Special Session Summary New Insights of Consumer Behavior in Retailing


Franz-Rudolf Esch and Eva Thelen (1998) ,"Special Session Summary New Insights of Consumer Behavior in Retailing", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, eds. Basil G. Englis and Anna Olofsson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 301-303.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, 1998      Pages 301-303



Franz-Rudolf Esch, Justus-Liebeg-Universitaet Giessen, Germany

Eva Thelen, Leopold-Franzens-Universitaet, Austria


Orientation-minded shopping environments are increasingly important for commercial enterprises. Good orientation facilitates shopping and satisfies the customer. Though in a first pilot study in big retail outlets customers made rather positive judgements on orientation, their cognitive maps are only rudimentary developed (Esch/Billen, 1996). Most customers had only vague ideas of merchandise placement in the store; association of merchandise with special shopping areas resembled to a game of roulette. That orientation was subjectively judged as #satisfactory’ and can be explained by the effect of habitude and may be a halo effect. The enjoyment of retail shopping environments in general has an impact on the judgement of orientation- and research-mindedness. Furthermore customers lack comparison standards, since practically no self-service retail store offers perfect orientation help.

Therefore, it will be an important task for the future of commercial enterprises to obtain information on customers retail search behavior.

Search behavior in retail store outlets can be illustrated by the following conceptual model (see figure 1), which represents a further development and modification of a concept, which Titus and Everett (1995) proposed for the first time in order to define search processes in retail stores.

The model approximately consists of the followingcomponents:

1. the environmental information load, which to a certain extent represents the level of environmental stimulation and decisively influences the customer’s environmental perception (see Mehrabian, 1978);

2. cognitive and emotional customers characteristics, which serve as indicators for customer’s stimuli sensitivity and contain knowledge of shopping environments and products, which influence store perception and search behavior (Mehrabian, Russell, 1974; Groeppel, 1991; Grossbart et al., 1975; Sommer, Aitkins, 1982; Russell, Ward, 1982; Downs, Stea, 1977; Alba, Hasher, 1983);

3. characteristics of shopping itself like shopping pressure or shopping objectives as moderators of environmental perception or search behavior (Ward et al., 1988; Titus, Everett, 1995);

4. perception of shopping environment with reference to both emotional store released responses and cognitive aspects like store legibility and imageability (Bost, 1986; Rossiter, Donovan, 1982; Lynch, 1960; Paivio, 1986);

5. real search behavior in the store, which itself is conditioned by environmental perception, by consumer characteristics as well as by the moderator variables time-pressure, task-complexity and shopping objectives (Titus, Everett, 1995);

6. search success and search satisfaction (Oliver, 1981; Cadotte et al., 1987; Woodruff et al., 1983).

In an empirical study we analysed the impact of environmental search knowledge and environmental perception on search behavior and search satisfaction.

The study was conducted in a hypermarket in Innsbruck (Austria). 191 subjects participated in the study. They were divided into a test group (before and after interviews and observation) and a control group (only after interviews and observation). As methods were used verbal interviews before and after shopping and observation during shopping. Before shopping we asked for environmental sensitivity, cognitive maps, shopping scripts and shopping tasks. During shopping we observed the ways the subjects walked, the number of stops, orientation movements and so on. After shopping we asked for environmental perception, search effectiveness and search satisfaction. Some of the results concerning the influence of customer on environmental perception and retail search behavior are shown in a short overview in figure 2.






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Franz-Rudolf Esch, Justus-Liebeg-Universitaet Giessen, Germany
Eva Thelen, Leopold-Franzens-Universitaet, Austria


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3 | 1998

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