Commercial flooring for retailers is an important component to the overall operation. Flooring organizes the space, defines paths of circulation and creates merchandising zones. Flooring also helps set the tone and reinforces a brand. Sometimes the right retail flooring installation sets a backdrop upon which the design is built, and sometimes the floor is the big design statement.
But can different types of commercial flooring for retailers influence people’s assessment of products and ultimately be the decision of whether to purchase or not?
Research published by Joan Meyers-Levy, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, and author of the famed ceiling height study, suggests that the way people judge products may be influenced by the floor beneath them.
In the study, published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, authors Meyers-Levy, Juliet Zhu and Lan Jiang (University of British Columbia) explored the feelings evoked by the two most common commercial flooring used in retail environments: hard vinyl tile and carpet. “When a person stands on carpeted flooring, it feels comforting,” said Meyers-Levy. “But the irony is that when people stand on carpet, they will judge products that are close to them as less comforting.”
The authors first conducted a study to show that carpeting truly does evoke a greater sense of physical comfort than tiled flooring. “Given this finding, we then tackled a more practical and intriguing question,” said Meyers-Levy. “Would these bodily sensations elicited by the flooring transfer to people’s assessments of products that they observe while shopping?”
The researchers had participants stand on either soft pile carpet or hard tile and view products that were either close to them or moderately far away. When the products were a moderate distance away, people’s judgments of them were unconsciously guided by their bodily sensations. That is, if they were standing on soft carpet and viewed a product that was moderately far away, they judged that item’s appearance to be comforting. However, people who examined products while standing on this same plush carpet judged items that were close by as being less comforting than they did if the products were moderately far away. “When we look at objects that are close by, the bodily sensations elicited by the flooring are more likely to be used as a comparison standard, not an interpretive frame,” stated Meyers-Levy.
For years designers have followed certain standards when designing a retail store. However, these findings will have important implications for all brick-and-mortar retailers and service providers. Elements of interior decor like commercial flooring for retailers are more than matters of function or style. They may be directly tied to how a consumer perceives merchandise, and that can determine whether or not the consumer purchases or not.