Consumerism has started as early as the first civilization, from Ancient Egypt to Babylon to Ancient Rome. There were evidences that people purchased goods in excess of their basic needs. And during the Industrial Revolution, products were produced in large quantity and it was affordable for everyone thus resulting in mass production and mass consumption. Till today, consumerism is a big issue that everyone talks about as it has made a huge impact all around the world.
Consumerism is beneficial to the economy, when there is demand, there is production and therefore create jobs for many people. However, as the market has become more competitive, consumers become more and more aware of products' specifications and thus have higher demand on the quality of the things they purchase.
The main objective of writing this essay is to identify what motivates consumers to purchase, and what influences interior designers to design in a certain way to enhance the consuming experience. At the end of the day, what is important is to create a lasting memory for those consumers so that they will return the next time.
Consumers today seek more than just the finished products. They also consider the products' images, meanings and the experiences the products provide. Every individual wants a life that is fulfilling and completes. In contrast to his or her daily routine working life, finding pleasure through consuming can create emotional excitement which makes one life more compete. Therefore the more they demand in their lives, the more they expect out of consuming.
In order to create a lasting experience for the consumers, we need to look into what motivates and gives reasons for them to buy. The main key points are: enhancing the quality of life, pleasure, education, relaxation, entertainment, emotional satisfaction, stress relief, status and impulse purchase.
2.1 Enhancing quality of life
Quality of life is one of the most important motivators that drives a consumer to purchase. At the physical level, health and freedom from disease are keys to enhanced quality of life. Therefore a desire for good health drives consumption of health products, supplements, exercise equipments, nutritional food and drinks to a higher level.
Emotional satisfaction is another key point that makes people consume. Sometimes the usage of the product itself cannot provide enough satisfaction for the consumer, it is the process of buying that allows him or her to choose, anticipate and be thrilled after the purchase. The greater the emotional satisfaction, the stronger is the urge to plan and purchase more products.
Some consumers derive pleasure through anticipating, acquiring and owning something that they desire to have. Most of the time they are influenced by fantasy in commercials and advertisements, even though they are not sure if the advertisements are true. Usually, advertisements prey on our weakness and make us buy without a second thought. As for some shop, they really encourage the customers to feel the joy of shopping and recommend only products that they think is suitable to the shoppers. The pleasure is derived from satisfaction with the honesty of the shop owner.
With better standard of living and quality of life, consumers now are more educated and they are always up-to-date with products and the anticipation for availability of new products provides excitement to consumers. Understanding the products will narrow down the chance of buying the wrong thing which is not the best for the consumers. Therefore consumerism provides incentives for industries to spend large amount of money to go into research and development for new, more innovative and higher efficiency products, which has lead to a great improvement in life.
However, this group of people is also aware of the environment and some will take serious consideration of the consequences of high consumption. Due to consumerism, more luxury goods are produced, and this put a strain on the world's natural resources that are depleting at a much faster rate than they are replenishing. Moreover, production processes tend to pollute the environment and produce waste. Conserving the environment will do them good in the long run and they might not want to be caught in the irony of buying goods to improve their life at the expense of a deteriorating environment.
In the hectic and busy working life, some consumers derive relaxation from the experience of purchasing. Stores that are designed in a way that is sensitive to the need for relaxation will allow the consumers to spend more time in them. Moreover, Paco Underhill, the author of the book "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping" says that "The longer shoppers spend in the store, the more they spend." Thus their products are being sold at a faster rate compared to stores that overlook this aspect. A space with relax setting should stimulate our senses, for example, our sight, smell, sound and sense of touch.
Another important motivator for consumers is entertainment. They are always in search of new entertainments which reduce boredom and create excitement for their life. Entertainment is not just about buying, it is also about the experience when buying. Taking ION Orchard for example, it is new but it has already become a new landmark for tourists and many other shoppers. The façade of the building is made up of high technology materials and capture the attention of the people walking along Orchard Road. Many tourists are fascinated by the design as the experience it gives is new and more dynamic.
Furthermore, consumers are also combining learning with shopping as they are often drawn to shopping venues where they can participate in the excitement of entertainment. Therefore creating a close connection between the consumers and products.
2.6 Emotional satisfaction
Consumers get satisfaction from purchasing something that they desire even though they do not need it. The happiness of purchasing goods that expresses their identities takes away the guilt of spending. Some people gain emotional satisfaction with buying something that everyone is having as they feel that they deserve to have those things too. It is human nature to want something that is popular and they only realise that they do not need it after they bought it. Usually this desire has a very strong link with branding, and the common excuse for that is rewarding themselves.
