Creating experiential shopping

by Natalie Tan


With the onset of growing online competition, one of the best weapons a retailer has at their immediate disposal is the ability to create memorable experiences in their selling space. This means guiding customers into their journey of discovery and emotionally engaging them with merchandise displays.

The human brain is set that the neocortex or the outside layer rules cognition, reasoning, language, sensory perception and motor commands. This part recognizes product values and the benefits of purchasing an item. However, it is the limbic brain, the interior portion of the brain that rules our emotions. This is crucial in that this is where ‘want’ supercedes ‘need’.

Many shoppers will return home with their purchases and wonder why on earth they bought what they did. An overwhelming desire to acquire overcomes even the most rational of shoppers and indeed, a theory developed after five years of research confirms this.


P = (N+F+A) E2

Propensity to purchase = need + desirability + affordability X emotion2


Unity Marketing, a Pennsylvania-based consulting firm believes that how shoppers feel about a product is the driving force behind customers opening their wallets. This feeling is exponentially more influential than their need for an item, or even the item's affordability. More succinctly, the propensity* to purchase a product can be described with the formula *P = (N+F+A) E2 where N is the need for the product, F being the product’s desirable features, A its affordability, and E the emotion guiding the decision.


This is closely related to the ideas put forth by neuroeconomics. In retail, shoppers’ emotions can be strongly tied to a particular brand and how a shopper interprets and responds to these emotions is likely the tipping point in deciding to buy.


This is a gold mine that many retailers can tap into. Although an affordable price tag may be considered a strong selling point, it is only an element in the grand scheme; whereas emotional attachment is exponential. If retailers can understand and capitalize on this theory, the likelihood of both men and women making purchases will rise significantly. Though this formula is believed to apply to both men and women in all their purchasing decisions, there are particular areas where this is more noticeable. This formula merely confirms what we all know regarding a woman’s love of handbag shopping or a man’s excitement in acquiring the latest gadget.

So how can it be applied to your own retail environment? If emotion is what drives sales, then a retailer must provide the trigger for these emotions. In the images shown below of a home furniture and accessories shop, adding simple and inexpensive decorative accessories added warmth to the display, enhancing appeal. This raised a basic bed into something so much more. The bed’s function exceeded that of which it was intended, elevating it to something desirable and aspirational — a place where a person’s life unfolds. It will become an integral part of a person’s lifestyle; and of how owning such a piece would get the shopper closer to their ideal living space.


Decorative accessories

Though the furniture retained the same quality and affordability, how the shopper emotionally perceived it changed completely. Within one week of our placing the accessories atop this bed, York Furniture sold eight suites. Now don’t these results just make a retailer emotional?



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