some of your best offers within the decompression zone of your store. Use posters, overhead banners and large dump bins to display these deals to customers as they enter.

Ends of aisles

Further within your store, you can start to use end of aisle displays to encourage impulse purchases. The ends of aisles are high footfall areas, as customers have to walk past them to get to the aisle that they want, making any displays in this area very visible.

Price has been shown to be the main driver behind impulse purchases, so this is an area that you will want to focus on within your end of aisle retail displays in order to grab your customers’ attention. It is a great place to showcase slow-moving products, new products and special offers. Use shelving, display stands or even staffed promotional counters to make your displays stand out to passersby and increase impulse purchases.

end of aisle display stand in a supermarket

Product placement

Larger retailers, such as supermarkets, purposely place essential items including milk, bread and eggs at the furthest end of the store. This ensures that customers have to walk past special offers and down aisles that contain many more products.

fresh fruit and vegetable display in a supermarket

The first thing you usually see when you enter a supermarket is the fresh fruit and vegetable aisles. This is not a coincidence; every part of a supermarket’s layout is designed to encourage impulse purchases. Displaying fresh produce in wooden crates can conjure up images of farm workers picking and packaging the produce that morning in the minds of customers, suggesting that the produce is very fresh - which may not be the case [5].

Speaking to Shape, Aner Tal, Ph.D. of the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab, says that the aroma of fresh food, such as fresh fruit or baked goods, instantly has the effect of sparking hunger pangs, making it more likely that customers will be tempted to buy other food products as they shop [6].

In-queue merchandising

A fantastic way to grab the attention of customers is in the queue. Low value, tempting products, such as sweets in supermarkets or earring packs in fashion stores, are almost always displayed within the queuing system. This tactic for increasing the sales of low value items is especially effective on parents shopping with children, who can be easily persuaded by ‘pester power’.

The placement of your checkout area can also have an impact on impulse sales. Many high street retailers place their checkouts at the back of the store, furthest from the entrance, so that customers have no choice but to walk through the whole store. This means that they walk past products that they may not have seen otherwise, increasing the chance of an impulse purchase.

merchandising display stands at a checkout
Alysha Bennett

Alysha Bennett

Alysha is a copywriter at UK POS, with experience working in B2B and B2C companies, as well as with charities. She has been curating consumer and retail trends to assist retailers in implementing effective point of sale materials into their own businesses for over five years.


1. Caine, Sarah, ‘How does lighting affect retail display?’, Unibox, May 2017, retrieved from: [accessed Jan 2020].

2. ‘7 reasons why you should play music in your store’, LS Retail, April 2017, retrieved from: [accessed Jan 2020].

3. North, A., Hargreaves, D. & McKendrick, J, ‘In-store music affects product choice’, Nature 390 (1997), p.132, retrieved from: [accessed Jan 2020].

4. Gaille, Brandon, ‘19 Dramatic Impulse Buying Statistics’, Small Business & Marketing Advice, May 2017, retrieved from: [accessed Jan 2020].

5. Greenberg, Melanie, ‘10 Ways Your Supermarket Hijacks Your Brain’, Psychology Today, March 2012, retrieved from: [accessed Jan 2020].

6. Heid, Markham, ‘Your Brain On: Grocery Shopping’, Shape, 2014, retrieved from: [accessed Jan 2020].