Study, Websites and online stores

Online store layout design and atmosphere influence on shopping intention -study summary

There are plenty of studies about how the atmosphere influences customer behavior in a brick and mortar retail atmosphere. The same principals should work in an online retail environment as well.

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There are plenty of studies about how the atmosphere influences customer behavior in a brick and mortar retail atmosphere. The same principals should work in an online retail environment as well but there are fewer studies and theories about this topic. Naturally one of the main reasons is that selling online is a lot more recent way to do business than traditional retail. However the same as in retail the shopper’s perception of the store layout and atmosphere on an online store affects their emotions, purchase intention, and behavior.

Original study: Wann-Yih W. , Chia-Ling L. et al. 2014. How can online store layout design and atmosphere influence consumer shopping intention on a website? International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, vol. 42 Issue 1. Emerald Publishing.

A 2014 study with 626 valid answers, shows that the online store environment significantly affects shoppers’ emotions. In the study visual elements in online stores were categorized in two different main categories: environment and visual design, of which the latter has more to do with for example colors on the website. Paying attention to both and visual design overall is something that every online retailer should focus on as they are proven to affect customer behavior in a positive way. The study enforces the view and previous findings that visual design and elements play an important role in any online store and should be paid attention to. It’s not all about selection and pricing. In regular brick-and-mortar retail creating a right and positive shopping-environment has been a staple for a long time and it should receive the same attention in an online environment as well.

S-O-R -framework

The study adopted a concept from S-O-R: the stimulus-organism-response framework that was developed by Mehrabian and Russell already in 1974. It was used to identify how the online store work with the stimuli of the environment, organism, and response, and to create a conceptual model for online store shopping. The S-O-R-framework has been used widely and developed by many different authors over the years. The main point is that the same atmospheric clues that affect customer behavior in a brick-and-mortar store work in an online environment as well. In this study, the atmosphere is what creates a certain mood to a visitor with the website’s setting (atmosphere). The same way as in a traditional retail setting the store layout and other atmospheric cues affect visitors.

The study aimed to see the following results:

  • How customers react and behave in response to the online store stimuli after their visit?
  • How does the online store visual stimuli (layout and design) affect a customers’ attitude and purchase intention towards the store?

Stimulus (S) means the store layout, design, and atmosphere. Which can be directly applied from traditional retail to online retail. They should influence the customer’s emotional arousal and attitude towards the site. In the study, online stores with varying layouts and design elements were used. In the organism (O) part of the study, the psychological effects of a store to a customer were analyzed to see how the visit to an online store affects them. The measurements used were emotional arousal and customers’ attitude towards the store. In the response (R) stage customers’ purchase intention was measured after they had visited the site.

Stimulus (S) means the store layout, design, and atmosphere. Which can be directly applied from traditional retail to online retail. They should influence the customer’s emotional arousal and attitude towards the site. In the study, online stores with varying layouts and design elements were used. In the organism (O) part of the study, the psychological effects of a store to a customer were analyzed to see how the visit to an online store affects them. The measurements used were emotional arousal and customers’ attitude towards the store. In the response (R) stage customers’ purchase intention was measured after they had visited the site.

Hypotheses

There are previous studies of the subject already and results that are consistent with the proposed hypotheses from the study and it’s safe to assume that the online store environment has a great effect on customer’s behavior on a website. This study formed seven hypotheses partly based on previous results and theoretical background from previous literature:

H1 The layout design of the website has a great impact on the emotional arousal of the online shopper.

H2 The atmosphere of the website has a great impact on the emotional arousal of the online shopper.

H3 The layout design of the website has a great impact on the attitude of online shoppers.

H4 atmosphere of the website has a great impact on the attitude of online shoppers.

H5 Emotional arousal toward the website has a significant and positive impact on consumer attitude toward the website.

H6 Emotional arousal toward the website has a significant and positive impact on consumer purchase intention.

H7 Attitude toward the website has a significant and positive impact on consumer purchase intention.

The study measurements

Before the main study, the researchers conducted a pretest to find suitable websites for it and to determine that their measurement scales were reliable. This concluded that the measurement tools used were reliable to be used in the main study as well.

Five different measurements were used:

  • Layout design
  • Atmosphere
  • Emotional arousal
  • Attitude towards the website
  • Customer’s purchase intention
Figure 1. The conceptual framework and hypotheses by Wann-Yih W et al.
(2014, 11)

Layout design & atmosphere

When a website is designed a professional marketer utilizes online atmospherics to attract customers. It’s also important the customers stay on the site for a longer period of time where the design of the website is of great importance. In the study, the layout design was defined as how information and images are organized on the website. Whereas the atmosphere consists of the colors used on the website.

Emotional arousal

Pleasure is identified by, how much does a person feels good, joyful or happy after the visit to a website? Whereas arousal means on a scale the amount of excitement, stimulation, alertness, or activeness the visitor feels after their online store visit.

Attitude towards website and purchase intention

In the study attitude towards a particular website was measured with a scale and purchase intention with the likelihood that the visitor would engage in specific purchase behavior.

Figure 2. Hypotheses testing results by Wann-Yih W et al.
(2014, 12)

The results confirmed that the influence of the atmosphere on the emotional arousal of the visitor was greater than that of layout design. The atmosphere in this study means that the website utilized atmospheric factors to affect emotions. For example the use of colors.  Another not surprising finding was that emotional arousal has an impact on purchase intention.

It’s clear that the design elements of an online store affect customers’ purchase intention and thus contribute towards a successful online store. With having significant results on customers’ emotions and actual purchases, every online retailer should think about having a store that’s also visually pleasing to support other aspects of an online store to have more sales. A good visual layout and atmosphere lead to better sales. It’s also notable that in this study the atmosphere had better results with customers’ emotions than layout. Both are however important. Customers are more likely to buy from an online store that has put effort into good visual design, layout, and atmosphere.

An online retailer needs only to consider that in traditional retails the conversion rates are between 20-40% wherein an online environment they are much lower from 2,3 to 3% (ipsos-retailperformance.com ; smartinsights.com). If better retail (user) experience can bring an online store closer to traditional retail conversion rates it’s worth improving it for any online retailer.

Sources:

  • Wann-Yih W. , Chia-Ling L. et al. 2014. How can online store layout design and atmosphere influence consumer shopping intention on a website? International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, vol. 42 Issue 1. Emerald Publishing.
  • Smartinsights.com. E-commerce conversion rates – how do yours compare?  www.smartinsights.com
  • Ipsos-retailperformance.com. www.ipsos-retailperformance.com

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