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Digital Tech, Ambience, Sustainability Tops for In-Store Shoppers

Mood Media research reveals majority of consumers are back in physical stores
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According to Mood Media, 38% of consumers surveyed worldwide said that they enjoyed the element of discovery when shopping in brick-and-mortar locations.

Experiential media company Mood Media has released a global study, “Charting In-Store Trends,” which found that creating the right atmosphere, incorporating the appropriate digital technology, and committing to sustainability are key to encouraging consumers to keep shopping in physical stores.

The report, which surveyed more than 12,000 shoppers across the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and China, discovered that 38% of consumers globally are shopping in-store more often now than two years ago, and 33% are shopping in-store at the same level. When asked to give a reason for shopping in-store, 45% of consumers responded that they wanted their purchases instantly, and 38% said that they enjoyed the element of discovery when shopping in brick-and-mortar locations. Shopping as a leisure activity with friends and family was the third most popular reason among respondents.

[Read more: "Why Grocers Can't Afford to Ignore Shelf-Edge Technology"]

“There is no longer a debate over whether people will return to physical retail after the pandemic,” noted Scott Moore, global CMO at Austin, Texas-based 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.” 

Significantly, more than three-quarters (77%) of global shoppers said they would choose brick-and-mortar shopping over e-commerce given a pleasant in-store atmosphere. Further, once in the store, 79% of shoppers said that a pleasant atmosphere would make them stay longer, and 84% said it would cause them to visit again. According to more than one-third (39%) of global consumers, in-store music lifts their mood when shopping, while 35% said that a pleasant scent does the same.

“The results indicate that consumers expect the retail and hospitality venues they frequent to create emotional connections and elevated experiences,” observed Miya Knights, a retail-focused author and publisher who consulted on the research project. “They are also looking for human interaction and sensory stimulation, where stores offer indisputable advantages.”

The survey also found that engaging digital signage content plays a pivotal role in consumers’ purchasing decisions, making 26% of those polled more likely to buy something in-store, 23% apt to return to the store and 22% likely to stay longer.

When it comes to other tech, little more than half of shoppers (57%) said that they now expect stores to invest in digital payment and self-service technology, while 55% said that they expect to see interactive screens that enable them to explore options and customize services or products. Equally important, almost half (48%) said that they expect stores to feature 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,” noted 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 worldwide, with two in three consumers (66%) saying that these practices influence their willingness to stay longer, return to the store, tell friends and buy more. More than half of shoppers (57%) said that they want to be educated on information about environmental qualities and characteristics of goods being sold. Nearly two-thirds (61%) said that they expect retailers to offer recycling options in-store, and most shoppers want to see retailers lower their energy usage by closing doors to air-conditioned spaces (57%), enclosing refrigerated spaces and shutting off display lights when closed (54%). In fact, 58% of those surveyed said that sustainability-focused retailers would make them more likely to want to buy something.

Standout findings for the U.S. market included the following:

  • U.S. consumers led the return to in-store shopping, with 48% of shoppers going in-store more than two years ago, versus 38% globally.
  • 84% of U.S. consumers said that stores with a pleasant atmosphere are most likely to spur repeat visits, and 90% asserted that it makes them stay longer.
  • Engaging digital content and personalized experiences had the highest impact on U.S. consumers’ purchasing decisions, making 31% and 40%, respectively, want to buy something in a store.
  • 58% of U.S. shoppers said that branded music playlists and scents would make them stay longer in a physical store.

“Shoppers still expect a pleasant atmosphere, with good lighting, music and things to touch and see,” said Knights. “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.”

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