The Purchasing Power of Om

Discussion
Nov 07, 2011

More stores are offering complimentary drinks, posh private events after hours, and cushy seating in order to get shoppers to relax enough to pull out their wallets. Increasingly, there is science behind it.

According to a study from Columbia University, Relaxation Increases Monetary Valuations, participants were randomly shown one of two ten-minute videos. One showed nature scenes with a soothing voice encouraging breathing exercises; the second showed robots. Afterwards, participants were shown photos of ten products, such as a picture frame or LCD monitor and asked how much each were worth. The participants watching the more relaxed videos on average indicated the products were worth about 11 percent more than the non-relaxed participants.

Speaking to INC Magazine, Michel Tuan Pham, a business professor at Columbia and co-author of the study, said relaxation isn’t just soothing, it promotes abstract thinking, which results in customers thinking about the general benefits of products rather than specific features.

The findings were correlated by a study in the upcoming Journal of Marketing Research that found relaxed shoppers were willing to pay up to 15 percent more for goods than less relaxed ones.

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, that’s why high-end boutiques are increasingly providing amenities to encourage relaxation. For instance, Tommy Bahama will begin greeting shoppers with trays of complimentary mimosas and snacks from their attached restaurants starting in mid-November after finding success with similar approaches in past years. Williams-Sonoma is likewise significantly handing out more samples this holiday season.

Department stores are said to be achieving a similar effects by adding in-store cafes or breaking up a large stores into small rooms. Mall developer Westfield Group is adding cushy seating areas with couches and free Wi-Fi hotspots in the public areas in some of its 55 U.S. properties.

Nordstrom will be hosting more evening shopping parties this holiday season for its best shoppers, while FAO Schwarz is running a promotion offering special tours two hours before its Manhattan flagship opens.

Besides free expresso (and cocktails on some nights), outerwear maker Weatherproof’s first flagship in Manhattan includes a no-smartphones policy in a setting intended to mimic a hip Manhattan apartment to drive casual conversations.
“We’re providing a great venue for people to visit, put their feet up, and enjoy face-to-face conversation,” Freddie Stollmack, president of Weatherproof, told Chain Store Age.

Discussion Questions: What do you think of encouraging relaxation as an in-store selling tool? What are some of the best ways you’ve seen stores help customers unwind?

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14 Comments on "The Purchasing Power of Om"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Depends on where you are. In some communities it might work, in others it could backfire by encouraging “non-shoppers” to loiter.

Sorry, no magic wands allowed.

Marge Laney
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Creating a relaxing refuge for shoppers and indulging them with extras is a great way to ‘lead the horse to water’. But to make the sale, the customer still must be sold. Some retailers understand this, but often it’s thought that just getting them comfortable is enough.

The expense of the extras doesn’t take the place of the investment in a solid customer service strategy that enhances personal connections. The extras may get them in and keep them in the store for a while longer, but it’s customer service that ultimately rings the case register.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

This is actually as old as the hills. From working with various charities over the years, I’ve seen that silent auctions always turn in much higher revenues when you offer free wine. Any way to make people feel at ease and relaxed pays off, often substantially.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 6 months ago

Most people are stressed these days and they don’t go to a store to unwind … but once they are there most like a little relaxation and pampering.

This can be a two-edge sword since relaxation and fast product turnover are not easy partners. So keep a business discipline and a “mindset on margins” when using relaxation as a selling tool.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

I often wondered if Barnes & Noble sold more books by having a coffee shop and comfortable seats throughout the stores. I thought both ways. Yes, there would be a tendency to purchase after reading a few short chapters. But, on the other hand, maybe that is not the truth behind what makes the cash registers ring. I am sure we will get a better sense after others put it in to practice during the holidays.

Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

The professor quoted in the article might be over thinking a bit…I see this as “retail therapy” more than “relaxation therapy.” It’s an effective CRM technique to cultivate a store’s “platinum” customers and to keep consumers in the store longer in order to interact with sales associates and do more than just browse. It’s also a targeted way to move beyond social networking as a marketing tool toward true social interaction.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 6 months ago

Well, I always have been a big supporter of limiting distractions within the selling space and I guess that can be connected somewhat to a more relaxed customer. These after hour gigs and special events are excellent ways for merchants to boost up sales. Talk about relaxation, lululemon is now offering free yoga before the store opens. These types of events and promos just enhance the shoppers’ experience and will always lead to bigger baskets.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

The examples cited in the article all help consumers unwind and feel appreciated. Some retailers can do this, others cannot. For those who cannot, I suggest a place to sit in the stores, especially those stores catering to women. It would make the shopping experience much more comfortable for their male partners.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Freud found that patients had more recall of their past when they were lying down — thus the iconic “couch” in a psychologist’s office. One’s physiology does impact one’s psychology there’s no doubt about it. There are lots of things to make people ‘feel good’ and more open and generous.

For example the music a customer listened to when they were 10-13 impacts them the most positively. So do the TV shows popular then. I don’t know why some stores have TVs tuned to news of death and destruction everywhere, or on sheer human stupidity — when the intent is to get people to buy more. For my money put on The Andy Griffith Show — the black and white one. Or the old Rin Tin Tin shows with Rusty. Just thinking about it makes me want to go out and buy something!

David Slavick
Guest
David Slavick
9 years 6 months ago

Best customer parties are smart business. Make it special through invitations by mail using high quality paper and send it by first class mail to ensure timely delivery/recognition. Outbound personal calls to best customers by store management with personal shoppers allocated to help complete their shopping list and lift average basket/share of wallet gain. Beverage, food, gifts and incremental payroll to ensure outstanding shopping service/support including gift wrapping. I’ve done it with great success in specialty retail and the event feels like Black Friday in shopping intensity, the store metrics parallel it and it happens on a historically slow day in the middle of the week! It’s a big investment to pull off — so test first in-store with outstanding personnel/operations and then observe to roll out over time.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
9 years 6 months ago

Shopping shouldn’t hurt. Finding ways to relax economically anxious, time-starved, stressed consumers is a tactic worth exploring by all chains. I’d venture that it’s even more important for chains outside high-end retail (e.g., Walmart, Target, JCPenney, Kohl’s), given that’s where the majority of shoppers are shopping.

While some of the relaxing ideas cited in the articles are interesting, I’d like to see merchants focus on relaxation schemes that are less holiday promo. It seems the average shopper would place more value on being able to partake in a relaxing shopping experience year-round, rather than only a few weeks in December. In this case, it may be smaller additions, like installing chairs/lounges, maybe adding more food sampling, definitely piping in music that matches the core consumer’s lifestyle, etc.

Despite the research, I’m not totally sure that a relaxed shopper will open their wallet any wider. Still, consumers are likely to feel grateful for a relaxing shopping experience, and that may help place the brand at the top of the shopping list for some time to come.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 6 months ago

As a former bartender I could have told you this. The more relaxed your customers are, the more they buy. Is this new information? “Promotes abstract thinking?” Is this something like “beer goggles,” or “The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time?” Sounds like the same thing — “Which results in customers thinking about the general benefits of products rather than specific features.” Did you grin? I know you did.

Mark Baum
Guest
Mark Baum
9 years 6 months ago

Helping shoppers “relax/loosen/liquor up” is not new. High end retailers (think: high end apparel, boutiques, men’s stores, etc)have been offering up “goodies” for many years. While it can come across as gimicky or a thinly veiled attempt to get consumers to open their wallets/purses – in the right setting, with the appropriate level of customer service and attention, it is perceived as “high touch” and a more personal in-store experience than is so often the case of consumers left to fend for themselves, and then having to “hunt down” a retail clerk to “take their money”.

Kimberly Nasief-Westergren
Guest
Kimberly Nasief-Westergren
9 years 6 months ago

Great concept, nothing new. People like to feel pampered and taken care of-and not sold. Adding alcohol goes with the whole charity concept: Give them wine, they’ll open their wallets faster and wider.

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