A slate of research suggests flooring has the ability to affect a consumer’s purchasing decisions.
The competitive e-retail market continues to challenge brick and mortar stores, with many retailers commissioning architecture and design professionals to help them carefully consider their spaces to ensure they align with the company's product or service offering.
While lighting and point of sale storage solutions are highly important in the retail environment, floors are now being given a closer look, and are being used as a vehicle for potential sales.
Many facets of flooring can affect the shopping experience, from colour and texture to how comfortable it feels under foot. Its cleanliness is also crucial and if it is customised and offers something visually engaging, it could bring consumers in from the outside.
Trend-wise, floors are becoming wider and goods are being displayed on walls to maximise their effectiveness.
Flooring comfort and suitability encourages consumers to prolong their in-store stay. Hard tiles in a luxury fashion store may not align with the soft materials of the garment or be ideal in a baby retail store where a warm ambiance is required. In contrast, carpet in a sports or outdoor store may not serve the athletic products such as test bouncing a ball or observing an outdoor furniture setting on carpet.
These examples affect the way customers feel about the product, according to a study by the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.
"The feeling customers get from a store's flooring can affect how a product makes them feel, which in turn determines whether they buy it," the study states.
Beyond comfort, floors can serve wayfinding and in-store advertising purposes. Some retailers choose to install floor decals or project a logo at their store entrance, while others allow retailers to promote in-store events, sales or give information about a product. Sometimes, basic arrows will line the floor to help shoppers navigate the store. Along with the experience or products that the consumer finds along the way, the navigation could also lead to a stand with sales or liquidation items.
While these tactics remain successful, some of the newer flooring applications are a little more subtle in their communication hoping to reach the consumer in a subconscious way.
A recent webinar conducted by Tarkett, a global leader in flooring (and recent acquirer of Europe's Desso flooring brand) explored flooring as a revenue generator. Webinar panelist Stephanie A. Jones, IIDA interior designer at Bergmeyer Associates Inc, acknowledged a movement toward using flooring as a visual communication platform thanks to customisability, vinyl graphics and digital technologies.
"Flooring contributes to the mood and feel of a space and communicates the brand to the customer," she said. "It can be seen from outside the store and used to pool someone into the store."
"We're seeing an increase in flooring being used as a communication tool in a way that's more graphic. This helps the consumer know where they need to stop - stop and do something there or something special will happen."
Jones is referring to the growing trend of retailers creating in-store activities, technology stores placing their products on useable display, and touch-and-go points to connect the customer to the product.
Fellow panelist Jo Rossman, LEED AP ID+C editor for Retail Environments has noted an uptick in messages projected on floors, as well as welcome mats.
She noted that "you don't want the flooring to compete with the merchandise" but suggested installing "signature brand colours beyond the entrance to the lease line."
Rossman added that floors can also reflect sustainability, noting that many clients will assume a store is "green" if it has wooden flooring, fixtures or vegetation throughout. She encourages businesses to utilise floors to communicate green credentials as this again fosters positive feelings about the product or brand.
Melbourne-based company Beyond Media explores new opportunities for digital print advertising. Beyond Media's portfolio includes retailers such as McDonald's utilising floors. To cite one example, flooring decals are affixed just before the fast food counter to detail McDonald's latest (and limited) meal offerings. Another example is a supermarket that has placed a shampoo advertisement detailing its benefits on the floor in front of the product's point of sale stand.
Canadian store Grouse River, designed by Hatch Interior Design, has implemented a very clever flooring format.
The outdoor store echoes the neutral colours and patterns of the earth and a simulated riverbed weaves its way throughout the store, which features, slopes and stone boulders. The various flooring finishes create zones through which the store differentiates between merchandise areas.
This store demonstrates how retailers can maximise flooring to create a visually engaging space but one that also places products in a "divide and conquer" format.