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Practical advice on commercial lighting from LED retrofts to lighting design


How lighting subconsciously affects your customers

Posted by Aletheia Cyr on



About a year ago, I was on a Costco run, but was turned away when I arrived. It was the middle of the day and the whole store was shut down. 

Care to guess why?

A lighting outage.

Ponder that for a minute. If you’re a store manager and your cash register is down, can you still operate your store? Technically, yes. There are workarounds for that.

What if your toilets start overflowing or your internet goes down or your phone lines are down? Tough luck but, hey, you're still in business.

That's not the case when the lights go out. Unless your space has a ton of natural light or a copious backstock of candles, when the lights go out, so does your business – at least temporarily.

Lighting is fundamental to most any business with brick-and-mortar space. It's a bare necessity. That's obvious. But it has more bearing on your business than you may think. It's easy to overlook the subtle effect that lighting can have in conveying your brand and influencing your customers' experiences – that's what's not so obvious.

Do you worry about a lighting outage happening at your store? Here's some helpful information on lighting maintenance.

How exactly does lighting subconsciously affect your clients? It communicates the value of your products. It should complement what you're selling.

The right lighting for discount stores

Consider WalMart, Big Lots, and Goodwill. What do all of these stores have in common?

Their value proposition is simple: offer the lowest prices in town.

An easy way to mark down the price of your product is to minimize overhead. One way discount stores can achieve that: inexpensive, efficient lighting.

There are no fancy displays in these stores. No accent lighting. And bare-minimum merchandising to keep costs as low as possible for customers.

Because of this unadorned, bleak look, customers have grown used to equating poor quality lighting and minimal merchandising displays with lower price points.

This strategy works great for those stores, but can you imagine walking into a Whole Foods furnished with outdated, cheap lighting? Subconsciously, you'd probably be thinking, “Why are these tomatoes so expensive?”

Whether intended or not, low-quality lighting automatically makes the atmosphere feel as though the products should be at a lower price point. And that's a two-way street – high-quality lighting sets the stage for high-quality products.

The right lighting for specialty retail

Let’s use the same example as above to demonstrate.

If you look closely while grocery shopping at Whole Foods, you may be surprised at the level of detail that goes into creating the customer experience. The thoughtful, intricate merchandising and beautifully highlighted produce are perfectly complemented by carefully designed, quality lighting.

Turn your eyes upward and you'll notice beautiful pendant lights hanging down over the hot food bar, track lighting displaying the fresh, organically-grown produce, and can lighting built into the custom wood signage above the specialty cheese counter. Every detail is consciously designed to provide a specific atmosphere.

The reality is, a thoughtfully-crafted customer experience at Whole Foods primes you for the higher price points on those tomatoes or that block of gruyere. 

Similarly, high-end retailers use beautiful, high-quality lighting to showcase their products. The color rendering of such lighting tends to be better in advanced lighting, allowing the true colors of the product to come across more fully. Under that kind of lighting, a $1,000 purse or a $300 pair of blue jeans or a $10,000 watch doesn't look out of place. Your subconscious is ready for those price tags, thanks in part to the lighting.

Lighting matters, and not just when a store goes dark. The way your brand is perceived and the experience your customers have – even your bottom line – depends on the bulbs overhead.

Looking for more information on retail lighting design? Check out some of our past posts on the topic:

FREE Download: Expert Tips for Retail Lighting Design