The design characteristics of a store visibly reflects its image and can dramatically influence patronage. Many consumers appear to size up a store based on its outward appearance of architecture and signs and hence are drawn to the store or repelled by it, based on their perception of whether the store looks right for them. Interior design continues the image fostering process. such design features as store layout, aisle placement and width, carpeting and architecture as well as physical facilities in a store including elevators, lighting, air conditioning and washrooms, influence store assessment by consumers.
Quality of the store surroundings or ecological design may affect the consumer’s mood state at the point of purchase which in turn may influence purchase behavior, brand evaluation and information acquisition . The importance of atmospherics defined as the conscious designing of buying environments to produce specific emotional effects in buyers that enhance their purchases probability is illustrated by the following.
Large department stores (such as Filene’s in Boston) often operate a bargain basement selling lower priced linens of merchandise or marked down items for customers pursuing bargains. The atmosphere is typically stark and functional with narrow aisles, harsh lighting and counters loaded with chaotically arranged merchandise which reinforces the bargain image.
Not only are the non-person atmospheric elements of the retail store important (such as shelf space, in–store point of purchase promotion lighting, noise, aisle, design and square footage), but also important are the atmospherics created by shoppers within the retail store, One of the intended or unintended products of various current merchandising emphases is retail crowding. This store atmosphere consequence is a result of high density shopping environments such as regional malls and super stores, as well as population shifts and concentrated shopping hours for working families. The results of such perceived crowding is to systematically affect shopping behavior and consumers feelings about retail outlets and shopping trips.
Another illustration of the significance of atmospherics and consumer’s mood is found in the use of in store music. Research indicates that if retailers can positively affect their customer’s mood at the point of purchase, the customer may be more responsive to in store merchandising programs. Positive mood also increases the time spent in a store and the customer’s willingness to interact with salespeople. Music can play an important part in a store’s atmospherics by perhaps gaining customer attention, or conveying a certain image, or establishing a particular emotion that increases the likelihood of purchase. Research on the benefits of in store music shows that it can have a positive impact on a customer’s predisposition to buy, the amount of time a shopper spends in the retail environments, the amount spent by the customer when purchasing and the consumer’s perception of the quality of the shopping experience.
This image element has to do with the goods and services offered by a retail outlet. There are five attributes considered to be important here: quality, selection or assortment styling or fashion, guarantees and pricing. For example the product variety and assortment of a store have been found to influence store choice. Consumers prefer stores that offer either a wide variety of product lines. Brands and prices are substantial depth to their assortment such as in sizes, colors, and styles over stores with only medium depth or breadth of assortment.
With the trend in retailing towards much of the same merchandise being sold in a variety of mass outlets the product purchased on longer determine where the buyer shops. For example, grocery and household products were once the province of supermarkets but are now bought in by many outlets ranging from food / drug combination stores, warehouse clubs, and discount stores. For this reason price, convenience and demographics are now strong determinants of store choice.