Seven emotional types

The latest LEDs not only make it possible to present goods in an ideal way, but can also favorably influence customer’s sense of well-being, and by extension their buying behavior. Austrian light specialist Zumtobel has had precisely these phenomena investigated in a major study – and has fine-tuned its product range accordingly.

Online business is booming, and local retailers are having to come up with ideas galore to be a match for ever fiercer competition. As such, the standard of particularly imaginative shop designs has been rising for years. The trend is moving away from standardized, globally recognizable retail concepts to increasingly individual solutions that are calibrated to suit the particular target groups in question and present the goods on display perfectly – in other words quite literally “shed the best light on them”. While shopping by mouse click offers the greatest possible selection, regardless of where we happen to be physically, the retail trade has to offer something completely different if it is to attract our attention: Customers have to be surprised and entertained, the brands need to be able to convey a message – and that way shopping can become more than a click, namely an experience.

As far as the retail trade is concerned, the first thing is the question of how to lure customers into shops at all, and how they can be encouraged to buy something. Light plays a decisive role in all these temptations. The latest LED technologies offer a whole host of opportunities when it comes to shop design as they enable you to adapt the color, the amount, and the distribution of light, they feature different dispersion characteristics and the smoothly changing intensity and color of light. Given their ever smaller size, such lighting solutions can today be integrated far better into interior architecture and be positioned more discreetly, such that our focus is not in any way distracted and is directed totally at the goods. Nowadays the color reproduction of the latest LEDs is to a large extent authentic: After all, nobody wants to buy something that suddenly looks totally different in natural daylight. This avoids any disappointments down the line for customers, and in the food sector, where produce can be displayed looking fresh and appetizing, this authenticity is of immense importance.

Modular systems allow individual lighting and as such mean you can configure different shop zones where each range of goods can be displayed in its own special way. The goods can also be given a more sculpted appearance, which is particularly important in the automotive sector, for example, as then complex car bodies can be presented in an appropriate way. Furthermore, the latest LEDs make for gentle lighting that is almost free of harmful infra-red and ultra-violet rays – on top of which such lamps are more sustainable: The accent lighting and daylight-dependent light control help save energy. So felicitous light design can play a decisive role when it comes to staging the goods on display more specifically, to zoning spaces, to enhancing brand profile, to differentiating between the various brands, and still save energy.

Sterilely illuminated or atmospherically dimmed light?: The study stated that there is no ideal scenario for each customer, but there are three different profiles, to which all “limbic types” respond well: Balance, Stimulance and Dominance. Photo © Zumtobel

The influence of light

Nowadays, however, when it comes to presenting and selling, it is not just about placing goods in the right light. The customer is also the focal point of the light design, because whether, what, and how much we buy also depends on emotions: “No emotion, no (purchase) decision,” says Bernd Werner, a member of the Management Board of the brand and retail consultancy and market research corporation Gruppe Nymphenburg. “But we shouldn’t equate ‘emotion’ with ‘feeling’ here. Put simply, the ‘emotions’ we are talking about here entail evaluation, guidance, and motivation systems, that for the most part function at a subconscious level. If, as a store designer, I understand the emotional significance of a product for a target group, then I also know how I can influence the purchase decision.”

Emotions can also have an impact on our purchasing patterns. Previously, however, no research had been carried out into the role that light plays in purchase decisions, and how in particular it can appeal to well-being and thus emotions. For this reason Zumtobel, together with Gruppe Nymphenburg, initiated the “Limbic® Lighting” study, in which the emotional responses to various light scenarios in a store were empirically analyzed and quantified. For the study Zumtobel used the neuropsychological Limbic® model developed by Gruppe Nymphenburg, which classifies consumers in seven “limbic types”: traditionalist, harmonizer, open-minded, hedonist, adventurer, disciplined, and performer. These individual consumer types are then sub-divided into three groups – and each has a specific set of emotions. The study goes on to suggest that a carefully customized lighting scenario can then appeal in an optimum way to the respective set. The “Balance” group (traditionalists, harmonizers, and the open-minded), yearns for harmony and relaxation and responded particularly positively to moderate accent lighting. Strong contrasts and different spotlights, on the other hand, appealed to the members of the “Stimulance” group (hedonists and adventurers) as more unconventional shopping types. Lighting that is rich in contrast had a more negative influence on the third group of critical shoppers, which the study classified as “Dominance” (the disciplined and performers). They like balanced, moderate effects.

The study also included practical tests in a Herford branch office of Gerry Weber – with selected participants who responded to the new design.
Photo © Zumtobel

So in an ideal situation the light in a store would change depending on the type of customer that entered. It goes without saying that this is not possible in practice. On the basis of the seven types, however, a “typical clientele” can be determined for every store. Together with fashion company Gerry Weber, Zumtobel proved the effects a coordinated lighting scheme can have in one of the fashion outlets, a branch in Herford. The clientele there was allocated to the “Harmonizers” target group and the entire light concept geared to the “Balance” Limbic® type group by means of Zumtobel LED spotlight illumination. Customers’ purchasing patterns in the branch were then monitored for two months and compared with a reference branch. The bright new atmosphere with its warm color temperatures of 3,000 Kelvin clearly had a positive on the customers in Herford, as sales soared by 10 percent in the period concerned. Additional readings and customer polls using the “Limbic® Emotional Assessment” (LEA) method also revealed that the customers felt less stressed, and indeed experienced a greater sense of well-being. “In addition to greater attention, activation, and well-being, light design geared to specific target groups also reduces customers’ stress levels. All the changes mentioned have a positive effect on the length of time they spend in the store, and turnover,” Bernd Werner says, confirming the result.

For this reason, in times of flourishing online business and an oversaturated market, anyone wanting to maintain high sales levels and secure customer loyalty has to offer a contrast from monotonous store fittings, and provide a special spatial experience. Alongside advice and the tactile experience, this also involves a well-coordinated light design. Lighting that is planned professionally and used correctly can be outstanding in the way it creates atmospheres, appeals to emotions, and presents brands.

Katharina Sommer is an architect and freelance journalist and writes about architecture, urban planning and design for, among others, Archithese, Detail, and Birkhäuser Verlag. She lives in Zurich, Switzerland.

Measuring emotions: Under purpose-developed lab conditions, the “Limbic Emotional Assessment” of the participants in the study were measured, meaning the limbic response to the presentation of different lighting scenarios. Photo © Zumtobel
For the study, test persons were shown different illumination scenarios in a 3D simulation. Photo © Zumtobel

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