Give your products space
The space-to-product ratio effect: use more empty space between products on display to increase their perceived value and beauty. In one of the experiments sales increased 98%.
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Imagine entering a store for the first time.
The first thing you will do is scan the surroundings to get a feel of the store and what is on offer.
You will try to understand how fancy the store is, and get a rough idea of what pricing would be fair (e.g. “This is probably expensive/cheap”).
Meanwhile, you will look at the products on display and - in usually just 50 milliseconds - form an impression of how good they look.
What if there was an easy way to influence both: perceived prestige and how beautiful products look?
Today’s study used 4 experiments to show us how.
P.S.: A few weeks ago we looked at how the distance between people and the product matters.
The effect is different, but while you’re moving things around it’s worth keeping in mind ;)
Use a high space-to-product ratio to increase sales
Impacted metrics: Customer acquisition | Customer satisfaction | Brand attitudes
Channels: Retail store | Website | Ecommerce sales
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B
Research date: October 2016
Keep a good amount of empty space between products when you display them. Don’t place them right next to each other.
People will like and value your products more, and be more likely to buy them.
Increasing the space between products on display in a store improves perceptions of the product’s design and of the store’s prestige. In turn, that increases how much people:
Value and like the product
Are likely to buy the product
Enjoy the experience of using the product
For example, in experiments:
When a popup jewelry stand doubled the size of the table on which it usually lays out items:
Sales rates almost doubled (26.7% vs 13.5% of visits to the stand)
People rated the products as 11.4% better (in terms of attractiveness, liking, luxuriousness)
People rated the same chocolate 10.3% tastier when free samples of it were displayed on a table that was 30-inch / 76cm rather than 18-inch / 46cm deep
The effect is weaker if someone is mentally busy (e.g. distracted and focused on something else) or the store’s brand is already known to be prestigious (e.g. Tiffany & Co.). In these cases, perceptions of store prestige increase little or not at all, while those of the product’s design still improve.
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🧠 Why it works
When we enter a store:
We consciously look for signals from the store’s layout, look, and feel, to understand the overall price level
We automatically observe and take in the design and beauty of the products on display, and form an impression
If a store is using a large amount of space to display its products, we assume it must be prestigious and have high value products in order to afford the rent for such large spaces.
In parallel, when products are spaced out from each other, they are better delineated so easier to mentally process. The easier an object is to process, the more beautiful we find it.
The experiments ruled out that the effect happens because closer together products seem disorganized and hard to examine.
Although the main focus of the study is on physical retail stores, the effect should extend to websites and ecommerce.
There is likely a limit at which extreme spacing becomes annoying and backfires (e.g. if people need to walk far or scroll infinitely to see which products are on offer). It’s unclear where this limit is.
The researchers found that the effect works across a large variety of product types and situations. However, it probably works better when a products’ design is particularly important and communicating store prestige is important (e.g. a handbag). It’s unlikely to work for products we’re already familiar with and these characteristics are not important (e.g. a can of Coca-Cola or a bag of Cheerios in a minimarket).
🏢 Companies using this
Apple clearly uses this effect to its advantage in its stores.
Urban Outfitters tends to space out its items much more than the average retailer (e.g. H&M, Zara).
Beyond luxury retailers and a few other examples such as the above, the effect does not seem to be widely known and leveraged by retailers.
⚡ Steps to implement
Look for ways to create more space (or the impression of it) between products when displaying them to customers.
For example, use larger display tables, vertical shelves, or add mirrors to make the space seem larger.
On websites, make sure to have a wide margin of space between products.
🔍 Study type
Lab, online, and field experiments (with a local jewelry retailer, Lexi Jewelry). United States
Sevilla, J., & Townsend, C. (October 2016). The space-to-product ratio effect: How interstitial space influences product aesthetic appeal, store perceptions, and product preference. Journal of Marketing Research.
Terry College of Business, University of Georgia and School of Business Administration, University of Miami. United States
Remember: This is a scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.
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