Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How retailers can influence the walking speed of customers

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Managing the flow of customers through a store

is a finicky business for retailers.

When customers rush through the store,

they miss interesting products and buy less.

But spending too much time in front of the shelves

could lead to annoying congestion in the aisles.

Research by Bram Van den Bergh of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

now demonstrates that placing floor markers

can help customers with finding the right pace on their shopping trip.

We now that walking speed is important,

but we don't really know how to

change the pace with which people walk.

So, the goal of this research was to

to come up with interventions that retail managers could use

to change the speed with which people are walking through the store.

What we did is, we pasted actual lines on the floor of a supermarket

and we manipulated whether there were more or fewer lines on that floor.

And we created, basically, the illusion

that the aisle was longer or shorter than it actually is.

If you think the path is long,

you are going to actually walk slower

than if you think that the path is shorter

As a consequence, people walk faster

if there are fewer markers on the floor

than when there are more markers on the floor.

The same thing is observed in loyalty programs in a marketing context.

If people have to collect stamps,

or if people are accumulating Air Miles in a frequent flyer program,

you see that people accelerate their purchasing,

if they get closer to that bonus reward that they might get.

I think these insights can also be applied outside of a supermarket context.

For instance, in railway stations or airports,

it might be beneficial to speed up passengers

to make sure that they reach their gate or platform in time,

and that they are less likely to miss their train or their flight.

In other contexts, it might be beneficial to slow down people.

For instance, in swimming pools, where a reduction in walking speed

could prevent people from falling, for instance.

So, i think these insights are applicable across a wide range of contexts.

They are not restricted to supermarkets.

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