How Does Retail Lighting Affect Consumers?

With so many things in the modern world competing for our attention, it’s important to understand the impact that external stimuli have on our brains. Oftentimes our sense of sight, touch, smell, taste and sound are subconsciously reacting to any number of sensory cues happening all around us. So, how does light factor into this equation?

Lighting is one of those complex things that actually has the power to affect our mood, emotions and behaviours. Its physical and psychological effects can be harnessed to your advantage to create a dynamic retail experience for your customers — and this extra level of care can translate to more sales for you. In this article, we’ll talk you through the psychology behind mood lighting in retail and give you some practical tips on how to integrate it into your own retail space. 

How lighting impacts psychology and mood

On a purely surface level, the function of lighting in retail seems like a no-brainer — you illuminate the store so customers can see your product better. While this is obviously true, there is a lot of hidden nuance behind lighting’s less obvious influence on people’s emotions. Considered retail shop lighting systems are designed to create an aesthetically pleasing customer experience that keeps bringing people back. When lighting creates an emotional connection, it’s a powerful thing. 

Adding to your customers’ enjoyment levels is a logical step. Happy shoppers means more time in-store, which translates to more (and higher-volume) sales. Even the most subtle adjustments to your lighting plan can make a difference — and if you make your products more appealing and your store more inviting, it’s well worth the investment. Current research supports the theory that lighting has a significant impact on a customer’s attitudes and behaviour, so a poorly lit store can be more detrimental than you realise. 

Functions of store lighting

There are many things to consider when creating a lighting scheme for your retail store. The size of your space, your product selection, your shelving layout and more all combine as pieces of the puzzle. While no two stores are the same, there are some general guidelines that should be followed across the board.

When in doubt, choose LED lighting

Of the main types of lighting on offer, LED is the best choice for your long-term budget. While initial costs are a little more, the energy efficiency aspect pays for itself over time. As well as being the cleaner and greener option, LED lights provide so much versatility — they’re ideal for display, ambient, task and accent lighting, not to mention virtually every fixture style used in retail.

Pay attention to temperature

Creating an aesthetically pleasing yet functional retail environment can hinge on the temperature/s of your lighting. Correlated colour temperature (CCT) is measured in Kelvin (K) units, and indicates how warm or cool white light appears to the naked eye. Different temperatures have different functions. Warmer light evokes a relaxing and inviting feeling, ideal for retail stores selling clothing, linens and furniture. In contrast, cooler light conveys a clean and spacious vibe, best suited to retailers that sell home appliances, electronics and hardware.

Layer up

One-note lighting schemes are flat, uninspiring and clinical — so it’s best to take a layered approach. Using a strategic balance of ambient, task and accent lighting will make your retail space pop! . 

Here’s a quick explainer of these three lighting types:

Ambient: Ambient lights provide general lighting throughout your retail space, typically from overhead fixtures. 

Task: Adds brightness and functionality to work spaces like checkout counters, customer service desks and consultation areas. Examples of task lighting include desk lamps, pendants and suspended hanging lights. 

Accent: Provides visual interest to displays, easily directing the shoppers’ gaze from product to product. Spotlights, track lights and dimmable fixtures are examples of accent lighting.

Natural direction cues

Lighting can serve as a natural directional tool to guide customers around your retail store. Overhead lighting is something of a main guide down ailes and in open spaces, while accent lighting helps to draw attention to specific products. Also, like moths to the flame, people are naturally attracted to light and well-lit areas. Recent studies show that shoppers tend to be drawn to a contrast of lighting intensities, such as a bright and dim combination. Areas with one lighting level appear flat, drawing less interest. Cooler, blue-toned lights have a somewhat invigorating effect on shoppers, while warmer lighting temperatures make customers linger longer in an area.

Trust and positivity

When curating a shopping experience for your customers, projecting an air of trust and positivity is crucial. You want to accurately and clearly display your products so that customers know exactly what they are getting and don’t feel deceived. Letting shoppers see merchandise authentically is a sure-fire way to build trust and gain repeat customers — and this is where the Color Rendering Index (CRI) comes into play. CRI measures a light’s ability to reveal the true colours of an object. Strive for lights with CRI ratings of 80 or above, as they will show true tones and colours of your products. 

Using lighting to impact mood

It can be challenging to strike the right balance between atmosphere and illumination, but it can be done! There are four lighting attributes to be mindful of — bright/dim, uniform/non-uniform, central/perimeter, and warm/cool. Designers use these attributes to create lighting designs for retail clients that perfectly balance mood and function. Here are some of the ways you can use lighting to your advantage in your retail space.

Improve product appeal

Making your merchandise as attractive as possible ultimately helps to move it off the shelf — and the right lighting can play a big part in maximising appeal. Professional lighting designers employ a range of tried-and true techniques to accentuate retail environments, from window displays and shelved products to in-line displays and more. These simple but effective tricks all work together to elevate brand perception among shoppers — and there are boundless possibilities to play with. Spot lighting, dimmable track lights and using varying temperatures are all common methods of generating visual interest.

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