Research has shown how our emotional response to a retail
environment is strongly influenced by what we encounter at the
The first few metres in from the entrance, is known as the ‘decompression zone’ and this is where our senses are in overload.
Adjusting to a new environment, we may feel unsure; the scale, the noise, the movement of people. colour, light levels, unfamiliar layout, signage, aromas and so on subtly affect us.
Our walking pace slows whilst our senses “decompress” or adjust to process and interpret all this information.
Also known as the transition zone the area should be simple and uncluttered, any product or signage before or within it will probably be missed, because you will hardly even see them. Yet, the same products or communications when displayed at 3 metres or so into the store are likely to draw attention.
Promotional items positioned just beyond the decompression zone will draw attention, and if premium higher margin products are located further back the shopper is more likely to engage with them.
We’re all familiar with that sensation of feeling bewildered by an unfamiliar shop environment. The task of store design, Visual merchandising and Retail Marketing Communications is to avoid this and create a sense of calm and anticipation for the shopper, with clear navigation into the store.
An effective decompression zone may just help the shoppers visit go swimmingly!
“Good navigation cues from ‘decompression’ are essential to build and show case the store “offer” and help shoppers discover and find what’s available.”
Roger Smith, Grounded Shopper Insights
“It’s a law of nature – shoppers need a landing strip.”
Paco Underhill, author of ‘Why We Buy’
‘‘Space in store is always at a premium and our first instinct is to use every available location with product displays. However, watching how customers react when first entering the store shows the importance of providing free space. Allowing our customers to acclimatise and focus on our wider store offer.’’
David Towers, Dulux
“I believe some retailers miss the need for a decompression zone and see it as wasted space, overloading it with signage and promotions. Customers need time to orientate themselves without being pestered by signage, deals or even staff!”
Phil D’Souza, Head of merchandising
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