Home » Customer Response To Store Atmospherics Cultural Studies Essay

Customer Response To Store Atmospherics Cultural Studies Essay

Kotler used and defined atmospherics first. According to him, atmospherics refers to store environment that can be planned or manipulated to create emotional and behavioural responses in consumers .

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Atmospheric influence on buying behaviour draws from the Stimulus-Organism-Response Model. Here atmosphere refers to the stimuli (S) that effects consumers’ emotional state (O) causing a change in their actions (R). Atmospheric stimuli relates to colour, music, scent, layout etc. These either cause approach (positive reaction) or avoidance response in shoppers. Positive respond can result in consumers exploring and spending more time in the environment .

Stimulus is something that produces a certain reaction in a human (an animal or a plant), it could be sensory, verbal or visual stimuli. These stimuli include external as well as internal stimuli. External stimuli refers to anything in the environment that can cause reaction in someone. While internal stimuli derives from the internal state of an individual .

Belk divided stimuli into objective and situation stimuli. Object stimuli stands for the perception of external environment by consumers through their senses. Whereas situation stimuli are aspects referring to time and place which are not in relation to any personal characteristics, such as time of the day and the presence of other individuals .

However, we must note that not everyone perceive certain stimuli equally. That is why we need to take into consideration the next factor, which is Organism.

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Individual’s environmental surrounding affects their emotional state, which determines how they act and behave. Pleasure and arousal are the two emotional states effected by environmental stimuli .

Mehrabian and Russell developed the PAD framework, to analyze environmental effects on individuals. Elements of the framework are nonverbal responses by customers and refers to pleasure, arousal and dominance .


“Pleasure refers to the degree to which the person feels good, joyful, happy or satisfied in a situation versus displeasure.”

Pleasure was identified as “happy rather than unhappy, pleased (annoyed), satisfied (unsatisfied), contented (melancholic), hopeful (despairing) and relaxed (bored)”.


“Arousal refers to the degree to which a person feels excited, stimulated, alert or active in a situation versus nonarousal.”

Arousal can be identified as” stimulated (relaxed), excited (calm), frenzied (sluggish), jittery (dull), wide-awake (sleepy) and aroused (unaroused).”


“Dominance refers to the extent to which the individual feels in control of, or free to act in, situation versus submissiveness.”

Finally dominance relates to “controlling (controlled), influential (influenced), in control (cared-for), important (awed), dominant (submissive) and autonomous (guided).”

Donovan and Rossiter stated that dominance does not play an important role on in-store behaviour.

Mood and Emotions

Emotions can be evoked by an event or by a series of events that happened to us. These emotions can be divided into four categories: Affective emotions (love, sympathy, pride, hope), Well-Being emotions (enjoyment, joy, luck, relief), Aversion emotions (disgust, annoyance, fear, hate) and Discomfort Emotions (shame, guilty conscience, boredom, tension) .

Emotions in general are obtained for a limited time period. Usually emotions states that are aware of a person lasts from a few minutes to a couple of hours. Moods last for longer than emotions, they refer to how one feels .

Mood and Consumer Behaviour

It has been stated that mood has an important affect on consumer behaviour. However, when a customer enters a retail environment they do that with a previously obtained mood state. This mood can be shifted either into a positive or a negative direction, thru environmental stimuli .

It is important to take mood stimuli into account, since if a customer’s mood had been improved by a certain shopping environment, it is possible that they will make some small purchase .

Cognition has been proved to be effected by mood. In general positive mood is said to contribute to efficiency and to the likelihood of helping others, whereas negative mood reduce this .


C) Product / Service

B) Situational

Factors environmentBehaviours related to emotional states created by environmental factors can either be approach or avoidance reactions, in form of time, exploration, communication and satisfaction . The conflict between these two are consequence of three different phases of purchase-making process. Shopper’s feelings and thoughts, meaning their emotions and mood, then the environment and finally the nature of the product are the source of approach- avoidance conflict .

Approach an avoidance behaviours can be split into four categories(time, exploration, communication, satisfaction). Firstly type of behaviour is the desire to stay longer and actually spend more time in the environment. Then the wish for exploring the shopping space. Communication refers to actually getting in touch with others in the environment or with the sales staff. Finally satisfaction relates to the ability of performing, fulfilling ones desires and needs .

