Retail Display Psychology PDI

The Psychology of Retail Displays: Appealing to the Subconscious Mind of the Shopper

A major national retailer is set to open its doors promptly at 9:00 AM. Soon, a flood of consumers will come rushing through those aisles only to be faced with a multitude of decisions. They’ll make choices based on price, looks, past experience, reviews and a myriad of other factors. The research, the development, the testing, design and marketing – it all comes down to the moment that your potential customer either stops and takes notice, or walks right by your product.

So, the question is: how can you, in that brief instant, grab the attention of your target consumer and appeal directly to that instinct inside that screams, “I’ve gotta have it!”?

One answer is to create point of purchase displays that speak directly to basic tenets of visual merchandising psychology. Purchasing decisions are often made based on emotion, making the study of human behavior a critical factor in organizing and designing for the retail space. Most critical is to keep in mind that your goal should not be to promote your brand but rather, to attract the attention of your customer and motivate a purchase.


The way we perceive color can influence mood and thereby purchasing behavior:

  • Colors Black – We associate the color black with sleekness and sophistication, indicating a luxury product.
  • Colors Green – This is a calming, reassuring color, which also has ties to the natural world and affluence.
  • Colors Yellow ­– Many food-related businesses yellow in branding and display, as it is known to be an appetite stimulant.
  • Colors Red – Want to stimulate action? Go with Red. It screams immediacy – especially effective when promoting sales.
  • Colors Blue – Like green, blue can be soothing, promoting confidence and faith in your brand.



Avoid sharp edges in favor of rounded corners. The human mind is naturally attuned to signs of danger and you increase the likelihood of avoidance if you associate your product with the possibility of bodily harm. While consciously, we may have no problem with the edges of a metal shelf, our minds are making micro-decisions based on subconsciously perceived threats at every turn.


Brian Wansink, PhD, is a consumer psychology expert and he emphasizes the importance of accessibility. For instance, an end-aisle display will increase sales by 30%, simply due to increased visibility. Also important is to pay attention to which products are positioned around your display. You want to be next to products that compliment your own. If you sold lipstick, the best place for your cosmetic display might be next to the hottest new shade of eye shadow.

According to A.K. Pradeep, author of The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind, “As much as 95% of our decisions are made by the subconscious mind.” For that reason, it is incredibly important to allow your design and marketing decisions to be influenced by neuroscientific discovery. More than ever, the mind is a terrible sales resource to waste.