Influencing Shopper Speed is a Nudge that can Increase Sales

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It’s widely acknowledged that walking speed plays an influential role in shoppers’ purchasing decisions. But until now it was unclear what retailers could do to influence the pace of their customers.

New research suggests there are ways to control the speed at which shoppers walk down an aisle. Depending on your product, you may want shoppers to slow down or speed up. For instance, if you’re selling food-to-go (lunchtimes), shoppers are in a hurry so you may want to speed them up. However, if it’s something that involves more thought, such as electronics, you may want to slow shoppers down. Achieving the optimum pace is important as shoppers may miss certain important products if they are moving too fast. Conversely, slow traffic may clog up the aisles resulting in declining sales.

There are various ways to control shopper speed.

  1. The taller the shopping aisle gondolas, the faster the shopper will move between them. Tall gondolas may cause shoppers to feel claustrophobic and so they instinctively want to “get out” and so speed up. Think about how you feel when you are walking down an alleyway you instinctively walk faster.
  2. The wider the aisle, the slower the customer will walk down it. More space around the shopper gives the perception of having more time. Think about walking down a wide boulevard it makes you want to slow down and enjoy the environment.
  3. Visuals can also have an impact on shopping speed, more muted colors can often slow shoppers down. Conversely, images that cater to youth and use vibrant colors will speed shoppers up.
  4. Slower, more leisurely music causes shoppers to spend more time considering their purchases and enjoying the experience. It also can result in an increase in sales. Up tempo or fast-paced music can encourage quicker shopping but may lead to fewer purchases.

An experiment was conducted where horizontal lines were placed on the floor in a grocery store. The lines that were placed closer together gave the illusion that the aisle was longer and it caused shoppers to slow down as they moved down the aisle. Conversely, when the lines were placed further apart it caused shoppers to speed up as the aisle seems shorter and they wanted to get to the end.

Getting shoppers out of their normal routine while shopping can be beneficial and controlling their speed is one of the ways to do this. These principles can also be applied to other situations outside of retail. Airports may want to speed travellers up so they make it to their gate on time while at security they might want to slow people down.

Changing shopper speed can be one way to drive incremental sales. The best way to test the impact on sales is through testing different nudges. Contact us today if you would like to discuss different behavioral science approaches to driving your sales.

Anne Stephenson
Partner, Explorer Research

anne stephenson

Retail