Researcher finds that flooring can affect how consumers make purchase decisions

Jun 03, 2010

From teachers to hairdressers, people who stand on their feet all day will tell you that the flooring beneath them can be the difference between a good day and a bad one. But can the difference between carpet and hard tile flooring affect how you make decisions? Research published this month by Joan Meyers-Levy, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, and author of the famed ceiling height study, suggests that the way people judge products may be influenced by the ground beneath them.

In the study, published in the June 2010 issue of the , authors Meyers-Levy and Juliet Zhu and Lan Jiang (University of British Columbia) explored the feelings evoked by the two most common flooring types in retail environments: hard vinyl tile and carpet. "When a person stands on carpeted flooring, it feels comforting," says Meyers-Levy. "But the irony is that when people stand on carpet, they will judge products that are close to them as less comforting."

The authors first conducted a study to show that carpeting truly does evoke a greater sense of physical comfort than tiled flooring. "Given this finding, we then tackled a more practical and intriguing question," says Meyers-Levy. "Would these elicited by the flooring transfer to people's assessments of products that they observe while shopping?"

The researchers had participants stand on either soft pile carpet or hard tile and view products that were either close to them or moderately far away. When the products were a moderate distance away, people's judgments of them were unconsciously guided by their bodily sensations. That is, if they were standing on soft carpet and viewed a product that was moderately far away, they judged that item's appearance to be comforting. However, people who examined products while standing on this same plush judged items that were close by as being less comforting than they did if the products were moderately far away. "When we look at objects that are close by, the bodily sensations elicited by the flooring are more likely to be used as a comparison standard, not an interpretive frame," states Meyers-Levy.

These findings have important implications for all brick and mortar retailers and service providers. Elements of interior décor such as flooring are more than matters of function or style. They may be directly tied to how a consumer perceives products, and that can determine whether or not the consumer purchases the good. Standing on solid ground with your consumers has always been important, but this research suggests that it may be the difference between a sale and failure to close the deal.

Explore further: Greater inequality within UK and US than some developing countries, trade 'footprint' shows

More information: "Context Effects from Bodily Sensations: Examining Bodily Sensations Induced by Flooring and the Moderating Role of Product Viewing Distance." is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research in June 2010.

Related Stories

When does context matter in product evaluations?

Mar 17, 2008

In most real world settings, consumers encounter and evaluate products in mixed environments – aspirin and deodorant shelved side-by-side at a pharmacy, or an ad for a tropical vacation next to fashion spread in a magazine. ...

What do you know? Not as much as you think

Oct 14, 2008

We've all met know-it-alls—people who think they know more than they actually do. If they're talking about products, like wine or motorcycles, they might actually know as much as they think. But when it comes to health ...

Recommended for you

Genes play a key part in the recipe for a happy country

14 hours ago

Why are the Danes naturally more cheerful than the Brits, and why are we in turn more upbeat than the French? Research presented as part of this year's ESRC Festival of Social Sciences shows us that the recipe behind a happy ...

Black Republicans put most faith in US government

Oct 29, 2014

Black Republicans trust the United States government more than other political groups, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia, ahead of the mid-term U.S. elections to be held on November ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.