Contemporary retail environment

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Introduction

The creation of the Wow effect in the business setting has become more and more challenging. Businesses have become progressively competitive and can no longer differentiate their businesses based on services, products, people, place, promotion and price. The concept of atmospherics has been a utilized by businesses as a differentiation factor and as a way of attracting customers. Atmospherics have been used by businesses to create a memorable customer experience. In reference to Erevelles (2003), atmospherics refers to the ambiance and the aesthetics of business. The atmospheric indications include the color of the business, lighting, crowding, smell, music and any other physical attribute. In this regard, a business is deemed to be perceived as pleasing and ascetically poignant. Hightower et al. (2002) note that poignant and pleasant atmospheres are most probable to subsidize to the overall favorableness of a business and influence the consumer’s behavior in a positive way. Atmospherics and its effects have been a field that has been given attention by marketing articles for the past decade. The present day businesses view atmospherics in business as very significant in customer satisfaction and a positive customer experience.

The same case applies to the tourism and service industry. Barsky and Nash (2002) note that hedonic services, such as tourism, are outstanding examples of encounters that can arouse customer emotions. Tourism has a higher potential to arouse a strong experiential reaction among customers. These experiences are particularly significant in the service industry since they are at the core of their service and product. Additionally, Wakefield and Boldgett (2004) note that the physical environment aspects of tourism centers have a strong potential to evoke emotional and experiential reactions. Though there has been limited research on the effects of atmospherics in the tourism industry and its effect on customer experiences, the few available have shown a strong relation between the service settings and strong customer experiences. Wakefield and Boldgett (2004) assert that the elements of the décor and design of the physical amenities, as well as the ambient aspects, are most probable to impact customer feelings and perceptions. This paper will center on the effects of the atmospherics of the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland on the effect of customers. Hyde Park is decorated with a sparkling array of twinkling lights and decorations.

The concept of atmosphere in Business

The definition of the conception of atmospherics is fundamental before comprehending its significance in the business world. Numerous researches have been done to identify the significance of atmospherics in marketing. The definition of atmospherics has been defined by Bitner (1992) as the built environment. On the other hand, McGoldrick and Pieros (2006) defines atmospherics as the built environment of a business entity. Kotler (1973) was the first to use the phrase atmospherics as the conscious scheming of space to generate particular effects on customers. Particularly, atmospherics is the attempts to mold purchasing environments to generate particular emotional effects on consumers that promote the buying prospect. Kotler (1973) also identified the significance of mixtures of retail environmental attributes in motivating a buyer’s desire to buy. Numerous studies have dealt with the effects of atmospherics on consumer attitudes and behavior. From an evaluation carried out by Kotler (1973), the proximate business surroundings for customers is not neutral and that a business entity has messages, cues, and suggestions that interconnect with consumers. The merchandisers, planners and designers of an organization shape the space, which in turn affects the consumer behavior. A business entity is not exactly similar to a skinner box, but generates mood, stimulate intents and impact on customer reactions. As a result, the definition of atmospherics has been modified to imply the means by which a consumption setting produces an emotional reaction among consumers and, therefore, encourage them to stay in the environment and later purchase. Atmospherics are the elements of environmental design that affect the consumer behavior by generating attention, conveying the business image and the level of service to the potential buyers.

An entity’s image is heavily contingent on its atmosphere, the emotional sensation that consumers acquire when they visit. Notably, it is the physical attributes and design of the business. In reference to Bitner (1992), atmospherics engrosses the artificial physical surroundings.

Dimensions of entity atmospherics

A business entity atmosphere elements have been the center of study by numerous researchers such as Kotler (1973) and Turpley and Millliman (2000). These studies also address the effects of atmospherics by focusing on the effects of the aspects of the business atmosphere. These atmospheric aspects affect the customer’s reaction by generating attention and conveying an image and level of service and arouses an affective reaction. Turpley and Milliman (2000) suggested that customers encounter atmospheric elements in all the stages of their visit and these aspects determine the customer’s perceptions of the environment.

In reference to Babin et al. (2004), the atmosphere of an entity comprises of numerous separate aspects such as music, color, lighting, window display, and the interior design. Notably, these aspects are highly interrelated and work in harmony synergistically to affect the consumer behavior. This implies that the elements of an entity’s atmosphere are viewed by the customers as a common thing and not as an individual item. Therefore, atmospherics can be viewed as an emotionally centered space design that impacts consumers. Kotler (1973) identified four aspects of atmospherics, which are visual dimensions, sound aspects, smell aspects and physical aspects. Baker (1994) further introduced a wider framework of an entity’s atmosphere to include ambient aspects such as lighting, smell, and music, design aspects such as wall covering, display, color and cleanliness and social factors such as the sales personnel.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland Atmosphere and Customer Experience

