The Importance Of The Decompression Zone


By: Shane Weaver, Director of Strategy

It’s no secret that we, as a society, are very distracted. As we multitask between, texts, emails, streaming music, feeding our kids, navigating directions, often all while operating a vehicle, we force our brains to process more and more information. However, the human brain has changed little in the last 40,000 years. In short, we are ingesting more and more information without any upgrades to our internal processors. And a distracted society can pose problems for retailers.

Based on the current state of retail, it is critical for retailers to provide memorable shopping experiences for their customers and this is harder to do when they are distracted. That’s why designing a Decompression Zone inside a store is important. An effective Decompression Zone will subconsciously transport visitors from a distracted mindset to a calmer state, ready to embrace the actual shopping journey. After all, when a shopper is not consumed with outside distractions and is actively engaged with the moment, they will have a more memorable experience, develop a stronger affinity to the store brand and ultimately spend more thoroughly while visiting.

Photo Courtesy of Nike DTC Design — Luis F Rueda, Design Director

Building an effective Decompression Zone should be anchored in a few key concepts:

  • It should be the store’s entry point and provides the shopper with a vista view of the store in order to ground them in the overall shopping experience
  • It should be a minimum of 10–15 feet and should scale up based on size of store
  • It should be void of merchandise, signage or sales reps because as shoppers are subconsciously in an acclimation process and prone to overlook these elements
  • Retailers should use lighting, floor textures and materials that contrast with the outside environment to alert shoppings that they are entering into a distinctly new environment

As retailers struggle to find key differentiators that support their customer needs, developing Decompression Zones in their retail environments will yield positive results. When done well, a shopper should not notice a Decompression Zone. However, when done poorly or not at all, the retailer will most likely notice the poor impact to their bottom line.


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MaxMedia is a retail innovation agency dedicated to modernizing the shopping experience for today’s always-connected, experience-seeking shoppers.

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