Why better-quality air can improve shopper wellbeing and boost sustainability
Retail destinations and the brands they house employ numerous psychological techniques to attempt to influence consumer behaviours. So many of the decisions that go into the day-to-day workings of a retail destination are highly calculated. Will Procter, director at healthy buildings experts Forsta Retail, believes that air quality should be on that list of daily considerations.
“While perhaps not as evocative as sensory marketing, air quality could spell the difference between loyal lingering and fair-weather footfall,” says Procter. According to the World Health Organisation, he says, poor air quality has the same effect on our health as smoking tobacco or eating too much salt – both of which are more commonly receognised as damaging.
Procter questions whether it is a coincidence that these are things we can actively ‘feel’: “If we told you that one-third of all stroke, lung cancer and heart disease deaths are related to air pollution – you’d probably agree it is simply something we cannot ignore.”
There have been multiple studies into the link between air quality and consumer behaviour. A 2011 study by Marques and Lima revealed that higher levels of air pollution were consistent with negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, and poor concentration. Poor air quality was also found to promote ‘avoidance behaviours’. “Consumers would stop taking unnecessary trips in a bid to protect their health & whilst in store, would subconsciously spend less time looking over products – these are exactly the things that we in retail are trying to pull against,” he explains.
Similar to sales tactics, he also points out that we so often hear stats about customers sharing bad experiences over good ones and argues that retail staff who are forced to work in unhealthy environments may see this impact their performance and attitude towards customers.
“Pollutants can affect retail workers’ cognitive function – causing them to make mistakes, be less productive, and potentially lose sales,” says Procter. “Likewise, with the national conversation turning towards mental health, managers must do all they can to put their employees first.”
Fortunately, he says, poor air quality can be reversed with the right technology: “Internal air quality management systems can react to changes in pollutant levels in real-time, reporting any dangers and changing the atmosphere to promote better physical health.
Perhaps most significantly, he adds, in response to the British Retail Consortiums call for retailers to improve when it comes to following the Climate Action Roadmap, there are huge, largely hidden energy savings to be gained from proper air quality management.
“A smart energy management system operated on real time data not only improves air quality, but cuts down on unnecessary carbon emissions,” he tells. “With energy bills set to increase by 54% (and rising) from April, retailers would be wise to insulate themselves against this quickly. A brighter future that puts sustainability and wellbeing first is possible – it’s simply a case of finding the right technology.”
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.