Get Shoppers in the Mood

21 April 2018

By Mark Fletcher, ShopScience, & Kate Hartigan, Retailite

On some occasions, shopping can be a relaxing and entertaining experience.  Other times, it can be pure torture.

In both instances, the actual retail store might be the same, and the staff may be equally helpful; the difference is all in the customer’s mindset. Customers who are angry, annoyed or frustrated are less likely to take the time to browse around the store and pick up extra items.

Fortunately, the right choice of retail lighting can actually help calm an upset customer, or even excite a bored one.

Most people think they are in control of their world, but the reality is that everyone’s brain is constantly scanning and subconsciously reacting to a wide range of environmental stimuli.

The role of background music in encouraging shoppers to spend longer instore has become so well accepted that both Woolworths and Coles now operate their own instore “radio” stations with carefully tailored playlists.

To date, most retailers have failed to leverage the science of human light perception and how it can be used to influence shopper behaviour.

The bottom line is that extensive research has proven that the intensity, direction and distribution of light on the walls, featured areas and the general space can alter the emotional state of shoppers. Carefully designed lighting plans can influence customers to be more calm/relaxed, excited/tense, or create feelings of intimacy and belonging.

While a large format furniture store may wish its customers to feel calm and relaxed, a teenage clothing brand may want to “pump up” their store atmosphere to fit its shoppers’ lifestyles.  In contrast, a small homewares boutique is probably after a “homely” atmosphere.

The following table illustrates some of the key research learnings on the topic of retail lighting and shopper emotional states:

Lighting design Psychological impact
Intense direct light from above TENSE/EXCITED
Lower overhead lighting, some lighting at the perimeter, warm color tones RELAXED/CALM
Low light level with some perimeter lighting and dark areas in rest of space INTIMACY/BELONGING

Some of these effects seem straightforward, and most people can think of stores that use these lighting effects, however, the ones you remember are typically extreme examples that sit outside the realm of everyday retailers.  It is the subtle applications of carefully designed lighting plans, supplemented with the right choice of light fittings that can make the difference.

Some retailers have reported a 10% increases in sales following a lighting redesign.

As the cost of a carefully designed store lighting plan, even when retrofitted, can be amortised over years, an investment in a tailored store lighting design often offers greater long term profit returns than short term advertising campaigns.

Luxury streetwear label, Kit and Ace invested in a lighting plan designed to elicit specific customer emotions in their new Chadstone store. When considering the lighting design, it was important that Retailite’s solution complemented Kit and Ace’s contemporary aesthetic, while enhancing the spacious and relaxed feeling of the store.

The custom designed Kit and Ace lighting plan included Retailite’s Aka Mini down lights to highlight island displays and Vaso 108 track spotlights with a high colour-rendering index (CRI) which accentuates true colours within the merchandise.

Retailite’s Senior Lighting Designer, Patty Tartaglia, says that the retail lighting design is like everything else in marketing.  The first step is to have a clear vision of your brand identity, and of your target market and then get experts to help you with the tricky bits!

Mark Fletcher is director of ShopScience, which uses psychology, human factors, and marketing  to create tailored solutions based on research and analysis.  Mark can be contacted at, or visit,