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Design, Personality, and the Shopping Experience

The design of a retail environment helps its customers feel an emotional attachment to the store they are shopping in. Studies have determined that as much as one-third of consumer decision-making is based on the design of product packaging. It stands to reason that how an environment is “packaged” will trigger many feelings towards this end in an individual. A store's design can make someone feel not only psychologically and emotionally comfortable in a space, but also affect their trust for the retailer and even their attitudes towards how clean a store feels. Good design will also affect how quickly and efficiently customers are able to do their shopping, make them feel positive about the value they are getting for their dollar, and even enhance their self-esteem because of where they are shopping.

A store’s commitment to design begins with its trademarked icon. It continues with the colors and textures of it’s walls and floors inside along with the décor on the walls. Emotions towards design are connected to memory. Things like consistency of design, relationships between shapes and colors, typography, and reactions to color combinations will all stick with a customer. Playing word-association with trademarks like Apple, Staples, Kleenex, BJs trigger immediate reactions from large segments of the population.

So what should a retailer be looking for in store design? In a word, Personality. Humans tend to have an emotional response to everything they see, animate or not. Crucial to that emotional response is what they think of a store’s personality. Design elements help define things like trust, comfort, and value. These are some of the elements of design that determine a store’s personality:

  1. Consistency of design throughout the environment. The tone is set by the retailer’s logo and store exterior. The feelings initiated by these elements must follow through in each department and aisle a customer finds herself in throughout a store. Walking into an Apple store gives most people a good idea what it feels like to own a Mac because the look and feel of the environment is consistent with it’s product’s personality.

  2. Efficient Floor Plan. What kind of a store are we talking about? The layout of a bookstore is dictated by different factors than those of a restaurant and those are different from a supermarket or a small soap boutique. But what they all have in common is how well they are laid out in relation to the customer’s expectations and their resulting frame of mind when they enter. Are customers in each of these environments in a hurry to get in and out? Are they looking for a space in which to feel relaxed for a few minutes or for a few hours? How a customer is led through each of these environments must be consistent with their expectations. A supermarket has many different environments and must be able to transition through various departments that satisfy changing customer expectations. Attractive and easy to find overhead structures and well-placed perimeter décor will not only move a customer through these environments efficiently, but accurately predict for them what to expect once there.

  3. Lighting, Textures, and Colors used in a store must also be consistent with a customer’s needs and expectations. These all help determine why they have chosen one retailer over another in the first place. A romantic dinner is best experienced in a dimly lit ambience with very warm earth tone colors. A long visit is expected here. MacDonald’s wants to be known as a place where you can feed a family or yourself in a hurry. Bright lights and bright colors say this best. A drug store should feel immaculate and be brightly lit. Primary colors or clean pastels work better here and reinforce that retailer’s personality.

The design teams and project managers at Off The Wall work closely with clients that already have well-established brands in the marketplace as well as with clients revamping their brands into more effective associations in their customers minds and clients new to the scene and looking for the icons, colors, and uniquely designed elements to help shape their marketing personalities.

To find out more about how design influences purchases and personality, visit our Website at and checkout our work.

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