A new research study from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and the University of British Columbia suggests that the comfort of a store's flooring underfoot may help influence consumers' decision to buy products, whether those products are flooring or not.

The study, “Context Effects from Bodily Sensations: Examining Bodily Sensations Induced by Flooring and the Moderating Role of Product Viewing Distance,” published this summer in the Journal of Consumer Research,examined  the feelings that are evoked by the two most common types of flooring found in the retail sector: resilient and carpet. The feeling customers get from a store’s flooring can affect how a product makes them feel, and may determine whether or not they buy the product, according to the study.

Participants in the study were asked to stand on either pile carpet or vinyl 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 were unconsciously guided by how comfortable they felt, often considering the products on display to be comforting as well. However, the effects were lost if people were standing close by the products when asked to judge them.

“While the research conclusions are interesting, if somewhat contradictory, they merely underline how retail psychology has become a guiding influence in a retail sector that is cluttered, highly competitive and massively important,” said Jenny Krijnen, Desso's marketing manager, emerging markets.

“The results from this study merit further research, but should also be of significant interest for retailers and commercial interior designers working in the retail sector,” she added. Until now, she said, retailers believed that consumers are drawn to products by light and color. However, this study suggests that standing on comfortable flooring while browsing products is an important consideration.