You know that feeling when you walk into a restaurant and its quiet. No background noise, no other conversations, no loud laughing or glasses clinking. You step inside and ask for a table and when you sit, it feels awkward. Peaceful yes, but more awkward than anything. The lights are bright. The air-conditioning feels cold. You don’t linger, you eat and leave.
The same principles of atmosphere apply with shopping. You walk into a Gap store and the music hits you, the assistant gives a loud friendly greeting and carries on with her task, you are left alone to wander the store, help at hand should you need it. You feel welcome, you don’t feel watched, it’s energetic, it’s a happy atmosphere. It works. You stay and most likely, you spend.
Often the same isn’t true for small boutiques though and I believe atmosphere can be a game changer if it is worked on. Atmosphere is a big influence when it comes to emotion and as we know, typically we shop with our emotions. Create the right emotions for your customers and they will be much more inclined to spend.
So how do we create the right emotions and atmosphere? Firstly, I believe music is a great one for this. Music of any kind that suits your store and works for your customer profile. It shouldn’t be too loud in a small store but having it in the background changes the atmosphere immediately and can help put a customer at ease. Sidenote:- The Sonos speakers work really well for a simple music solution that doesn’t require wiring into your ceiling and you can find lots of great playlists on Spotify for example.
Lighting is also a big mood changer. Dull dreary lighting not only doesn’t enhance your products, but it dampens the mood of the customer. Like a grey cloudy day. Keep things bright and beautiful when it comes to lighting, yellow lighting is better than white but also needs to be bright enough. Use spotlights where you can to really enhance product displays and window areas. Lighting is always a big financial part of your initial store fit-out but it is worth every dollar to get it right. Try asking a lighting expert to come and review your current set up if you feel you need to enhance it.
Temperature is one to watch. Too cold and people feel uncomfortable, too hot and people get irritated easily. Invest in a good heating/air conditioning system and follow a medium temperature year-round to keep things comfortable. These things can get pushed down the financial agenda however they are deal breakers when it comes to customers spending time in your store. How many times over the years have I seen a small shop, hot as hell in summer, and the owner has a fan behind the cash desk for himself/herself and nothing for the customers. The wrong way around!
Finally, I believe smell can have an amazing effect on retail atmosphere. We all recognise brand stores such as Bath & Body works and Lush for their amazing smells tempting us in but why not create a scent for your store too, no matter what you sell? I used to do this with fragrance stick diffusers as I was too scared by candles but some boutiques have big fragrant candles burning all the time and it is always noticeably lovely when you step inside. There are a lot of options for room fragrance nowadays, even systems that sit behind your air ventilation and blow out your fragrance through the air conditioning! Although fragrance is an extra expense, it is worth it to create a more inviting space for your customers. Try to find a solution, whatever your budget is.
When it comes to the atmosphere of your boutique don’t compromise. All your efforts for fabulous merchandise need to be enhanced with the final part of the puzzle and they deserve to be put in an inviting space. Think about your favourite restaurants and what you most love about them and likely it will be more than just the food.