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How Architectural Retail Design Can Use Lighting to Boost Sales

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The Customer Journey

Retail lighting is a critical component to making a shopping experience successful. And the customer journey through a retail space depends upon architectural lighting design to a large extent. After all, it is through lighting that the customer’s journey will be enhanced as it helps a brand to tell their story about its store and showcased products. Lighting can serve to set the customer’s mood, create hierarchy among an array of products, and it serves to help make the shopping experience fun by creating beautiful displays that showcase what various products can do. Also, with proper attention to lighting, a store can create a “brand experience” that is memorable – to create desire in a customer to return to the store again.

Frame Basic LED Recessed Luminaire

Frame Basic LED Recessed Luminaire

The Retail Entrance

The occupant shopping experience begins before the customer ever goes inside of a store. In fact, it is important to ensure that their entire shopping experience is a delight – again, this begins with making certain that customers are receptive and in the proper shopping mindset. Thus, the architectural lighting design should prepare customers for what they are about to experience. For example, the journey from their car, through the parking lot, and along the sidewalk to enter a store needs to be seamless – where lighting along with site design “set the stage” for entering the store.

Ova 100 Outdoor Luminaire

Ova 100 Outdoor Luminaire

This can be done by giving attention to the exterior, where proper lighting within parking areas and along pathways present the kind of “image” a store wants to present. Additionally, thought should be given to the transition between exterior and interior lighting, as this makes it easier for a customer to absorb the store’s layout and initial presentation – which should be a part of the customer’s journey. For instance, with a dramatic window display, one can use lighting to showcase certain products and/or use lighting to touch a customer emotionally. By making an emotional connection with a customer, a brand can leave a lasting impression. To make an entrance display “connect” with customers, lighting designers can use different lighting colors, intensities, fixtures, and placements to create a compelling and memorable entrance.

LED Slim Light Recessed Luminaire

LED Slim Light Recessed Luminaire

Fitting Rooms

As customers make their way into a store, illumination should help them browse, select and test products. And it is important to think about this for all areas within a store. For example, within a clothing store, lighting in the fitting rooms should present customers and products in the best light. Lighting should make colors, texture, and fit clearly visible. Light coloring that is unflattering to customers presents a brand and products poorly. Instead, use lighting that makes products look good – especially when those products are worn directly by customers.

Lighting for Different Products

Different products may call for different lighting. If a brand sells televisions, the lighting may need to be muted a bit to reduce glare and show off the vibrant screens. Conversely, if a brand sells cameras, then the lighting may need to allow for customer “test photographs” to be taken within the store. The goal is to make sure the lighting works with the products that a brand sells, so when tested, customers can see the full potential of what their future products can do.

Fili w-clamp Spot Light

Fili with clamp Spot Light

Similarly, retail lighting design within a store architecture should foster the different customer activities within a given store – where lighting for the different areas within a store can increase customer interactivity with products. For example, lighting should be conducive to customers who search for a particular sized clothing item, or who are trying to pick out the perfect fruit within a grocery store. Again, shopping should be an enjoyable experience that makes buying a delight.

Increasing Store Functionality

Proper lighting in the “back rooms” of a store is critical as well. Even though shoppers do not typically enter these retail zones, they can tell a lot about a brand by how efficiently and accurately staff assist them. Just imagine a shoe store where the staff goes into the back room to get a certain shoe size for a customer – proper lighting here will ensure that staff can see clearly as they quickly and accurately select their customers wanted item.

Of course, once ready to purchase their items, customers must easily be able to pay. Lighting in this part of the store should allow both customer and staff to see clearly. This reduces transaction error, and allows for friendly social interaction between staff and shopper. Both of these can play a big role in saving money and ensuring repeat visits by the same customer.

Branding a Memory

Yes, lighting within retail is a lot about function – but it is also about customer experience. Light fixtures can work together with the architectural retail design to create a brand’s story – to invite customer in and leave them with a positive lasting impression. For this, light fixtures can add a lot to a retail space by making a statement through geometric form, color or special effects. Just imagine a children’s store where the light fixtures are fun and playful, a high-end clothing store where the fixtures are elegant and sophisticated, or a grocery store where the light fixtures are functional, yet out of the way as can be accomplished with recessed lighting, for example.

Nepro Display Luminaire

Nepro Display Luminaire

As a customer exits the store, often what was once the entrance becomes the point of departure. Here, lighting can be integrated with the architectural design to cultivate the memory that the brand wants the customer to take with them. In this case, interior lighting can be used with exterior lighting to help transition the customer back outside. In doing this, the customer shopping experience is over – but their journey with that brand has just begun. After all, as they open their product once at home, they will remember the experience of buying that product as a “branded memory” – where lighting played a critical role in making that shopping experience a success.

About the author

Maria Lorena Lehman

Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary architectural designer, author and researcher with a passion for creating environments where occupants can flourish and thrive. By specializing in architectural design, emerging technologies and innovative occupant experience, Maria Lorena Lehman brings leading-edge research from fields like neuroscience, biomimicry, and nanotechnology to help inform how environments can uplift quality of life. In 2008, Maria Lorena Lehman founded Sensing Architecture — a resource for designers worldwide, where she publishes and teaches about her designs, theories and research to help advance the positive effects of architecture. Maria Lorena Lehman received a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University. She has also worked as Associate of a notable architecture firm on an array of award-winning architecture projects. Maria Lorena Lehman has been published in Building Tomorrow Magazine, Intelligent Buildings International, the International Journal for Architectural Theory, and in the book Intelligent Buildings. Additionally, Maria Lorena Lehman has been seen in Esquisses Magazine, Architect Magazine, and Forbes.

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