Retail is all about the customer experience. From the moment a customer walks through your store’s front door, he or she should be immersed in a shopping experience that encourages return visits and reflects your brand. Retail is dramatically growing, and a focus on customer experience is crucial to success. As such, many store owners are looking to different forms of experience design to meet this need.
A particularly interesting and effective approach that’s becoming more common is to combine experience design and biophilic design to create the best possible environment for shoppers. Biophilic design is one of the most potent methods of improving the customer experience, and in this article, I’ll share a few of the numerous ways retail stores can leverage biophilic concepts to wow customers.
Exposure to Daylight Fosters Positive Emotions in Customers
Natural light has a range of benefits for humans: improved mood, better sleep, metabolic regulation, and much more. In A&D, these benefits are commonly discussed in relation to office spaces, but they also cross over to retail. In fact, the results of daylighting in retail spaces are quite astounding. Lighting is one of the heroes of retail design, able to influence sales and improve customer mood in one fell swoop.
From Inhabitat: Apple retail locations are well known for their copious amounts of natural light and usage of biophilic design elements like greenery
One of the most powerful effects of daylight is the creation of positive emotions. Many studies have proven that exposure to natural light releases serotonin in the brain, which in turn improves mood. In general, the more natural light a person is exposed to, the happier they will be. This is the foundation of the research that demonstrates the benefits of light in office workers, and the implications for retail are similar.
Customers who are exposed to natural light while in a retail environment will perceive their experience more positively than they would if the space lacked daylight. This effect can be amplified by including other biophilic elements like reclaimed wood, which has been shown to reduce stress and increase social interactions. When multiple biophilic elements are working together, customers will feel more empowered to relax, take their time, and shop around.
From CallisonRTKL: This shopping center features vibrant plant life and natural building materials
Biophilic Elements Can Increase Product Value and Overall Sales
The use of daylight and other biophilic elements does much more than create positive emotions. Believe it or not, biophilia can actually increase the perceived value of products and boost overall sales. When customers are shopping in a space that utilizes biophilic elements, the positive emotions they experience will translate into receptiveness. This happens because customers associate visually appealing biophilic spaces with higher quality and thus higher product value.
From TerraMai: Sam Edelman’s stylish store demonstrates how biophilic building materials like reclaimed wood can improve the customer experience
This phenomenon has been documented in several studies that examined the effects of natural elements on retail customers. One study found that skylights in retail spaces increased sales by 40%. Impressively, the study found that these results have 99% statistical certainty, so if you use skylights or other daylighting methods in your retail space, higher sales are guaranteed.
From Discover Los Angeles: The aptly named Skylight Books features skylights that shed natural light on the open design and greenery within the store
These statistics have led retail businesses to pay more attention to their in-store lighting, and some stores have come up with creative ways of using light. One German fashion retailer saw a 12% increase in sales after installing a lighting system that was specifically designed for the personality profile of its customer base. This is an excellent example of adapting a lighting system for the people and space it’s serving. Every retail space is different and will require its own specific lighting solution.
Natural light is just one of the many biophilic elements that have positive effects for retailers. Greenery is fast becoming one of the hottest design trends, and it’s a perfect fit for retail. Studies show that greenery enhances the visual quality of a retail environment. This has many of the same effects that lighting does: increased perception of quality, higher levels of receptiveness to prices, and a more positive shopping experience in general.
From Inhabitat: A living wall and assorted greenery takes the design of this beauty store to the next level
Biophilic elements can also foster comfort and calmness, which are becoming increasingly important as part of the customer experience. These elements are especially important in more industrial or minimalist spaces, as softer, more comfortable materials and spaces help to balance and complement these types of aesthetics. Materials like reclaimed wood add comfort and sophistication while also providing all of the natural benefits that biophilic design brings.
Indoor Quality Gets a Boost from Biophilia
Those biophilic benefits are another reason why so many retailers are including more nature in their stores. Biophilic design improves indoor environmental quality (IEQ), making it healthier for both employees and customers. To holistically improve IEQ, multiple biophilic elements should be present. Greenery helps to purify the air; daylight works to maintain and satisfy human circadian rhythms; and materials like wood contribute to stress reduction. In concert, these various elements maximize wellness, making the indoors a pleasant place to be.
Focusing on enhancing IEQ is an important step in perfecting a retail space. It’s a worthy endeavor to reduce the amount of contaminants and pollutants your customers come into contact with. First, the introduction of plant life combined with air filtration will ensure the air is clean. You might consider a garden installation, or you might simply disperse greenery throughout your store. Many stores choose plants like Boston Ferns and palm trees that have proven purifying power.
From Time Out: Ferns and other greenery are often used in retail for their air purification properties
Second, choosing materials with low concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) will further minimize toxins. VOCs are often present in paints, wood preservatives, cleaners, carpets, and other building materials. Ideally, a retail space should have the lowest amount of VOCs possible, since hundreds or even thousands of people will come into contact with the space every day. Opting for green building materials like reclaimed wood and selecting low-VOC materials will help manage the presence of these compounds in your store.
Retail spaces are evolving. In order to develop the most optimal customer experience, retailers need trustworthy methods of satisfying their audience. Biophilic design is a solution that’s able to deliver an unforgettable experience and adapt to the changing needs of the modern customer. By making biophilic design changes to create a healthy, human-first environment from the ground up, you’ll see happier customers visiting your store for longer periods of time resulting in increased sales.