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|Title: ||Retail design in the experience economy: conceptualizing and 'measuring' customer experiences in retail environments|
|Authors: ||Petermans, Ann|
|Advisors: ||Van Cleempoel, Koenraad|
|Issue Date: ||2012|
|Abstract: ||Apple Store, Nike Town, PRADA stores, Abercrombie & Fitch… Since the end of the 1990s, many retailers plan retail stores at strategically important retail locations all over the world. Together with designers, these retailers consciously choose to design not just another ordinary retail store. The last few years, they have started to use all kinds of tools in an effort to try to differentiate from competitors. Some retailers for instance collaborate with well-known architectural offices or so-called star architects, aiming to work out new renewing concepts. Other retailers collaborate with creative people and artists, or together with designers strive to work out hybrid store concepts where different functions are being combined in one location (e.g., a fashion store and a restaurant or bar). Many efforts that retailers and designers undertake today to differentiate from competitors are being placed under the umbrella of ‘experience’, ‘experience design’ or ‘experiential marketing’.
Although in retail practice almost all retailers and designers in one way or another seem to be involved with ‘experience’, until yet in academic literature that focuses on retail and retail design, knowledge on what experience exactly is seems to be rather scarce. The same seems to be the case with regards to the question if there are methods available that allow a resarcher to study experiences in retail stores. To answer these gaps in literature, this PhD thesis contains three parts. In these parts, we aim to get the interested reader acquainted with (i) a situation sketch about what Pine & Gilmore (1999) have labeled ‘the experience economy’ (ii) a conceptualization of ‘experience’ in retail stores (iii) a number of research methods that allow to study customer experiences in retail stores.
In part 1, we describe how the economy is many Western societies has evolved into an experience economy. With the help of various manifestations of experiences in diverse domains in economy and society, I try to develop a situation sketch to illustrate how our Western world nowadays is being penetrated with experience. In part 1, we evidently discuss in detail manifestations of experience in the retail landscape, and we specifically dive deeper into three specific types of retail concepts: flagship stores, concept stores and guerrilla or pop-up stores. Next, we elaborate on the question what retail design exactly is, and how it manifested and developed itself in the discipline of interior architecture. To conclude part 1, we focus on research in retail design. We question what research in retail design is, or should be. Indeed, until yet, academic research in interior architecture in general, and in retail design in particular, is still emerging. Therefore in chapter 3, we investigate if and how research from adjacent disciplines can contribute to the development of the body of theory within interior architecture in general, and in retail design in particular. We offer three basic guidelines for doing research in retail design: (i) applying an holistic research attitude (ii) trying to incorporate tacit knowledge in academic research from stakeholders that are involved in the process of designing and letting function actual retail concepts (iii) reasoning pragmatically when one has to make a choice for a particular research approach.
In part 2, we develop a conceptualization for experiences in retail stores. After a thorough review of literature, we develop a verbal conceptualization of ‘customer experience’. In order to represent our research results as clear and understandable as possible, we chose to also work out a visual representation of the verbal conceptualization, which resulted in ‘The Experience Web’. This Web refers to the image of a spider web wherein we visually represented the twenty aspects that according to our literature review are inextricably bound up with experience. Next to studying academic literature on experience, we did not want to ignore attention for retail practice. Therefore, part 2 also contains two studies for which we studied actual retail practice. In study 1, which concerns a qualitative and explorative introspection study, I visited sixty-one retail stores in diverse Flemish shopping cities. After each store visit, I made an essay wherein I tried to document if and how the concerned retail store tried to translate aspects of the verbal conceptualization of customer experience into retail design practice. Study 1 resulted in the formulation of five groups of retail stores that each differ from one another with regards to the interpretation and translation which they each made relating to the different aspects of the experience web. In study 2 we investigated how a select group of retailers, designers and consumers connote experiences in retail stores. Do they try to take ‘experience’ into account when developing and designing new store concepts? If so, how do they do that? And how do consumers experience these stores? By interviewing different stakeholders in-depth, we learned that they do not all connote the aspects of the experience web in the same way. Although almost all twenty aspects of the experience web were discussed by the interviewed stakeholders, analyzing the data revealed that the interviewed retailers for instance approached the design process of a retail store with more rational arguments than the interviewed designers did.
After the exploration of the concept of ‘customer experiences’, in part 3 we focus on studying consumers’ perspectives with regards to experiences in retail stores. Taken into account the huge number of possible research methods, we had to make a selection. We opted to set up a qualitative study, a mixed methods study and a quantitative study. In chapter 6, we reflect on the use of the qualitative photo-elicitation method in research in retail design. We illustrate our theoretical reflection with regards to the methodology with an explorative study in a shoe and fashion store. For this study (i.e., study 3), respondents made photographs in a retail store whereby they focused on photographing anything in or outside the store that triggered an experience for them during their store visit, of that made a certain impression on them. After them finalizing the photo assignment, the respondents were interviewed, whereby the photographs which they made could function as a can-opener or a tool allowing them to reflect on the experiences in the designed environment which they visited. In chapter 7, we elaborate on the role of emotions, a substantial and involved element with regards to ‘customer experiences’.
Previous research has demonstrated that it is not evident to measure emotions which people experience with regards to a particularly designed product or designed space. Some researchers use quantitative scale techniques to measure emotions, while others use open, qualitative emotion measures. In study 4, we try to investigate if it yields for researchers who want to study emotions in retail stores to work with more and mixed methods (i.e., qualitative and quantitative methods). Our analyses pointed out that the more emotion measures researchers use, the more details and nuances concerning emotions in retail environments they are able to collect. In chapter 8, we report on a quantitative study (i.e., study 5). The starting-point for this study was the finding that various studies relating to consumers’ visions and behaviour or behavioural intentions in retail stores originating in adjacent disciplines, set up their research projects by showing respondents one or multiple photographs or a video of a retail store. On the base of these images, the concerned respondents got an impression of the ‘actual’ space. After exposing the respondents to experiencing this environmental representation, they completed the requested measurement instruments. This kind of research approach however is not welcomed and supported by designers, who are convinced that people should experience the actual 3D space in order to be able to experience that space to its full extent. Therefore, study 5 comprises two parts. In a first step, we thoroughly controlled and updated the paper of Turley & Milliman (2000) up to the end of 2011. Their paper has been often cited when researchers report on research relating to ‘atmospherics’ in retail stores. In a second step, we set up a quantitative study whereby 244 respondents were exposed to experiencing a retail store (i.e., a chocolate store with an adjacent coffee lounge) via one of four environmental representation modes. They were asked to experience the store (i) via one photograph (ii) via three photographs (iii) via a video (iv) via an actual store visit. The quantitative analyses on the diverse sub questions of our questionnaire demonstrated that the condition that could overall be clearly distinguished, is that of the ‘actual’ store visit. This implies that not only researchers, active in marketing and retail design, but also people, active in marketing and retail design practice, should be cautious when studying and potentially blindly interpreting findings of studies that have been done on the basis of diverse environmental representation modes.
After part 1, 2 and 3, we end the thesis with the general discussion and conclusions. After the discussiong of areas where improvement is possible, we elaborate on future research directions and possible implications this PhD study can have for theory and practice.|
|Type: ||Theses and Dissertations|
|Appears in Collections: ||PhD theses|
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