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Nearly 8 out of 10 shoppers (78%) globally feel that an enjoyable in-store atmosphere (i.e. just the right combination of music, visuals and scents) is a key factor in their decision to choose in-store shopping over e-commerce, according to the 'Elevating the Customer Experience: The Impact of Sensory Marketing' study from media solutions company Mood Media. This article is copyright 2019 The Best Customer Guide.

Published as a follow-up to Mood Media's '2017 State of Brick & Mortar' report, the new study was undertaken by market research firm Walnut Unlimited, which specializes in neuroscience and behavioral psychology and economics. The company surveyed more than 10,000 consumers worldwide including Australia, Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), China, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In addition to examining recent shifts in consumers' impressions and expectations of in-store retail, the 2019 study explores the impact of a store's atmosphere - including sensory elements - on the overall shopping experience, as well as what drives certain customer behaviors, such as revisiting a store or making a purchase. The study also explored customer insights across six different sectors: banks, beauty, fashion, grocery, pharmacy and quick service restaurants.

Additional highlights of the study's key findings include:

  • Combatting the e-commerce effect
    78% of shoppers cite an enjoyable in-store atmosphere plays a key factor in opting to make purchases in-store over online (Spain is most influenced, with 89% of shoppers more likely to purchase in-store).
  • The influence of sound
    Music is the number one factor to improve a shopper's mood in-store, and has an overall positive impact on 85% of global shoppers. However, the quality of the music played really matters. More than half (57%) of shoppers will disengage if brands make poor music choices.
  • Encouraging behavior change
    Combining music, visual and scent sensorial elements increases consumer dwell time, with 75% of consumers citing they've stayed longer in a store when such components were in place.
  • Building customer loyalty
    nine out of consumers have decided to return to a store because they enjoyed its music, visuals and scent combination.
  • Scent psychology
    1 in global consumers say that a nicely scented business "lifts my mood."
  • The power of visual content
    Over half (58%) of consumers globally say that engaging video content has a positive impact on their shopping.
  • The importance of interaction & personalization
    The ability to touch, feel and try different products or services is cited as the biggest driver in making consumers more likely to want to buy something while shopping in-store (at 56%). More than a third of global consumers (38%) say "feeling like the experience is personalized to me" makes them more likely to purchase something, which was the second biggest driving factor ranked.

The report also uncovered differences in the ways shoppers around the world respond to the in-store atmosphere, finding that consumers in China and Spain most positively react to an enjoyable in-store environment. While 90% of consumers across the globe are likely to revisit a store if it has an enjoyable atmosphere, those numbers are even higher in China and Spain (93% and 95% respectively). And, while scent was found to have a strong impact on shoppers in all of the countries surveyed (65% globally), it was most memorable in Spain, with 85% of Spanish shoppers recalling they had noticed a store having a pleasant scent. Shoppers in China and the US had the strongest reactions to in-store music, with 65% of people in both countries saying they have recently enjoyed listening to music in-store.

Other selected US-specific highlights from the study included:

  • Tactile factors
    43% of US consumers said "the ability to touch, feel & try the product" is the thing they like most about shopping in-store, the number one factor cited by global respondents as well.
  • An enjoyable atmosphere with attention to detail matters
    84% of American shoppers say an enjoyable in-store atmosphere (with music, visuals and scent) is a key factor in deciding to make purchases in-store over online (compared to 78% of shoppers globally). Geographies coming in even higher include Spain at 89%, China at 88% and the United Kingdom at 86%.
  • Music impacts dwell times
    Nearly half of US respondents (45%) have spent longer in a store than they otherwise would have because they've "enjoyed the music", which lines up with the global result of 46%.
  • Visual Inspiration
    43% of all US shoppers say they have been influenced by digital screens in-store, in line with global findings. Younger generations of Americans cite an even stronger proclivity toward being inspired by in-store digital screens - 62% of 18-24 year olds, and 63% of 25-34 year olds.
  • Personalization drives sales and brand affinity
    "Feeling like the experience is personalized to me" when shopping makes 41% of US respondents "more likely to want to buy something" and 45% feel like they "want to come back", both slightly higher than the global results.
  • Social Media behaviour
    Nearly a third of all US shoppers (31%) have shared an in-store experience on social media recently, with 25-34 year-olds coming in at 57%, nearly double the overall US social media statistic. The US is second only to China, with Chinese consumers ranking most active in terms of in-store social media use, at 56% overall.

"Consistent with our 2017 State of Brick & Mortar study, we found that the physical store remains important to the majority of people around the world, with the experiential element playing a large role in consumers' decision to choose brick & mortar over e-commerce," said Scott Moore, global senior vice president of marketing and creative content for Mood Media. "It also further highlights that brick & mortar businesses have to give consumers a reason to get off the sofa and into the store, and part of that reason lies in providing them an elevated sensorial experience. Brands should look to this report to discover how they can create the kinds of store environments that will convert shoppers into buyers and loyal repeat customers."

To download the booklet to view more comprehensive study results, visit: