The ambient temperature influences the “choice behavior” of customers. Warm or cool temperatures impact the feeling of social connectedness in turn affecting the importance customers attach to the opinion of other customers. By creating a warm environment, you can facilitate this mutual social behavior. Indeed, customers tend to take the opinion of others as the reference point for their own product preferences in warm temperatures (as opposed to cold ones).
Guidelines from scientific research
The impact of temperature
Influencing the experienced temperature
Sufficiently styling and furnishing a space (in comparison with an empty space) can raise the experience of the temperature of the environment. Use the right colours and textures in the space to influence the visual perception of warmth. The temperature in a space with red walls, for instance, is estimated to be higher than in a room with blue walls.
Creating emotional warmth
When offered a hot beverage the warmth the customers’ hands absorb generates an “emotional warmth” leading them to consider other individuals as warmer, more generous and caring.
Ideal temperatures for special offers
Promoting products with the use of tag lines such as ‘preferred by millions’, ‘a bestseller’, ‘trendy’, ‘very popular’ or ‘used by the majority’, is more effective in a store with a warm ambient temperature. Cooler store temperatures will, on the other hand, benefit products described as ‘unique’, ‘rare’, ‘scarce’, ‘tailor-made’ or ‘one-of-a-kind’.
Perceived material warmth
When selecting materials for a store interior it is very important to pay sufficient attention to the way these materials will be experienced by the users: both the retailers and the customers. Indeed, the colour and texture of a given material can influence the visual perception of its warmth. Although not always true, the visual aspect tends to dominates in a multi-sensorial perception. Hence in an interior, colour (especially that of interior walls) has a greater impact on the visual perception of warmth than texture. In other words, a red concrete wall will be perceived to be warmer than a coarse concrete wall. The coarse wall, in turn, will be perceived to be warmer than a smooth concrete wall. Thus, as it is not always possible to change the colour of an existing material, you might consider altering the texture of a surface to influence its perceived warmth.
Drawing attention through touch
Why not use the tactile characteristics of a product to draw customer attention? Indeed, research shows that when customers are attracted by the tactility of a product, they are less likely to shift their attention to a competing product or brand. However, when a product doesn’t feel pleasant or doesn’t invoke a satisfying feeling, customers will more likely search elsewhere.
People have different preferences when it comes to the senses they use to acquire information. For some, haptic information (that gained through the sense of touch) is predominant. Haptic information is important for evaluating products that differ in terms of texture, hardness, temperature and weight. To cater to these customers, it is best to avoid presentations that hinder the ability to touch a product (such as placing a product behind glass or on a display which is out of reach). Have a look at the comprehensive overview paper ‘haptic is practical’ by Peck & Childers (2003) for more insights on this topic.
The tactile interaction created by a product (or piece of furniture) in a store appears to affect the way this product is perceived. An important consequence is that the tactile aspect of products/furniture needs to be congruent with the appeal of it (the underlying message). The tactile aspect can also be used to reinforce the visual aspect.
Negative consequences of tactile contact
Products should be neatly displayed or folded on the shelves, as customers find products less attractive and are less likely to buy them when they think that these products have been touched multiple times before.
When a salesperson touches a customer very subtly and lightly, the chance of participation by this customer, the tip he gives, or in some circumstances his/her evaluation of the service increases. Still, some care is warranted. Salespeople should evaluate whether and when it is appropriate to touch someone during their sales talk. Women tend to have a higher preference for tactile contact and age also seems to play a role as customers over 65 appear to find tactile contact more convincing.