2.7 Stress Relief
Some consumers release stress by going for shopping, comforting themselves with purchasing a product that they longed for, at the same time, they might cause more stress for themselves after spending too much. Therefore some people do not shop at all when they are under stress, as they want to wait until they have a clear mindset of what they need.
Some consumers turn to exercise, eating and doing activities that will help to reduce stress instead of shopping. The consumption of sport equipments and things that relate to wellness and health will be of a higher demand. In addition, these places should make the people feel comfortable, safe and relaxed.
Normally, the higher-class consumers will consume without worrying whether the product is worth the money as they have more money to spare. Due to this fact, they tend to be more materialistic. They buy products not just to make their life more comfortable but also to prove their financial status to their peers. Some consumers want to blend in with their friends by buying products or going to a restaurant that only target higher end consumers. But after sometimes, they will realise that they are only purchasing products that are visible to others but actually not of their interest.
2.9 Impulse Purchase
Impulse purchase is very different from planned purchase. Consumers are buying on impulse as it gives them the feeling of power as they can purchase things they want without much consideration. Usually this happen when there is a sale. As consumers fear that they might not have the chance to buy it again, it gives them the excuses to buy things that they do not need and yet not feel guilty.
For impulse consumer, the environment and atmosphere of the retail shop do not matter much to them. They tend to only focus on the finished product itself.
3. Case Study
"One of the points you have to bear in mind when designing relaxation facilities is how to control each of the senses" Ken Kimizuka
The picture above shows the interior perspective from the entrance of the aromatherapy and reflexology salon in Japan which is designed by Ken Kimizuka. It is a water-themed design as its location is on a reclaimed section of Tokyo's waterfront. From the entrance on the right side, stands a basin made up from a clock of limestone whereby water wells up and flows down its sides in a never-ending cycle. Water also adds serenity and movements which appeal to the emotion of the consumers, thus drawing them away from the reality of outside shopping mall. The designer made uses of Paulownia-wood as flooring as it gives the user a soft and warm feel. The lighting of the space can also be adjusted to stimulate consumers' five senses.
The designer made use of natural elements and materials to bring people closer to nature. Moreover, he is designing from the consumer point of view, by putting the user of the space in the center of the designing process, it creates the best experience for them. By just looking at the picture, it gives a sense of calmness and makes me want to be inside that space.
4. Design Resolution
For my Utopia project, the chosen site for the Wellness Café and Retail is located at East Coast Park, targeting middle working class people who are health conscious. Through research I gathered from Consumer Lifestyles, Singapore 2009, it says, "Singaporeans are increasingly becoming health-conscious. They are Endeavouring to exercise more, make healthier food choices during their daily meals and manage their stress level." And " About 25% exercised regularly in 2004, as compared to about 17% in 1998." This shows that there is a high demand for health products and one of the good sites for such retail and café should be near the space they exercise itself. People are exposed to advertisements on wellness café and retail everyday but what they remember is the real visual of the space. Since health and wellness is a vital part of their lifestyle, there is a high chance that the consumption rate will be high. It is certainly so because health and wellness are essential, hence the strategy is that consumers will not feel as guilty as spending money on such products as compared to other things.
Therefore this is when my role as a designer comes in to provide a holistic package for consumers, by offering a 360 degree service catering to this specific group of people. Sports retail which consists of basic sports equipments, health products, brochures and books regarding health and wellness are displayed for the consumer to gain better understanding of the products and wellness. Furthermore, the wellness café is designed for them to cool down after they exercise. There are other programs such as dipping pool and individual netting pot for them to relax. All these programs are strategies to make sure the consumers will return to the place as it is convenient and most importantly, it is designed for them. Thus helps to sell the products even more efficiently and engages consumers emotionally. Main materials such as wood and stones and polished cements are used as they are closer to nature which linked to the site context.
Consumerism is not just about consuming the products themselves, if they are being displayed in a retail space, then the spatial arrangement should be designed to match the products. Also, it has to have a strong link to the targeted consumer so that they can "experience" and not just "do" while choosing the items, making payments, and encountering the environment and the service. The core consumption experience should also involve sensation, satisfaction and linkage between space, products and the consumers. Consumerism should not just be about buying but experiencing. Therefore a good interior designer should emphasize on emotional and sensational aspects of the space in order to create entertainment for the consumer of the retail or food and beverages sector.
Consumer Lifestyles, Singapore 2009
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