The purpose of this paper is to examine the dual effect of sensory experiences on customer behaviour in the context of retailing. Based on the theoretical framework of the optimal stimulation level theory, the authors propose that sensory experiences reinforce satisfaction, engagement and loyalty, but increase customers’ diversive exploration and curiosity for other experiences and may eventually led to reduced loyalty.
A self-administrated online questionnaire was distributed via e-mail to 1,000 households in a Spanish town, and 325 usable responses of supermarket customers were collected. The hypothesised relationships were tested using the partial least squares approach. The analysis is extended with an experiment in online fashion stores that explores whether a varied sensory experience reinforces consumers’ diversive exploration. In total, 68 students participated in the study. Hierarchical regression analysis is performed to analyse the results of the experiment.
Findings support the notion that a pleasant sensory experience increases customer satisfaction and therefore their engagement and behavioural loyalty (exclusivity) towards the retailer whilst also generating more ambitious consumer expectations vis-à-vis the shopping experience and thus encouraging them to search for new retailers and, so, to be less loyal.
This research warns of the risk of increasing customer’s expectations and reducing their loyalty; hence satisfaction is not enough. Retailers should consider offering new experiences and surprise customers every so often, attempting to curtail the effect of satiation or the effect of over-arousal.
The novelty of this study is the proposal of a twofold effect of sensory experience on loyalty, a positive effect, through satisfaction, and a negative effect, through the search for new experiences.
Lashkova, M., Antón, C. and Camarero, C. (2019), "Dual effect of sensory experience: engagement vs diversive exploration", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 48 No. 2, pp. 128-151. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJRDM-09-2018-0204Download as .RIS
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