Retailer tricks of the trade

Despite the lure of online shopping, bricks-and-mortar stores still have a strong pull on consumers.
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With reports of inflated prices, limited product ranges and bad service in retail stores abound and with the Aussie dollar the strongest it’s been in years, online shopping is increasingly attractive. Yet a recent survey of more than 12,000 CHOICE member shows bricks-and-mortar stores are still preferred for items such as clothing. Just what is it that keeps drawing us back in store?

The pull

There are people that hate to shop and do so out of sheer necessity, while some live to purchase - most of us are somewhere in betwen. The art of advertising entices us to buy more, irrespective of need, and if successful has us whipping out the credit card on a whim.

Ads are everywere and are not so subtly filled with images of happy, healthy, glamorous and, often, famous people. Their message is that looking or feeling just as fabulous is as easy as hitting the shops to buy that dress, mobile phone or pair of shoes. While the reality is far from this simple, a dimmly lit change room with a well angled mirror has prompted many a therapeutic clothing purchase.  

Staying current is encouraged with seasonal colour and style changes, despite the fact that the items you arleady own at home are still in perfect working order. Sale time is planned obsolescence at its best, and creates a competetive in-store buying atmosphere. 

We’re more at ease when others are around us, so popular anchor stores in malls have increased sales. Equally, the notion of exclusivity draws customers to boutiques and concept stores, while the one-stop-shop idea sends customers to department stores. Newer to Australia are pop-up or temporary stores, where retailers use the limited shopping opportunity to draw in crowds.

Crossing the threshold

Necessity aside, many see shopping as a fun, social activity. Smart retailers capitalise on this group entertainment factor to differentiate themselves from online retailers. Position, displays and signage draw customers in, but enticement has now gone high-tech. In the US, smartphone apps such as Shopkick reward shoppers with points and offers simply for visiting stores and scanning products.

Once you’re inside, stores are designed to promote profitable browsing. Department stores and other large multilevel stores often have a pre-planned path that shoppers are encouraged to follow in order to see more and impulse buy. If you’ve ever popped into Ikea to buy a bowl and found yourself leaving three hours later with a loaded trolley, then you’ll know just how effective this can be. Research shows that a person’s normal field of vision is about 170 degrees, so while paths are clearly visible, alternative routes through the store are harder to find.

Stay a while

Store designers employ classic design triggers such as colour and lighting for visual appeal while ambient (or sometimes prominent) music creates an environment tailored to the brand’s target demographic. Increasingly, retail chains are stepping away from having stores that are carbon copies of each other and are instead individualising surrounds to create a more unique experience to entice customers to linger and return again.

Studies have shown that smell is more evocative than the other senses, and savvy brands use smellscapes to attract customers. This can be as simple as the waft of liquorice fragrance from a Darrell Lea shop, or as complex as creating a signature scent that customers will associate with a particular brand or experience. Smell affects how shoppers choose which stores to visit, how many items they compare, and how they evaluate purchases. So the next time you head out for a quick trip to the shops and return home hours later loaded down with bags, you’ll know those those smart store designers have done their job well. 

For more information on Shopping, see Money.



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