The Magic of Retail Therapy -Five Lessons for Finance Design

Shubha K. Chakravarthy
7 min readDec 25, 2019

Ever wonder why women love “retail therapy”? I have. I’m not a big shopper, and yet I find myself drawn to a well-laid out retail store just for stress relief and some visual treats of rows upon rows of neatly arranged stuff to rest my eyes on. Regardless of whether I buy or not, I always leave feeling better: about myself, my future and the world in general.

Photo by Xianjuan HU on Unsplash

Contrast this with my typical interaction with a financial services provider — individual mileage may vary but the bottom-line is that the best I can usually hope for is that I leave without permanent scars, figuratively speaking.

Yet, the financial services industry has plenty of unmined gold, if it takes even a cursory look at what retail gets brilliantly right about customer engagement, at least in the store.

Five Secrets Behind the Lure of Retail Therapy

Here for the first time, are the five secrets that make retail therapy reliably attractive to their prime customers regardless of budget, macro-economic conditions or the current state of the industry.

Friendly Familiarity and Comfort

When you walk into a retail store, the first impression you get is one of friendly welcome. The store attempts to make it easy for you to know what’s available in an easy-to-digest manner. They don’t hide all their good stuff away or present them to you in terms they use to manage their business.

Everything is presented in user-friendly terms, and yet in categories by use or by type of customer. Assistance is available, but the merchandise is laid out in a way that assumes the customer knows their way about.

The first emotion that is sparked upon entry, is a feeling of familiarity and being welcome.

Attractive Visual End States to Inspire Thinking

If the customer doesn’t know exactly how to use some of the merchandise, the store provides a starting point by putting ensembles and collections together to spark their imagination, and gives them a jump off point to create their own happy future states (e.g., with that lovely outfit).



Shubha K. Chakravarthy

Women | Finance | Innovation || HSBC | McKinsey | Chicago Booth || Host of the Invisible Ink podcast |