Elements of Distraction

We often talk about ‘The Last Four Feet’ – that final moment where you’re close to owning those shoes, trousers or jacket you’ve picked up; that moment where you delve into the reasons of why you need yet another pair of shoes and gladly notice it’s not hard to persuade yourself; that moment when you think if you should spend that hard-earned money…

A lot goes through the consumer’s minds at that time. I’m sure you all have been there. I know I have. And there were times when the long queue, inefficient service, overcrowding and many other things made me leave without buying.

There are many reasons why retailers lose customers during this final step. So, what to do to keep them in-store and reinforce your brand’s story?

The answer is easy: distract them! Introduce things that take their attention off that doubtful internal voice.

I call it ‘Elements of Distraction’. There are many available, and which ones you choose will be dependent on your price range, product type, your brand values, your customer profile and the type of relationship you have with them.

Video Content

A relevant video content behind the payment desks not only takes the mind off the doubtful internal talk but it also helps the customer rationalise the purchase and entice them for the future purchases.

The content needs to tap into the emotional and psychological motivation for buying your brand in the first place, further developing the relationship your brand has with each consumer.

Story-Based Labels

Product labels which contain messages on your brand story, product story, and craftsmanship will engage the customer further growing the symbolic meaning of the product.

The symbolic meaning is crucial. It is the reason consumers are loyal to particular brands, are attracted to specific products, and believe in some stories more than others. Which symbolic meaning will engage your customer more will depend on their personality, experience, life goals etc.


Although highly undervalued and underdeveloped in the UK, sales assistants are still one of the most important reasons why people buy. The environment might not be perfect, the price not up to your satisfaction, but if a sales assistant smiles at you, asks you about your day, and invites you to relax, you feel obliged to take time to browse at least.

A glass of bubbly, a soft seat, or a short conversation won’t cost you much, but will certainly earn you a lot.

Distracting Retail Environment Design

Now we go a little deeper into the brain. A number of environmental cues can affect our time perception, comfort level and therefore our patience.

Music can decrease perceived waiting time, relax customers and slow down their movement. It can also influence the effectiveness and demeanour of the sales assistants.

Certain ambient scents can influence our emotional state and, for example, make us less stressed.

Softer floor surfaces will slow down people’s movements and relax them which will have an effect on the time perception and the overall experience in-store.

Waiting areas with soft seating instead of typical payment desks can be a good idea in some mid-market and luxury stores. It will distract the customer from the action of paying and focus their attention on the experience.

Taste is rarely used in retail. Sweet taste, e.g. chocolate, will make customers happier and therefore more forgiving. Of course, it won’t work for every brand. It makes most sense in boutiques, jewellery, car showrooms and some mid-market and luxury fashion brands.

There are many other ‘Elements of Distraction’ you can use. What ‘Elements of Distraction’ will be most effective for your brand depends on many variables. However, the best principle is to keep it simple and consistent with what your brand stands for.