Shape-ing Shopper Experiences

In retail environments, brand assets (i.e. recognition) interact with the semiotics of the physical environment through our senses and the psychology of choice.

It helps to use behavioural principles structured around the journey through a store, both from the point of view of the shopper with limited time and that of your brand.

The starting point is the shopper entering the store. You should SIMPLIFY the environment, making it easy for people to navigate and using simple messages to help brands as easily, quickly, and accurately as possible. For example, ‘chunking’ information (up to a maximum of three or four pieces) helps shoppers find and process relevant information, ideally using visual cues rather than words.

As shoppers start to navigate the store, HUMANISE messages and connect emotionally. Curiosity, empathy, and novelty help engage customers, and human faces are important as long as they are relevant. We are intensely social animals, so faces with interesting or unusual expressions catch our attention and are very easy for shoppers to decode.

Also, ATTRACT shoppers by engaging their senses. In online environments this might be primarily visual, using attractive pictures and contextual cues, including usage occasions, cultural associations, or social messages. Realistic images usually work better than ‘picture perfect’ ones, including imagery with sensory and contextual cues. In physical stores this can be extended to smell, taste, sound, and touch, which create even stronger engagement (e.g. the act of picking something up massively increases the chance of purchase).

As the shopper gets closer to their target – for example, by standing in front of the shelf your brand sits on – you need to PERSUADE them to buy. Visual information is still more persuasive at this stage, such as brand logos for reassurance and visual cues for different product options (e.g. flavour varieties).

Only at the final stage does written information become important to EXPLAIN the reasons for the choice. Reassure the shopper about the costs and benefits of a specific purchase, but only at the end of their journey, to close the deal. This is where pricing principles like framing are important, as the first price seen gives the context for others. It’s also important to go back to the first principle and keep to three or four options to maximise the chances of purchase.

If you want shopper insights, think about how your brand can SHAPE the shopper experience:

  1. Simplify choices
  2. Humanise experiences
  3. Attract by engaging
  4. Persuade with brands
  5. Explain costs and benefits •


By Neil Gains, Managing Partner, Tapestry Works