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5 Ways to Put Shoppers in a Buying Mood


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Over the years, many studies have shown that a consumer’s mood can have a pronounced effect on his or her purchasing behaviors when shopping. A mood is a sort of general mental state. While less intense than emotions, moods can determine a customers’ actions in a retail environment, such as deciding whether they will spend more or less time in a store, consummate a purchase or just “look.”

Major retail chains have long been aware of the need to do everything possible to ease shoppers into a buying mood. While most of their mood influences are subtle and not obvious to shoppers, they are present in all of their stores. While some of them are not relevant to many small stores such as pet stores, others are considered just as effective in any retail environment. Here are five mood-setting techniques that you can put to work in your store:

1. The Powerful Influence of Scent

Eric Spangenberg, an environmental psychologist and the dean of Washington State University’s College of Business, was one of the pioneers in the effects of scent on the buying experience. According to his research, the right scent in a retail store can help to put customers in that all-important buying mood.

Among the more obvious challenges of scent in a pet shop that offers pets for sale or adoption would be avoiding the unpleasant scents resulting from careless housekeeping. The scents of clean and healthy animals resulting from meticulous attention to cleanliness in cage areas sets an atmosphere that will help to put potential pet buyers in a receptive mood.

Smell is one of our most powerful and influential senses. Research confirms that we are 100 times more likely to remember something we smell than something we see, hear or touch, so it’s logical to harness that power in helping to set customers in a buying mood. 

2. Music Helps to Set the Mood

We all know that some types of music help to set a romantic mood; savvy retailers know that music can also help to set a buying mood. A 1982 study by Milliman Inc. found that when background music was played in a supermarket, customers spent 34 percent longer in the store, with a corresponding increase in sales.

But what kind of music? What music will influence shoppers in a pet store in a positive way? There’s no simple answer to that question, but there are some helpful guidelines. 

A 2000 study found that familiar popular music has a negative effect on shopping. It tends to distract shoppers, causing them to concentrate on the music instead of their shopping. According to the study, unfamiliar but pleasant music has a positive effect on shoppers.

One British study found that classical background music increases the amount that shoppers are willing to spend. 

Tempo also has an effect. Slower tempo music causes people to move slower. Thus, retailers who want customers to spend more time in their stores should play slower, softer music in the background.

3. The Color of Your Store

What are the predominate colors in your store? Is there an overall color that customers perceive when they cross your threshold? That’s an important question because scientific studies indicate that colors stimulate our nervous system and bring about changes in our overall state of mind.

The effect of colors can be very different in different cultures. For example, in the U.S., white is a happy color, associated with weddings and a general feeling of innocence. However, in many Far Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures, white signifies death.

In the U.S., certain combinations of colors are associated with holidays: red and green are mindful of Christmas, while black and orange are used to signify Halloween.

When you decide on predominant colors for your store or specific displays, you might want to keep in mind the associations people often make with various colors in the U.S. Some examples:

  • White: clean, neutral, youth 
  • and innocence
  • Red: danger, the heat of 
  • passion, excitement
  • Black: high fashion, power
  • Yellow: happy, friendly
  • Purple: upscale, royal, dignified
  • Blue: relaxing, peaceful, loyal (true blue)

Colors are also used to create brand images. Consider those ubiquitous UPS brown trucks used to signify trustworthiness and dependability. 

Most important in your store: Colors have meaning to customers. Make full use of colors to create the effect you want.

4. Watch Out for Dust in the Corner

In retail, as in life, first impressions are lasting impressions. That’s why it’s so important for your store to greet customers with an overall impression of neatness and cleanliness.

Major retail chains have long recognized that shoppers will always prefer a neater, cleaner store over an untidy, dirty one. That’s why they spend the time and money needed to clean and polish the floors and tidy up the displays before their stores open in the morning.

An unclean impression can make people feel uneasy. When a shopper doesn’t feel comfortable, they will want to leave the store sooner and aren’t likely to make a purchase. In short, cleaner stores make better profits. The more time a prospect spends browsing in your store, the more likely that person will make a purchase. 

Depending on the size and complexity of your store’s layout, it might be in your best interest to rely on professional cleaning services. In any event, it’s important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your store gives off a clean and tidy impression. 

5. The Importance of a “Happy” Mood

Every customer who enters your store brings a mood with them. It might be a “happy” mood based on something that happened earlier in the day, or it could be a decidedly unhappy mood brought about by an unpleasant experience. Either way, according to Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota, the customer’s mood will influence their buying behavior. Research has shown that positive feelings produce a sort of rose-colored glasses effect, causing products to appear more desirable. Conversely, negative feelings will have an undesirable effect on buying decisions.

Expressed in a more scholarly way in a study by Ronald P. Hill of The American University and Meryl P. Gardner of New York University, “Positive moods increase the probability that individuals will engage in behaviors with expected positive outcomes and decrease the probability that individuals will engage in behaviors with expected negative outcomes.”

In short, customers who find themselves in a happy mood are more likely to make a purchase than those in an unhappy mood.

It’s the retailer’s job, then, to help put customers in a happy mood, and the best opportunity to do that is in the greeting that each customer receives as they enter the store.

Perhaps the most powerful tool available to the retailer is a warm smile and an engaging personality. Every employee should be trained to understand that moods tend to “rub off.” A positive, warm greeting to every person entering the store is one of the most powerful mood-influencing tools in the retailer’s toolbox.


William J. Lynott is a veteran freelance writer who specializes in business management as well as personal and trade publications and newspapers, plus consumer magazines including Reader’s Digest, AARP Bulletin and Family Circle. 

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