Indexed on: 23 Jun '16Published on: 22 Jun '16Published in: Journal of Interior Design
The purpose of this study is to understand the role of store layout in predicting shopping behaviors by influencing the perception of crowding. With today's growing popularity of online shopping, brick‐and‐mortar stores are faced with increased challenges to create positive shopping experiences and attract more customers to the store. The customer's shopping experience often starts with the environment's physical appearance and navigation. Crowding is one of the known factors contributing to how stores look and feel. Using 3D simulation technology capable of offering a realistic virtual experience, we tested the hypothesis—that the negative impact of crowding could be effectively controlled through physical space configuration—by exploring the role of store layout and human density on perceived crowding using a 2 × 2 between‐subjects design with 60 college students. Two distinct store layouts and their effects on perceived crowding and approach intentions were investigated. In addition, we also considered the role of individual differences in crowding perception. The findings demonstrate the critical role of store layout in controlling retail crowding and shopping motivations, potentially contributing to store success. We found increased shopping intentions in the store environment with a linear and symmetrical configuration than with a curvilinear and asymmetrical one. Such tendency was found to be significantly greater for male customers. A significant mediating role for perceived crowding on the relationship between the effects of store layout on shopping intentions was also found. This confirms the critical effect of store layout on perceived crowding that indirectly, yet significantly, influences customers' shopping behavioral intentions. No prior work in retail literature has examined retail crowding on the basis of an empirical manipulation of the environment. By using virtual walk‐through simulation, this study joins a limited body of knowledge pertaining to the store environment and aims to expand our understanding of the distinct effects of retail environments on consumers' experience and behavior.