Monday, 31 October 2011

10 design tricks to turn us all into shopping zombies

This morning, after apparently being quoted in the Daily Mail talking about women's love of shopping, I popped out to the local shop where I'm staying in Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.
It looks like this (below).

Skye's answer to Westfield? Not a digital waterfall in sight.

I know, they couldn't make it less appealing if they tried.  But there's a certain authenticity to this type of shop;  a corrugated-tin reminder that shopping is just about getting the stuff we need, not a leisure activity.
 Shopping is just something we do in order to live better lives, it shouldn't be the way we live our life.
I wasn’t the first to compare shoppers to zombies (see earlier post and a dazzling analysis by Mimi Spencer in Saturday’s Times) and I’m sure I won’t be the last, but recent news about a million shoppers invading Westfield in its first week of opening got me thinking again about the draw of the mall. And all the psychological tricks that are pulled to make sure the mindless keep searching those seven miles of shop fronts, perhaps in the vain hope they’ll find their lost soul.
Are you being served? Or manipulated?
Westfield’s marketing team are on a mission to make sure the shopper stays for at least two hours. Because the average person won't be able to go for more than two hours without parting with a hefty proportion of their paypacket, and feeling the need to top it off with a cappuchino and a visit to one of its 50 cafes.
Here's how the designers-cum-brainwashers plan the mall to persuade you to suspend your critical faculties and surrender to the goddess of eternal consumption:
·     No clocks for fear you might notice the time (and your life) slipping away and feel compelled to rush empty-handed towards the exit.
·       The soul-less exterior of the mall, anonymous and blank enhances the contrast effect as you enter the sparkling glassy jingly interior.
·       Deliberately disorientating layouts so you get lost and retrace your steps or go off on an aimless purse-splurge.
·       Reflective echoing floors that make the carpeted interior of the shops more alluring.
·       Ditto the harsh lighting in the malls contrasting with the seductive and glitzy lighting of the shops’ interiors.
·       Mirrors on the walls between shops. People slow down when they pass mirrors (vanity) and how can they sell to you if youre rushing around?
·       Slowing your pace down slows your heart rate and even your blink rate, rendering you more mesmerised and gullible. Piped birdsong and a digital waterfall help the coma-induction process.
·       Shopping stretches of a maximum length of 300 metres, about the distance for which buying interest can be held at a peak before waning.
·       Expanses of stores above and around that are visible through glass balustrades and open plan escalators, giving uninterrupted views of tempting targets,
·       Scrupulously clean floors so your attention is exclusively fixed on shop fronts and not distracted by having to step over or around street detritus.
So next time you realise you spent more time in the shopping centre than you'd intended and more cash than you could afford, you'll know how it happened.

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