How to influence customers with store atmosphere
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to designing your store atmosphere and merchandising strategy as there are so many factors influencing consumer behaviour. To identify the ideal atmospherics for their organisation, businesses must first identify who their target market is and what they want from the experience. A primary distinction that stores can easily identify is the average age bracket that their customers fall into, as older and younger shoppers have different habits and needs from their shopping trips.
Retailers can’t always please every customer. Experts have identified different shopper types, who often want very different things from their in-store experience, despite potentially shopping in the same stores . Not to mention other factors such as income, gender and culture which can also influence how people interpret atmosphere.
Another way for businesses to establish the appropriate atmospherics is to analyse their industry type, and trends in customer preferences within that sector.
For example, supermarket shoppers are often driven by time constraints and respond well to bright lighting and lots of signage. In contrast, someone shopping for luxury items may see the experience as recreational and hedonic, and may prefer a more relaxed environment which allows them to take their time .
While there is no solution that will work for every business, we attempt to answer questions about how can store atmospherics affect shopper purchases, by identifying some POS factors influencing consumer behaviour. We also suggest a handful of ways to adapt the environment, which retailers can employ to improve consumer experience.
The following quick fixes provide a great starting point for any business looking to revamp their point of sale in order to increase customer satisfaction.
POS factors influencing consumer behaviour
Use clear signage
Install clear, informative signage, prices and wayfinding to reduce retail shopper confusion . Use a combination of images and text for the most effective signage.
Organise and simplify display units
Organise displays to make navigation easy for the customer while keeping them fresh, unique and attractive. Ensure purchase decisions are easy to make.
Create a congruent ambience
"The most positive effects on shopping behaviour can be achieved by congruent stimuli" . Create a pleasant and congruent ambience and consider all the senses, including sight, sound and scent. Ensure thematic consistency to increase positive emotions and approach behaviour.
Include in-queue distractions
"About 60 to 90% of buying decisions are made at the point of purchase" . Distract customers from long wait times by using engaging signage and in-queue merchandising. The checkout is your last chance to make a good impression - and an extra sale.
The role of staff in store atmospherics
Patrick Bohl explains that the amount of staff and how friendly they are also impacts upon the customer experience, influencing their willingness to buy.
"Retail personnel’s number, appearance and behaviour impacts consumer’s perception of a firm and therefore influences behaviour" P. Bohl (2012) 
Not only can customers demonstrate approach behaviour towards displays (as explained in part one), but staff can demonstrate approach behaviour towards customers. Executed correctly, this approach behaviour from staff can positively influence the levels of pleasure and arousal that consumers experience.
"Stores with more sales personnel on the shop floor greeting customers were perceived as providing a higher service quality than stores with less staff"- P. Bohl (2012)
Another human variable to consider is the presence of other customers. Many studies have shown that overcrowding can have a negative impact on store atmosphere, and therefore on customer experience.
These findings suggest that business owners should plan the layout of their stores carefully in order to ensure that there are no "traffic jams" in aisles.
Additionally, having a sufficient amount of friendly, presentable and well-trained staff is an important consideration for maintaining customer satisfaction and encouraging approach behaviour.
The wrong way to use POS
- Create a confusing environment with little informational signage.
- Have incongruent decor which does not match with your company style.
- Employ too few staff with no greetings or uniforms.
- Plan your store layout with cluttered displays and narrow aisles.
"[P]roduct similarity, overload and ambiguity drive confusion [...] which leads to avoidance behaviour"- Garaus and Wagner (2015)
We have found a wealth of evidence that consumers are easily swayed by in-store atmosphere and ambience, although there is no catch-all solution for all retailers to follow. Business owners and merchandisers may wish to do some further reading in order to identify their target market and know how to appeal to them.
Shop owners who are setting up their first business will benefit from thoroughly planning their store interior layout and décor before opening, to ensure that they are controlling their atmospheric variables as effectively as possible.
Large chain stores need to ensure they have some level of consistency across their multiple locations to ensure customers are receiving a consistent and representative quality of in store experience across the board.
Additionally, businesses like these may benefit from analysing their customer demographic across different locations, in case different display types may be more appealing in different areas.
For example; a shop located in an area with a high proportion of elderly residents may wish to have different POS display types than another branch located in an area frequented by students and young people. Considering these factors ahead of time guarantees better results.
In order to stay ahead in the modern market, businesses must find ways to analyse their current in-store atmospherics against their customer demographics and the current market trends, as well as monitoring how customers respond to any changes that they implement. Knowledge is power, and it is with this knowledge that companies are able to cater fully to their market and create an experience in line with both the customer’s expectations and with their own goals.
1. Bennett, Alysha ‘Create targeted POS displays using customer personas', UK POS (2019).
2. Farias et al., ‘Store Atmospherics and Experiential Marketing: A Conceptual Framework and Research Propositions for An Extraordinary Customer Experience’, International Business Research, Vol 7 (2014), pp. 87-99.
3. Garaus and Wagner, ‘Retail Shopper Confusion: An Explanation of Avoidance Behaviour at the Point-of-Sale’, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol 41 (2013), pp. 407-408.
4. Ebster and Garaus, Store Design and Visual Merchandising: Creating Store Space That Encourages Buying (New York: Business Expert Press, 2015), p.116.
5. Weishar, cited in Upadhyay and Jauhari, ‘Visual Merchandising: An Integrative Review’, Indian Journal of Applied Research, Vol. 7, Issue 4 (2009), pp. 356-359.
6. Bohl, Patrick, ‘The effects of store atmosphere on shopping behaviour-A literature review’, Corvinus Marketing Tanulmánok, Vol 2. (2012) pp. 1-24.