There is a link between a store’s environment and how well it does in sales. Intangible details ranging from lighting to music to visual messaging all play an interconnected role in improving the shopping experience, building customer traffic, and ultimately, lifting sales.

For decades, retailers and researchers in the United States and Europe have been acutely aware that shopping is not just a matter of obtaining tangible products but also about experience and enjoyment. Some studies conclude that service and the shopping experience determine shoppers’ choices rather than the type of shop or merchandise.

Simon Faure Field advises south-east Asian companies on how creative applications of in-store music, scent, and atmospherics reinforce customer loyalty and lengthen customer stay. His company, Equal Strategy, has advised such clients as Chaig1 Airport, Mercedes Benz, Korean Air, Courts, Starwood Hotels, and many others on these unique branding techniques that are based on social and psychological research into consumer behaviour modification.

His philosophy is simple:” Numerous studies have shown that getting the customer experience consistently right across all touch-point enhances your brand and encourage customers to buy more. We help our clients to create a fully integrated and consistent experience across their most important touch point.  Equal Strategy provides value for its clients by ensuring customers positively differentiate the brand and managing this process through one point of contact to result in improved profitability as revenue per customer increase”

Enjoyment and entertainment are important benefits of shopping, valued by customers and reflecting in their spending. These benefits of shoppers can link to increased sales and profit by retailers and higher retail income for shopping centers. Several studies reveal the link between retail atmosphere and sales to be very strong and robust. If two stores differ in atmosphere, but otherwise similar, research proved enhanced mood, goal attainment and higher spending on unplanned purchases at the other store with the ‘Better’ atmosphere.

But what is the store Atmospherics?

Faure-Field says there are external factors that are designed to establish a specific mood and image to stimulate sales: ”This includes the store’s layout, architecture, colours and other sensory inputs. I personally believe that store atmospherics is all these but must also encompass good services. After all, interception, the interaction between customers and store associates, ultimately sets the mood and greatly affect retailer’s image.”

He describes atmospherics as the physical element in a store’s design that appeal to customers and encourage customers to buy. Retail atmospheric is designing buying environment to   specific customer emotional reaction to enhance purchase probability. Have you ever visited stores that fire up your shopping mood while others leave you cold regardless of their higher merchandise appeal? What is in these stores that drive customers to purchase? As an avid advocate of atmospherics, the power of an effectively merchandised store to bring in increased sales never cease to amaze me” says Faure Field.

Atmospheric is used to create attention, send messages and arouse reaction or trigger sensation that lead to higher purchase. “If the customer was aroused by the store, they would feel alert and excited and their stay in the store would be longer. They would be more inclined to make eye contact with the employees in the store” he explains.

This arousal would only be invoked only if the store environment were pleasant; otherwise there would be no influence in the store environment or a negative influence. One factor that enhances this is music. For the new Mercedes Benze show room at Alexandra road, Equal strategy devised the music system that is in some way integral to Mercedes experience.   Each floor of the show room has a high-tech speaker array that plays varied tempo music that invoke emotive response to the cars on display.

The music is controlled by a black box that has customized audio messages and music that is played at different volume and tempo level at specific times during the day. The black box contains a hard disk and peripherals to control and play all the audio programming. The client does little other than turn the power on.

Audio messaging

Interlacing audio messages helps retailers inform and entertain the shoppers helping them make the right buying decision. About 40 percent shoppers make an unplanned purchase after hearing an audio message”, explained Faure Field.

Daily updates and scheduling keep content fresh and relevant to suit time and day of the week. In terms of getting new play lists, updating programming sequences and timings, or new audio voice messages, the black box receives equal strategy from the control room via telephone line or LAN connection. Each box connects back to the control room at specific intervals to report status and that the connection is secure. Like the data on the hard disk, the connection is encrypted.

Multi-site retailers keep all sites consistent using Equal strategy’s remote updating technology. Why the need of high-tech gadget when the music and audio can be easily and far cheaply burned on disc for distribution to any outlet or branch?  Faure Field explained that that would bring into play the human element and this is what normally manages the thwarts bad laid plans.

He recounts the case of international client who runs a courier service. Its Malaysian operation has 12 branches. Faure Field acceded to their request and sent 12 CD’s of the audio programming to each of the branches. Within a year, it was discovered that only some of the stores played the right CD, while most played their own favourite CDs.

The biggest advantage of black box is that any updates can be done quickly and remotely. By eliminating the human factor, the programming can function at its best and there will be no need for anyone to volume level, song selection, message content and voice-overs.