Retail Shopping Environment

Essential parts of a retail store atmosphere are exterior, general interior, store layout and displays. Through this division managers can easily shape their retail environment so that consumers react in the desired way and to present a brand or company according to their image. However it should be noticed that each individual rectos to physical atmosphere differently depending on their individual characteristics. For instance the age of each person depends on their reaction, since a teenager most probably have a different reaction to a certain stimuli then an older person .


The exterior of a retail store is the one which interacts with the consumers first, and is an essential factor for the shopper in deciding on entering a store or not….

The exterior of a retail store can have crucial impact on perceived brand image and must be planned ahead. Storefront includes the actual exterior of the shop itself. It can be provided as a tool or communicating certain images such as trendy, classy, glamorous or even discounts. Consumers often evaluate a store by its exterior image and can, in most cases, give rise to certain feelings. So it is curtail to design the storefront accordingly .


Marquee is the sign that presents the brand’s name. One of the most famous marquees is McDonald’s golden arch. Store entrance needs to be considered in three ways. The number of entrances has to be set first which in case of big retail stores can vary from four to eight. Then the type of entrances have to be determined, meaning it is self-opening, push-pull or climate controlled. And thirdly walkways are designed, the size of them can evoke various moods .

Display windows

Display windows are created for two reasons, firstly to recognize the store and its merchandise, secondly to persuade people to come in. Good planning is required to come up with creative display windows. That is why in many cases retailers employ outside specialists, who decide on colour, number, shape, size and themes of display windows .

Researchers have proven that exterior window displays can have effects on consumers as well as the location and the parking conditions could effects the way consumers judge the quality of a brand or retail store. Exterior elements must evoke approach behaviours and be perceived as pleasing in order for consumers to enter .

Store Layout

There are five types of layout methods that can be used in a retail environment. Each type is designed and used so that consumers get exposed to as much merchandise as possible. This raises the possibility of consumers making purchase decisions and therefore increase sales. (Patric Dunne, Retailing)

Grid Layout

First type of layout to be discussed is the grid layout, in which shelves and counters are positioned in long rows in right angle all over the shopping space, where individuals walk up and down on each row. This is often seen in supermarkets, since it provides the shopper with a logical structuring of merchandise and maximises the use of available space. Nonetheless the application of this layout structuring allows the buyer to skip certain parts of the store he or she is not interested in. It can also cause confusion in shoppers, if they only entered for a few articles, since it doesn’t allow them to see though the whole environment. (Patric Dunne, Retailing)


Free-form layout is the second form of layout that is often used in retail spaces. In this case, merchandise is placed randomly all over the available shopping environment letting the customer move around more freely, since there is no pattern that needs to be followed. This type of layout can be used in smaller spaces where customers intend to look through the whole store (Patric Dunne, Retailing). With free-form layout customers are provided with continuous surprise effects, but if the retail space is too big some system must be employed in order not to confuse shoppers (Retail Product Management, Rosemary).

Loop Layout

The loop layout is created in a way that it guides shoppers through the retail space in a way that it starts from the entrance of the shop and brings them back to the same point at the end. This method is used for improving productivity of retail stores, because customers are exposed to a maximized level of products. Here it is also important not to confuse customers and allow them to see through and understand the product placement. (Patric Dunne, Retailing)

Spine Layout

The mixture of previously explained layouts – the grid layout, the free-form and the loop layout – is the spine layout. It mixes the advantage of all three layouts. One main aisle is situated along the store starting from the entrance all the way to the exit. Alongside the spine grid a combination of grid or free-form layout is used, depending of the merchandise in the stores. Medium sized stores like to use this method, especially fashion stores dividing the female and male sections apart with the variations of different layouts.(Patric Dunne, Retailing)

Boutique Layout

Boutique layout is used where personal selling is required. Customers are surrounded with merchandise, which is placed on wall fixtures. Where retail space is relatively big a guided walkway shows the track that needs to be followed directing shoppers through different types of merchandise. (Retail Product Management, Rosemary).

It has been shown by researchers that in time constraints and in unknown spaces unplanned spending was higher, just as brand switching.

Interior (Point – of – Purchase) Display

A retailers’ tool for attraction could be POP displays, since it offers information and enhances a warm atmosphere. These displays can also encourage shoppers to buy. Nowadays with modern technology a variety of displays can be created, ones that move with air, electronic displays providing product demonstrations and answers questions integrating all kinds of multimedia abilities .

