Posted: 4 September 2017
It never fails. You walk into a store on a mission to get what you need and get out, but almost immediately something catches your eye. A great deal on something everyone needs. An incredible value for something you've always wanted. Is it a coincidence or providence that your eyes were drawn to this display upon entrance?
The path you're naturally drawn towards through a shop, as well as other display practises that aid customers toward products they may want is a result of Nudge Theory. This theory is the backbone of the ideology that drives many retail store layouts. It considers many variables of human actions and uses this knowledge to understand how best to "nudge" a shopper towards where you would like to them to go.
When entering a store, a shopper's eyes will often go naturally and slightly to the left, even as the shopper is moving towards the right. From there, the most common instinct for shoppers is to follow the path our hands take when we write. With eyes to the left, the shopper walks right, almost as if writing a sentence starting on the left side of the page. This anticlockwise motion is nearly universal, and is the first step retailers follow to exert some control over how shoppers move throughout the store.
While retailers are quite aware of what you might see when you enter a store, they are also cognisant of what you don't see and how this may affect your perception.
Smaller shops can take advantage of lower shelves so that customers have a sight line all the way through the store. If those low shelves can stay fully stocked, it will reinforce the perception that the store has a vast selection.
For retailers that may not have the product to fill the shelves, it is also important to use the empty spaces wisely. And how can you do that? By accentuating them as empty spaces instead of empty shelves. This view, or lack thereof, creates a feeling of luxury, much like one would expect in a house that is large enough that the owners aren't able to fill it up.
These spaces serve the additional purpose of creating a break for customers, both physically and mentally. Research suggests that long aisles with no breaks lead customers to skipping over 20% of merchandise on the shelf.
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