How retail design can create experiences that connect with customers emotionally

Retailers who harness the power of emotion can better connect with their customers. Gareth James looks at why and explains ways to deliver an emotionally-rich shopping experience

Research in the fields of neuroscience and behavioural economics is unveiling more about how we make decisions. Beyond logical reasoning, there’s something deeper at play on a subconscious emotional level.

An emotional experience is more impactful and memorable, so retailers who tap into their customers’ emotions are finding more resonance... and success. The next generation of shopper is increasingly buying more from brands they feel strong emotional connections to. 

Experiences made for sharing

Today’s connected shopper often makes purchasing decisions based on opinions in their social network, so they crave something memorable and worth talking about. As do the influencers that people look to in their network for advice and opinions - such as bloggers and vloggers.

Emotionally-driven shopping experiences are powerful in inspiring people to fall in love with brands and become passionate advocates by sharing these experiences and driving valuable loyalty and sales.

An advantage for physical retailers

Meaningful emotional experiences engage all our senses and offer human interaction. Physical stores can go beyond showroom retailing to offer compelling ways to engage with customers emotionally and entice them away from online shopping and back onto the high street.

The growing trend for pop-up shops also offers the opportunity for experimentation with concepts and emotional experiences in physical spaces, to better connect with people.

So what retail design tactics can you use to build an emotionally powerful shopping experience?

Appeal to feelings

Ask how you want a customer to feel and how you can you appeal to their emotional motivators. Is it a desire to stand out from the crowd or to enjoy a sense of wellbeing, thrill or belonging? 

Customers all like to feel unique and important. So the move towards more personalisation, with interactions tailored to a customer’s individual needs, will generate stronger feelings and emotional bonds with brands.

Tell stories

Humans are hardwired to love stories… they entertain, educate, help us escape and create memories. Stories also make you feel things so use storytelling to connect with customers.

Recount your brand’s rich history, express what you stand for, showcase provenance or convey future possibilities. Retailers like Lacoste and Dr Martens have museum-like features in their London flagships to recount the narrative of their brand.

Immerse all the senses

Sights, sounds, tastes, textures and smells all enhance an emotional experience. Glade’s Museum of Feelings, a pop-up sensory exhibit in New York, is a great example. Five scented rooms were designed to generate different feelings, to showcase the connection between scent and emotion for the air freshener brand.  

Wellington boots brand Hunter creates an immersive experience by evoking wet-weather events and festivals in its London store, with audio and visual effects of heavy rain and thunderstorms. 

Augmented reality (AR) also offers a wealth of opportunity to stimulate our senses and will become an important part of retail’s future as technology progresses.

Provide a sanctuary

As well as adding stimuli to excite, retailers can offer a calming sanctuary to escape to and linger. Leisure facilities within shops can aid relaxation and wellbeing, which leaves a positive emotion that is associated with the whole shopping experience.  

Major retailers like Primark are acknowledging the importance of space and dwell time by offering coffee shops and customer seating that allow more relaxation in store. Elsewhere Ted Baker now has coffee bars, barbers and beauty salons in their clothes stores.

Look to entertain

The human mind naturally craves intrigue and entertainment so encourage that sense of curiosity within a space. Inject theatricality with lighting, clever visual merchandising and interesting interior design. Or install an actual theatre to create a memorable experience, like Selfridges did last year.  

Touchscreens and interactive features in store can turn a space into a kind of giant playground that encourages exploration. 

Take fun seriously

Playfulness is a positive emotion to play on, that taps into powerful childhood memories. Canadian apparel retailer Dish & Duer, have a ‘performance playground’ in their Vancouver store, with treehouse, hammock, monkey bars and swing. 

On a practical level, shoppers can move around in garments to test how they suit an active lifestyle. However it also evokes fun and freedom from childhood, as well as the thrill of adventure! Those are all emotions we’d like to experience more.

If you would like to find out more about how Prosper works with retailers to create an emotionally-rich experience, please get in touch.

Gareth James

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