How Retail Lighting Impacts the Shopper Experience

With advancements in retail display technologies, packages no longer sit on a two-dimensional shelf. Instead, they are brought to life using innovative lighting techniques. These advancements involve new approaches for illuminating shelf displays, adding to the appeal of strategically designed packages.

As lighting options evolve, so must package designs and materials used to take advantage of what modern retailers have to offer. New retail displays with enhanced lighting, in combination with well-designed packages, capture the visual attention of shoppers and help drive purchases off the shelf.

Our eyes allow us to take in our surroundings and interpret the world around us. Without the ability to see, our lives would be entirely different, especially when going shopping. The human eye processes thousands of visual stimuli such as packages and logos for us automatically, and helps make purchasing decisions easier when we fixate on something that we really like.

The eye operates similarly to a camera, taking in various levels of light through the lens, and processing it behind the screen until a final image is ready for review. As such, the eye is sensitive enough to notice subtle changes in lighting, enhancing what is seen and changing what is perceived to be there.

Changing the lighting in a picture changes the look of the final image; sometimes this is for the better (think: portrait lighting), and sometimes it adds an extra few pounds in undesired areas (think: well, you know). Retailers understand the power that light has on increasing the appeal of products in-store, and as such, use various techniques to their advantage ­– benefitting both the retailer and the brand.

Undershelf lighting is one technique used to draw the attention of the eye towards a particular shelf location or product. Often deployed near checkout counters, under shelf lighting is typically wired on the shelving row above the product to make candy bars, gum, and magazines “pop” off the shelf and encourage a quick sale. The added lighting enhances the existing package design, making it all the more attractive to a hungry shopper.

Glossy and colorful packages lend themselves well to undershelf lighting. Delicia Chocolates is one brand that uses a glossy wrapping material in addition to bright colors to make their package stand out. This combination is enhanced even further when bright under shelf lighting draws attention to the object, fixating on the brighter areas of interest. Without under shelf lighting, these products may go unnoticed unless specifically sought out.

In addition to undershelf lighting, there is a more focused variety of accent lighting that draws attention to particular items with a purpose. Spotlights can be used to give the appeal that products are worthy of a second glance by creating a stark contrast among the surroundings. By highlighting one product in particular out of others on display, spotlights give the impression that conventional products are actually premium or high quality.

To take advantage of the appeal that spot or accent light add to packages, designs with matte finishes work well to showcase the quality of the design while accenting any non-matte portions of the package with a sparkle to capture attention. Beer brands such as Allagash are able to differentiate their small-batch brews by using matte-paper logos and a similar finish on their cardboard carriers to command a higher price on aisle end caps when accented with spotlights.

Retail locations may take spot or accent lighting a step further by changing the temperature of the light bulb used. While lighting temperature does not refer to real heat, it does speak to the metaphorical warmth that some lighting colors add to display areas. Blue lights typically “lower the temperature” while yellow-tinted shades “warm up the room”.

The color of Form Beauty’s Hydrate Conditioner bottle design is naturally warm, and when accented with warmer lighting, continues to evolve and provide the appeal of a premium product. Warming up the light that hits the outer shell ensures that the product coloration matches the lighting, maintaining a harmonious view of the product in all environments.

Warm lighting can also be used to slow down the shopping experience, and when paired with spot or accent lighting, can create deeper-level shopping experiences. When customers feel that they are shopping in a premium store, their brain is tricked into thinking that they too may be able to splurge more on products to match the moment.

Lighting is an excellent tool to draw attention to retail shelving. It is important to remember that light can be used to attract attention, change the perception of a product, and even change the tempo of a shopping experience. 

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