Starting a Business – The Power of Perception

Which store would you walk into?

Interior design impacts store perception



So, you’ve started a business. You’ve worked through all the requirements for starting a business.  You have created an online presence and started advertising. You even followed startup best practices such as LEAN startup. Perhaps you navigated the startup minefield by collaborating with startup incubators and accelerators like Blue Chilli or Fishburners.  Now all you need is customers to walk through the door.

Starting a business is exciting. You are passionate about your product or service and you cannot wait to improve the lives of your customers. But how do you convert your passion into active customers? A lot of focus is given to online presence and branding. We want to use all the latest technology and tools to convey our business brand and culture. But we often overlook the most influential factor in how our businesses are perceived by customers – the place where you do your business.

The interior space of your premises is the most constant factor that customers interact with when they do business with you. Where people are impacts how they feel. How people feel impacts how likely they are to buy your product.  Brian Tracy explains in his book, The Psychology of Selling, that people decide to buy based on emotion; they use their logic to rationalise the decision they already made. The impact of emotion on consumer behaviour is well-known, but the impact your interior space has on a person’s emotions may not be as obvious.

Sadalla and Sheets did a fascinating study where homeowners rated aspects of their personality and wrote a description of themselves. Photographs were taken of the exterior and interior of these peoples’ homes. People who were shown these photographs could accurately infer the personality of the homeowners.  Yikes! What are customers inferring about your business when they visit you?

An interior space sends non-verbal messages to people, which are often more powerful than verbal messages because they are harder to fake (as Becker and Steele explain). You can spend truckloads on marketing but if the brand you present in your advertising is not consistent with how people perceive you when they walk through the door, your brand loses authenticity and you lose sales.

Good interior design integrates your brand and culture into the interior space. Your colour selection will evoke the emotions that you want your business to be associated with and can be strategically used to instil the ideal emotional state for customers in your shop. For example, Crowley found that red activates people (ideal when impulse buying is desired), blue is better for larger purchases where customers need to be in an evaluative mind-frame and green colours can relax customers, which is desirable when they are waiting in lines.

The forms and features of an interior space convey strong messages. Curved lines convey innovation, which is why they are often used to convey futuristic utopias as seen recently in Tomorrowland and Jurassic World. Straight lines convey a conservative and safe environment, which is appropriate for products and services that require a high level of trust.

Cash flow for small businesses is often tight, but how valuable is an investment that maximises your likelihood of making sales? Considering the impact that your interior space has on the perception of your business, it is worth spending some time and money to invest in good interior design.