Signs also here direction

Point of purchase (POP) displays can effect

General Interior

This category includes things like scent, music, colour, lighting, flooring, wall texture and cleanness.


Music is the most frequent aspect of general interior that has been studied concerning its effects on consumers, since retailers presume there is an association between time spent in a store and amount of purchasing . These studies have proven that music plays an important role in sales, time spent in the environment and arousal .

For classical conditioning strategy, music is a great tool to be used in a shopping environment. It could result in the improvement of attitudes as well as place consumers into a positive mood. Additionally music is capable of achieving development of positive feelings such as joy, peacefulness, sentimentality and excitement. Nevertheless music can have an impact on emotional memories and influence purchase intentions. (Consumer Behaviour, Hoyer/MacInnis)

However which feelings could be induced by music depends significantly on its structure. The following table shows the different musical element and its impact on different emotional expressions. (Consumer Behaviour, Hoyer/MacInnis)






































































So the impact of music on various emotional expressions can be related to the tempo, volume, mode and harmony of the music.(Consumer Behaviour, Hoyer/MacInnis) The way that music effects us is also closely related to motivation, involvement level and demands of the task performed . However. different age groups react differently to music in a retail setting .

The familiarity of music was also proven to have an effect on consumer behaviour. Given that perceived shopping time could be elongated with playing familiar music to customers, just as product evaluation can increase due to familiar music played in an environment. Ornstein states that this is due to the fact that, if one can remember the time period of a situation, it appears to be longer. Consumers have also reported to be less aroused in an environment where unfamiliar music was playing .

Background music, also called ambient music is used for creating mood and character for an environment or service. In marketing, the purpose of controlling ambient music is to manage a company’s primary point of contact with its customers, meaning in the retail or service place. The most frequent process is through the addition of music into the shopping experience, which usually happens in course of company’s control and in the physical retail space .

Music Tempo

Tempo of the music has been shown to have a relationship with the pace of shopping. Consumers exposed to slower music also shop at a lower pace. Since this slow pace results in longer time spent in the store, it is obvious that slower music creates greater shopping opportunities and has an impact on actually quantity consumed .

It has been shown that when music tempo is controlled in a supermarket, people spend more time and money in the slow retail atmosphere and sales respectively increased by 38%, same effect has been observed in a restaurant setting resulting in increased drink consumption and 41% in beverage revenue .

Music tempo also gives associative information about what kind of schemas, products and ultimately purchases are generally right. Unconscious thought process of consumers can happen through these association, for example consumers do not think they are in need of spending more time in an environment where slow ambient music is played. Research showed that many consumers can’t recall the type of music that was playing or can’t even remember that music was playing at all. What is more likely is that consumers connect slow music with relaxing feelings, which can create a calming effect .

At the same time fast tempo music can create arousal for consumers. A study showed that consumers which spent time in an environment with fast music playing reported greater willingness to say hello or smile.

Music Type

Yalch and Spangenberg confirmed that young shoppers (under 25) felt they have spent more time in the easy listening background music environment, however, older consumers felt they have spent more time when being exposed to Top 40 music. Consumers time awareness is influenced by the familiarity of the music .

The type of music can also influence consumer’s product choice through associations generated by them. North et al. examined the association effect of French and German music played in a wine store. The result was that if a music could be associated with a certain nation, then the linked nation’s wine was purchased in a greater quantity with respect to previous occasion when no associative music was not played. French and German music could be heard on various days, German music played in the store resulted in German wine outselling of French wine and vice versa. Surprisingly consumers reported to be unaware of this music influence on their consumption. A different study showed that consumers bought more expensive wine when classical music was playing with respect to Top 40 music.

The choice of music in a retail environment is related to the target consumers’ taste and is trying to build connections between a company, its brad and its customers. In this setting retailers act as a distributer channel for music and use cross- promotional strategies. Stores, such as Starbucks, offer a variety of music earning extra revenue with it. Music is also a great cross-promotional tool since it can support brand identities and connect brands with similar target customers. Victoria’s Secret for example released a CD with Spice Girls: Greatest Hits. Both Victoria’s Secret and the Spice Girls tries to reflect the image of sexy and powerful women, and this connection benefits both of them. In addition to this Spice Girls made their reunion concert on Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show.

