Lost in the Store: New research on store design


Faculty Research 

After an eight-week COVID-19 lockdown in Austria, the outside world feels more perplexing than a few months ago. With the stores finally open again for customers, shopping has become a confusing affair. The new government-imposed regulations regarding physical distancing and basic hygiene measures in stores make for a rather novel shopping experience, one that is not necessarily beneficial for either retailers or their customers.

New research by Marion Garaus, Associate Professor at the Department of International Management at MU Vienna, and Professor Udo Wagner from the University of Vienna could shed new light upon different factors contributing to the negative shopping experience.

In light of enormous budgets that are spent on store (re-)design, a better understanding of the potential negative effects of specific store factors and their properties would offer retailers the opportunity to build store environments that produce less (or even no) confusion potential. Empirical studies demonstrate undesirable consumer responses to confusing shopping environments such as decreases in: shopping value, unplanned expenditures, in-store exploration, repeat visit intentions, store patronage intention, and spending time. Poor signage, a misleading visual merchandising strategy, poorly crafted in-store experiences, and a confusing store layout can all lead to shopper confusion.

“Lost in the Store: Assessing the Confusion Potential of Store Environments” develops, validates, and tests a parsimonious index for store environmental confusion (SEC) and is the first research to quantitatively assess the confusion potential of different design factors. This study expanded on professor Garaus´ previous research by verifying the confusion potential of six store design elements (aisles, customer flow, shelving and storage, signage, space allocation, and visual merchandising) through environmental properties` complexity and conflict.

Of the six SEC dimensions, only four (aisles, customer flow, signage and visual merchandising) increase the negative feelings that constitute confusion. Aisle and visual merchandising bear a higher confusion potential as compared to signage and customer flow. Accordingly, a lack of overview where to find products (complexity), barriers, too narrow or wide aisles, difficulties to access other aisles and a bad transition among them (conflict) all evoke negative feelings of confusion. The authors demonstrate the multidimensional nature of the SEC construct and relate store-induced confusion to negative feelings and avoidance behavior.

The outcomes of this study offer retailers the opportunity to reduce the confusion potential by employing a measurement instrument. The resulting store environmental confusion index can be used to evaluate the confusion potential of various store environments, thereby helping retailers to provide customers with a clear and non-confusing store design.


Read the full research paper here.


Related subjects at MU Vienna:

BSc in International Management
MSc in Management
MSc in Management with a specialization in Digital Marketing