Physiology of shopping


An important part of how we behave and how we perceive the world around us is caused by physiological processes. Hormone secretion for instance, is a physiological event that largely determines how we feel and act.

No surprise then that our physiological state is of great influence on how we perceive a shop and perhaps more importantly; how we spend our money there. If only you, as a retailer, could create an atmosphere that brings your visitors into just the right state…

Well, you can! Science is slowly but steadily mapping out how sensory input triggers specific physiological processes. In other words: what happens in my body when an image reaches my eyes, or a sound enters my ears.

A great example that you will surely recognize is what happens when you are startled by a sudden event, let’s say a loud bang. You will feel a pressure on your chest which is caused by a rise in your heart and breath rates. Also, you will instantly be fully alert by the shot of cortisol you receive. Cortisol is a stress hormone that readies our body to either fight or flight. These are all physiological effects of the sensory input that is formed by a loud noise.

This is an extreme example to show you how these mechanisms work. We are however constantly physically influenced by what happens around us.

Most shops offer a tremendous amount of sensory input. Every single product is designed to draw attention and seduce consumers to choose it over the competition. If you wish to effectively do so however, you better be aware of what is happening to these consumers physically.

This is not an easy feat. When I am asked to help a retailer translate his formula into instore media outings I start out by carefully analyzing what it is that he or she wants to have happening on the shop floor. What message are you trying to communicate? What should a consumer experience upon entering the premise? What do you want to sell? Just a few questions that require answering before you can decide what kind of physiological state is desirable in your shop.

Once you know where you want to go, you can adjust your outings to effectively support your goals. Perhaps a relaxed and open minded state is desirable. Or maybe you prefer your visitors to be excited and highly aroused. You can then adjust the sensory input you send out toward your visitors to optimally support these goals.

To summarize; the art of fine tuning your retail environment is to know how your actions affect your visitors. You need to know what you want them to experience and do, and then make sure that every single bit of sensory input you fire at your visitors is in line with this strategic master plan.

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