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1 Effects of Gender-Congruent Ambient Scent on Approach and Avoidance Behaviors in a Retail Store Eric R. Spangenberg David E. Sprott Washington State University Bianca Grohmann Concordia University Daniel L. Tracy The University of Tennessee at Martin Contact information for correspondence: Eric R. Spangenberg Professor of Marketing College of Business and Economics Washington State University P.O. Box 99164-4730 Pullman, WA 99164, USA Phone: (509) 335-3596 Fax: (509) 335-6896 E-mail: ers@ws
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  1Effects of Gender-Congruent Ambient Scenton Approach and Avoidance Behaviors in a Retail StoreEric R. SpangenbergDavid E. SprottWashington State UniversityBianca GrohmannConcordia UniversityDaniel L. TracyThe University of Tennessee at Martin Contact information for correspondence:Eric R. SpangenbergProfessor of MarketingCollege of Business and EconomicsWashington State UniversityP.O. Box 99164-4730Pullman, WA 99164, USAPhone: (509) 335-3596Fax: (509) 335-6896E-mail: ers@wsu.eduSubmitted to the 7 th Annual Retail Strategy and Consumer Decision Research Symposium 2004Consumer Decision Track     2AbstractAmbient scent in a retail environment can influence consumers, with such effects likelymoderated by congruity between the scent and the retailer’s product offering. Unfortunately,minimal prior research has not documented such effects on a broader range of products and inreal-world settings. This research addresses these shortcomings by exploring the evaluative and behavioral effects of congruity between the perceived gender of ambient scent and a store’sgender-based products. A field experiment demonstrates scent congruity to influence perceptions of the store, its merchandise, and actual sales. Supporting an S-O-R interpretation,affective responses to the environment and arousal mediated these effects.Keywords: Consumer psychology; retail environments; ambient scent; gender effects      3Effects of Gender-Congruent Ambient Scent on Approach and Avoidance BehaviorsRetailers’ acquiescence to the importance of attending to environmental psychologicalvariables is fueled by research showing that environmental cues affect critical consumer responses (e.g., Chebat and Michon, 2003; Mattila and Wirtz, 2001; Spangenberg, Crowley, andHenderson, 1996). The burgeoning investigation of such effects has identified olfactory cues asone of the many important components of the retail environment influencing people’s perceptions of the store itself and products offered for sale therein (e.g., Bone and Ellen, 1999).Although recognized as a moderator, the appropriateness (or congruity) of olfactory cueshas been given limited empirical attention in prior research with only two published studies(Bone and Jantrania, 1992; Mitchell, Kahn, and Knasko, 1995). In these studies, congruity (ascompared to incongruity) between a scent and a focal product has been shown to lead tofavorable outcomes including improved information processing (Mitchell et al., 1995), enhanced product evaluations (Bone and Jantrania, 1992), and altered choice behavior (Mitchell et al.,1995). Existing research is limited, however, in that it has remained in the laboratory and hasonly examined stimuli with inherent scents (i.e., hand lotion and cleaning agents, Bone andJantrania, 1992; chocolate, Mitchell et al., 1995). Of course in the real world, firms offer many products that do not have an expected scent associated with them (e.g., clothing).The current research extends the extant prior research by exploring customers’ responsesto an ambient scent in an actual store: rather than focusing on scents inherent to products (e.g.,floral scents in a florist), we investigate the effectiveness of ambient scents that do not srcinatefrom the product offering. More specifically, congruity between the gender-based productofferings of a retailer and the perceived femininity or masculinity of ambient scents is explored.    4Consistent with prior conceptualizations of product-scent congruity (i.e., the correspondence or ‘fit’ of a particular scent with a target object, or its appropriateness in certain contexts; Bone andEllen, 1999),  gender–scent congruity is defined herein as correspondence of an ambient scentwith the gender-based products offered for sale by a retailer. Following a review of pertinentliterature and an overview of our theoretical expectations, we report the results of a fieldexperiment conducted in a clothing store, where we examine the effects of congruent versusincongruent gender-based ambient scents on actual consumer response variables.Ambient Scent and the Retail EnvironmentSpecialty stores like bakeries, chocolate shops and florists often carry product lines withinherent ambient scents (Mitchell et al., 1995) and have long relied on scents of their products toattract and influence customers (Bone and Ellen, 1999). Contemporary service providers andmanagers of stores carrying products not possessing an inherent (or ‘expected’) scent are alsoadding ambient scents to their retail environments (e.g., an artificially diffused floral scent).The use of ambient olfactory cues by business practitioners has led to increased attention by scholars attempting to determine the psychological and behavioral effects of olfactory cues on people. Extant research demonstrates that ambient scents impact a variety of consumer  perceptions and behaviors; a recent comprehensive review of the literature (Bone and Ellen,1999) suggests that the presence of an ambient scent can elicit cognitive elaboration, affectiveand evaluative responses (e.g., Spangenberg et al., 1996), influence purchase intentions (e.g.,Mitchell et al., 1995; Spangenberg et al., 1996), and possibly alter actual customer behavior (although this issue remains undemonstrated in the literature). These effects on consumers aretheoretically supported by research in environmental psychology including works by Mehrabian
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