The right atmosphere is one of the keys to tapping into a continued appetite for consumers to shop in-store.
Ambience, digital technology and a commitment sustainability top in-store shoppers’ wish list, according to a survey by experiential media company Mood Media. The company’s “Charting In-Store Trends” study of more than 12,000 shoppers across the U.K., U.S., France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands and China also revealed that U.S. consumers lead the return to in-store shopping with 48% of U.S. shoppers going in-store more than two years ago, versus a 38% global average.
When asked to identify a reason for shopping in-store, 45% of consumers cited a desire to get their hands on purchases instantly, and 38% said they enjoy the element of discovery when shopping brick-and-mortar. Shopping as a leisure activity with friends and family was the third most cited reason.
“There is no longer a debate over whether people will return to physical retail after the pandemic,” says Scott Moore, global chief marketing officer at Mood Media. “They’ve returned. Now we must focus on how best to tap into continued demand for digitally enabled and ambience-rich, in-person experiences.”
More than three-quarters (77%) of global shoppers will prioritize brick-and-mortar shopping over e-commerce given a pleasant in-store atmosphere, according to the study. And once in store, 79% of shoppers said that a pleasant atmosphere would make them stay longer and 84% said it would make them visit again.
U.S. consumers in particular value ambience, with 84% saying stores with a pleasant atmosphere are most likely to drive repeat visits, and 90% saying it makes them stay longer.
Thirty-nine percent of global consumers said music in-store lifts their mood when shopping, while 35% feel that a pleasant scent does the same. Fifty-eight percent of U.S. shoppers said that branded music playlists and scents would make them stay longer in a physical sales space.
The survey found that engaging digital signage content plays a key role in consumers’ purchasing decisions, making 26% of the consumers polled more likely to buy something in-store, 23% returning to the store and 22% staying longer thanks to this content.
Engaging digital content and personalized experiences have the highest impact on US consumers’ purchasing decisions, making 31% and 40%, respectively, wanting to buy something in a store.
Interactive digital screens rank particularly high in the automotive sector among consumers, with 26% indicating that the screens the most important feature in creating a pleasant in-store experience, after friendly and knowledgeable staff (49%) and things to see, touch and smell (30%).
More than half (57%) of shoppers now expect stores to invest in digital payment and self-service technology, while 55% expect to see interactive screens that let them explore options and customize services or products. Equally important, 48% expect stores to showcase engaging large video displays
“As consumers return to brick-and-mortar stores in full force, what we see is that they’re coming back with evolved shopping habits and expectations,” said Moore. They now increasingly see both online and offline as part of the same purchase journey (not one versus the other), and due to their growing comfort levels in the online space they now expect similar levels of digital technology solutions as an integral part of the physical space.
Retailer sustainability is a driving factor for shoppers globally, with 66% indicating that these practices impact their willingness to stay longer, return to the store, tell friends and buy more.
More than half of shoppers, 57%, want to be educated on information about environmental qualities and characteristics of goods being sold. Almost two-thirds (61%) expect retailers to provide recycling options in-store, and 57% want to see retailers reduce their energy usage by closing doors to air-conditioned spaces.
Consumers are ready to walk the talk and reward retailers for acting on sustainable practices. Fifty-eight percent of shoppers globally said sustainability-minded retailers would make them more likely to want to buy something.
“Mood Media’s latest study shows how vital it is to balance digital with physical in stores today,” said Miya Knights, a retail-focused author, consultant and publisher who consulted on the research project. “Shoppers still expect a pleasant atmosphere, with good lighting, music and things to touch and see. Knowledgeable staff and the ability to buy instantly or collect online orders cannot be understated, too.”
“But the rising importance of digital technology for self-service, engagement and interaction, and the adoption of sustainable practices and products have a fast-growing role to play in shoppers’ choice of store, buying intent and frequency,” Knights continued. Click here to download the report and view more comprehensive study results.