The economics of aesthetics

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By Mark Louis F. FerrolinoSpecial Features Writer

Turning a business into a successful enterprise is tough. There’s so much to think about such as management, finance, customer service, and how to stay relevant. Along with these factors, another aspect that every entrepreneur should not overlook is aesthetics.

The way a certain business is presented is very important. Having a good business idea, advocacy or backstory is not enough; the business itself has to stand out through its products and environment because of its visual appeal. Aesthetics is more than just the appreciation of beauty as it captivates attention and affects  customer behavior.

A study, entitled “The Effect of Visual Product Aesthetics on Consumers’ Price Sensitivity” by Yigit Mumcua and Halil Semih Kimzanb, found that there is a strong negative relationship between visual product aesthetics and consumers’ price sensitivity. This means that when the design of a product is impressive and powerful, consumers will be less sensitive to the price of the product.

“Impressive product designs will be able to decrease the level of price sensitivity. This may strengthen the economic aspect of companies. In the light of this information, visual product aesthetics enables companies to gain higher profits,” the researches of the study concluded. “Visual product aesthetic is very important not only in terms of consumer behavior but also from the corporate identity and brand image.”

Ambience is an important factor too. The study “Design, effectiveness and role of visual merchandising in creating customer appeal” found that majority of the consumers chose display settings as the most preferred consideration when they first walk into the store. The study also concluded that visually appealing stores and outlets help customers create an image of the brand in their minds.

While several studies have proven the importance of aesthetics in business, especially in creating brand image, it is always a challenge for businesses to decide on what identity they will embrace. Is going for something minimalist fits their brand image? Or must it be on the other part of the spectrum — extravagant, fancy or rustic?

Flossom Kitchen + Café in San Juan City has successfully established its unique identity by having a garden-themed restaurant that invokes chill and relaxing ambience. The café exudes a visually stunning interior, with the abundance of natural light through its glass walls, rustic wooden furniture,  and presence of green plants and fresh flowers all over the place.

“I believe that creating a brand itself has to come from within. It’s not just about the looks. Your ‘branding’ for your business is its own personality. In our café, from our staff to the head management, we all make sure that we put in our 100% in everything. If you always make sure of that, people will notice and they will like it,” Flossom Marketing Manager Janna T. Arceo shared in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

When it comes to aesthetics, Flossom has been consistent up to the food it serves. It offers exceptional dining experience by bringing dishes that are not just appetizing but also visually appealing. What’s really impressive is how this café gives a fresh and modern twist to traditional comfort foods. For instance, it offers Ube Champorado, topped with yema sauce, macapuno, and salted fish flakes.

“Aesthetic has the power to not just affect mood and behavior, so we believe it helps drive sales and define more meaning to our image and branding,” Ms. Arceo said.

Just like beauty, aesthetics can be defined in many ways, thus, there’s no specific formula on how to achieve it. The people behind When Uan Met Sally, a store located along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City that sells one-of-a-kind artisan-made jewelries, travel finds like bags and clothes, and antiques, have proven this.

When Uan Met Sally has a shabby chic interior, with the furniture, paintings and some old items openly displayed in the store’s ceiling and wall. It has a charming façade made of concrete, bricks, wine bottles, and transparent glass that reveals its enthralling interior.

“You can never compromise quality in this kind of venture. And your business place should reflect that particular standard as well. The thing about quality is: investment is big, but you’ll have low maintenance since the materials are reliable and durable. Our first minor renovation came after three years,” Uan Latayan, When Uan Met Sally part owner, told BusinessWorld in an interview.

According to Ms. Latayan, they want the store to be rustic — welcoming, rough and unsophisticated.

“Even if it’s rustic, we carry just the best artistic pieces, we carry only world-class items,” she said. “When you are here, it’s not like Hollywood level ang treatment sa’yo; everybody is equal. Gusto namin kahit non-buyers makapasok para we also inspire others through our works.”

The clothes, bags, jewelries and all the other items in the store are carefully designated and arranged to their respective places. And since these products are all the best, Ms. Latayan said that it deserves the best presentation. If the customers see how well-curated their items are, they will have the initiative to properly return them to their places; and that’s where respect comes into play, she said.

When asked about why aesthetic is important in business, Ms. Latayan replied that it’s not a question of “why” anymore. “When you work for the Arts, trust me, it’s not just because you want it to be profitable. It’s also an expression, a way of living. Therefore, making everything perfectly pleasing to the eyes comes like a second skin. It’s also a commitment that your ideas remain competitive and are transformed into work and inspiration for others.”