Nearly 78% of shoppers globally say an enjoyable in-store atmosphere (the right combination of music, visuals and scent) is a key factor in their decision to choose in-store over e-commerce, according to a study produced by Mood Media, Austin, Texas.

The study, “Elevating the Customer Experience: The Impact of Sensory Marketing,” reveals consumer attitudes toward the in-store customer experience as well as in-store shopping behaviors.

The study, undertaken by Walnut Unlimited, UK, surveyed more than 10,000 consumers across 10 countries 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 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 (QSRs).

Some additional highlights of the study’s key global 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 No. 1 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 10 consumers will return to a store because they enjoyed its music, visuals and scent combination.
  • Scent psychology. One in two 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 and 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 uncovers 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 re-visit 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 noticed a store having a pleasant scent. Shoppers in China and the United States had the strongest reactions to in-store music, with 65% of people in both countries saying they enjoy listening to music in-store.

Other select U.S.-specific highlights include:

  • Tactile factors. 43% of U.S. consumers said “the ability to touch, feel and try the product” is the thing they like most about shopping in-store, the No. 1 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 behavior. Nearly a third of all U.S. 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 U.S. social media statistic. The United States 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 and mortar over e-commerce,” says Scott Moore, global senior vice president of marketing and creative content for Mood Media. “It also further highlights that brick and 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.”