Just as music can improve consumers mood and drive sales up, it can also have the opposite effect and drive people away. For instance in London Underground classical music was played which in turn drove crimes, such as mugging and vandalism of subways, down by a significant amount .

Music Volume

The volume of music can also have an effect on how long a customer stays in a retail environment. Reports show that shoppers spend less time in a store where loud music is present, however it does not have an effect on sales or the level of satisfaction.


Behavioural reactions to scents can result in either approach or avoidance, according to the pleasantness of them. In recent years scent had become an important factor when differentiating brands in a retail environment or develop consumers pleasure and accomplishment in the marketplace. Scent marketing as such is concentrating on setting scent to influence mod, support products or position a brand. In other words scent can be used as a primary product attribute like in case of room deodorants and personal perfumes and in this case scent is the primary reason why the product is purchased. Nevertheless scent is more often used as secondary product attribute. This is when the primary reason for the purchase of the product is not the smell but it could e used to help us recognise the brand and distinguish it from the competition .

A significant growth can be seen in scent marketing with respect to the use of ambient scents, which is described by releasing scent into the environment of retail stores, hotels or casinos as part of the environment’s atmospherics. Ambient scent is supposed to have positive effect on consumers’ evaluation and enhance positive mood creating higher sales revenue. Interestingly the type of scent did not impact the outcomes. Improvement in evaluation was more effective when scents were integrated with seasonal background music(Christmas music with Christmas scent). A variety of retailers use ambient scents such as Samsung and Sony, so already there are some companies that tries to fulfil the demands of such retailers and provide them with solutions. There is a growing requirement of exclusive variations of scents to serve as “signature scents” and provide competitive differentiation possibilities .

“There are over 5 million olfactory neurones in our nasal cavity with which we are able to detect over 10,000 different scents” . Liking or disliking of certain scents are learned through experience, so if we are in progress of a pleasant activity we will like the scent felt during this time. It is also important that different cultures obtain scents differently, for instance in case of cheese .

Many of us would think that scents could modify consumers’ moods, since it influences them, however not many studies could actually support this concept. Still research showed that emotional states can work together with scent and have considerable reaction on memory. All in all dates up to now states that relation between ambient scent and consumer mood is rather weak .

It has been also investigated whether ambient scent in retail environment has an effect on actual spending, or not. What they have found is that under certain circumstances it does have an effect and a lovely scent can increase spending. Some have found that consumers spent more if a matching scent was released into the environment that could be associated with the kind of clothes sold there (e.g. feminine scent – women’s department). A key fact is that, however, if both scent an music is present in the atmosphere shoppers spend the least time in it. So it is important not to over stimulate customers with too many features .

Scent is presumed to have special effect on recalling human memory, considering that a familiar meal from our childhood can bring back old memories. Herz has found that scent can bring back emotional memories rather than those evoked by visual, verbal or auditory senses. It is also said that information associated with scent are long lasting and that consumers observe a product for longer when being exposed to ambient scent and in turn can better recall or identify a brand. Researchers have also found that scent can influence actual time spent in the environment while others say it only influences the perceived time sent . (age)

A variety of different studies discuss reasons behind the preference of one scent over and other one. They state that associative learning is behind all this, meaning that an event or item is related to another through a person’s past memories or experiences. Which is connected to the fact that during pregnancy or lactation if a child is exposed to a certain scent or flavour, later on in his or her life they will show a preference towards those impressions. Emotional connection to these events also play a important role in the preference of particular scents .








Research shows that on one hand pleasant aromas, such as perfume or baby powder, improved mood and eliminated some elements of depressing psychological states. And on the other hand unpleasant smell, for example garbage smell, contributed to less pleasant mood. Just as when people were exposed to a scent during a stressful situation, later they reported to feel stressful again when feeling the same scent again in a non stressful environment.

As stated before, scents can recall old memories, according to researchers memories recalled by scents are being remembered more emotionally then those caused by other sense organs.


Different colours are associated with different emotions and meanings. All colours obtain negative and positive meanings and obviously each colour is more or less fashionable according to the moment in time. Due to this the tendency of using various colours change over time (Consumer Behaviour, Martin M Evans).

Colours are able to influence perceptual and emotional reactions in shoppers and achieve certain responses. A colour’s hue and order is established according to its wavelength. Short wavelengths represent ‘cool’ colours, such as violet and blue. Long wavelengths are related to ‘warm’ colour including red and orange. Research indicates that cool-coloured shopping atmospheres are in favour opposed to warm-coloured environment. As a consequence blue environments may contribute to improved feelings as opposed to orange ones .

Babin et al. states that violet/blue can have an effect on purchase plans more than red/orange would. Others believe that blue is a relaxing colour, while red is a stimulating colour that can work together with other surrounding factors. It is also believed that blue acts in a way that it seems further, whereas red things appear to be closer. People during a study, noted to become calm while being in a blue room and reported that red room had the same effect. However yellow or neutral rooms did not have these effects, but interestingly some believes that yellow is a great colour for libraries and classrooms, since yellow supposed to stimulate the intellect. Researchers noticed that red atmospheres provided less confusion then green or white environments .

Certain findings show that reactions to colours are rather learned then psychological. But when colour interacts with other ambient factors it may reach the desired behavioural expectations . For instance,

Colour by itself accounts for about 62 to 92 percent of original consumer reactions. Since consumers add meaning to colours it is very important to determine and clear their meanings.

Meaning of colours across nations:

The colour white in North America and Europe is the colour of weddings, while else where it represents mourning, for example in China and South America. In India, where religious links to certain colour are very important and respected, white is an fundamental colour for priests.





Physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, ‘fight or flight’, stimulation, masculinity, excitement

Defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain


Physical comfort, food, warmth, security, sensuality, passion, abundance, fun

Deprivation, frustration, frivolity, immaturity


Optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extroversion, emotional strength, friendliness, creativity

Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety, suicide


Harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, equilibrium, peace

Boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation


Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm

Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness


Spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality

Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority


Physical tranquillity, nurture, warmth, femininity, love, sexuality, survival of the species

Emotional claustrophobia, emasculation, inhibition, physical weakness


Seriousness, warmth, nature, earthiness, reliability, support

Lack of humour, heaviness, lack of sophistication


Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance

Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness


Psychological neutrality

Lack of confidence, dampness, depression, hibernation, lack of energy


hygiene, sterility, clarity, purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication, efficiency

Sterility, coldness, barriers, unfriendliness, elitismBlack in Europe and North America associated with funerals. Commonly black is related with high quality for consumers everywhere.

In Europe red colour is used for prohibition and warning. This colour is admired since it represents communism for them, however in Ireland it less popular meanly when used with blue and white reminding them of the British flag. red is also the symbol of Hinduism in India and represents life, action and happiness.

Pink is interesting to look at since it has opposite meaning in different countries. In the United Kingdom it represents baby girls, while in Belgium baby boys. In Japan it is the colour of male.

Blue works the other way around (baby boy in UK and baby Girl in Belgium). In India blue symbolises truth, however dark blue is not popular because it represents the lowest castes.

The colour of caution is yellow in Europe, while in China it is the colour of grandeur and mystery. For Indians yellow represents sanctity and merchants.


Careful attention to light setting must be done, since light makes it possible for consumers to see the merchandise. Retail stores must be inviting to attract shoppers and light can have a great impact in that. Moreover light settings can be used to highlight a certain display in the environment. Lighting can also modify the colour of merchandise and enhance different mood states (Retail Product Management, Rosemary). With today’s technology there are numerous ways to create lighting designs and retailers must have a deep understanding of electrical engineering (Patric Dunne, Retailing).

The level of light displayed must be carefully selected, since too bring lights can discourage sales. For example researchers say that too bright lighting can give an image of a discount store (Patric Dunne, Retailing).

Case Study

Approach – Avoidance conflict


Differences Consmers




List of Abbreviations




List of Figures

Innumerate all figures, give number and title of figure, together with the page.

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List of Tables

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Babin, Barry J., and William R. Darden. 1996. Good and bad shopping vibes: Spending and patronage satisfaction. Journal of Business Research 35 (3):201-206.

Babin, Barry J., David M. Hardesty, and Tracy A. Suter. 2003. Color and shopping intentions: The intervening effect of price fairness and perceived affect. Journal of Business Research 56 (7):541-551.

Bäckström, Kristina, and Ulf Johansson. 2006. Creating and consuming experiences in retail store environments: Comparing retailer and consumer perspectives. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services 13 (6):417-430.

Evans, Barry

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