Hyde Park belongs to the hedonic group of services, and it is noteworthy to assume that consumer’s experiences of the atmosphere arouse their feelings of joy and satisfaction (Barsky and Nash, 2002). With a wide array of studies highlighting the significance of consumer’s experience of the atmosphere in service settings, the experience is generated when the customers have a sensation from the environment. As noted by Bitner (1992), the concept of the atmosphere is significant for service organizations since the services are generated and consumed at the same time. This special attribute means that the consumer will be exposed to the environment of the entity and the discernments of the atmospheric attributes are associated with the customer responses. As highlighted by Bitner (1992), the primary contributor to the customers’ atmosphere in the Hyde Park is the physical environment, which is delineated as the servicescape. Although the physical environment is significant in regards to the customer’s encounters, the generation of the atmosphere clinches on other factors other than the physical setting where services are delivered. Hyde Park’s atmosphere can be viewed through the ambiance it creates to its customers and the design.

Hyde Park’s Ambiance and effects on customer behavior

The ambiance is associated with the customer’s discernments and experiences of the conditions in the settings of an organization. The background conditions include the smell, color, lighting, and sound and air quality. The Sound is the most commonly studied aspects of ambiance, and numerous researchers have linked the use of distinct tempos of sound to increased customer flow and increased sales and revenue. Even though the sound has different effects on customers, Slatten et al. (2009) assert that shoppers spend more time in a store if the music is soft and enticing than in a store that has no music. In this regard, Hyde Park has a soft music that plays in the background. The music played is instrumental that keeps everyone in the park happy (Hyde Park, 2016). The music is not too loud, but adequate to be heard by everyone within the park. Additionally, the park uses surround speakers that create an effect of surround, and no one can tell where the music comes from. The management of the park acknowledged that their traffic flow is normally low in the absence of music (Hyde Park, 2016). Additionally, before the introduction of the background music, the park recorded low customer traffic and sales, and many of the customers could hardly spend more than an hour at the park. With the introduction of instrumental music, customer traffic went up, and customers could spend more than one hour within the park (Hyde Park, 2016). Many other customers recommended other friends and family members to the park since they deemed their experience better and improved and sales revenue has since been good. On the weekend, Hyde Park makes an average sales revenue of $13,000 as compared to earlier revenues of $7,000 before the introduction of music. Even though the management acknowledges that there have been other factors that have contributed to increased sales, they strongly believe that music within the park has had an immense impact on customer attraction and retention (Hyde Park, 2016). Children are always attracted to music, especially Disney World music that makes them feel like they are in wonderland. The management acknowledged that there were days that kids did not want to leave the park and their parents were compelled to spend an extra hour at the park (Hyde Park, 2016).

Lighting is another significant atmospheric element. The color, placement, type and intensity of lighting are imperative in creating a desirable atmosphere. A suitable lighting can add texture, beauty, and charm to a business entity. On the other hand, effective lighting creates attention and generates a perception of a good atmosphere within the building. Studies such as Heide and Gronhaug (2006) have explored the significance of lighting to a business entity and identified that bright light creates an atmosphere of sociability and liveliness while a dim light offers a sense of relaxation. These studies have shown that lighting aspects have an impact on the business’s image and the handling of the merchandise. Studies have shown a higher and positive correlation between soft lighting and the intent to purchase again. Additionally, Heide and Gronhaug (2006) have shown that people tend to be drawn to light sources and that people tend to attach a high-quality environment with incandescent lighting. In light of this, the right lighting creates an atmosphere that makes the guests in a winter park relaxed and thus, contributes to a positive experience. Therefore, the intensity of lighting is paramount to customer experiences in the service sector. Hyde Park uses different lighting intensities and colors that ensure that the park is well lit and that the colors are suitable, making the park atmosphere favorable and suitable for the people (Hyde Park, 2016). The park’s roller coaster, giant wheel, and thrill rides are well lit, making the whole place very colorful and pleasant to everyone who visits (Hyde Park, 2016). Hyde Park has the Ice Mountain that has the dazzling northern lights that are captivating to anyone who sees them. However, these lights on the rollercoaster and the giant wheel are not flood lights but are moderate and do not make the customers feel like they are being monitored but gives the atmosphere to interact well with the environment (Hyde Park, 2016).

Although the scent is part of the ambiance created by a business entity, nothing much has been explored on its effects in the service industry. Studies show that there is a link between the scent of an environment in a business entity and the customer’s perceptions of satisfaction. Baron (1981) established that a pleasant scent has an effect on the buying behaviors of customers. The scent is a widely known marketing tool that has been used to create a sensation among customers. Heide and Gronhaug (2006) assert that scent is one of the widely utilized marketing tools. The Hyde Park Winter Wonderland uses a mild scent of strawberry and lavender that is piped to the park’s streets, to the rollercoaster, to the Cirque Berserk stimulating warm feelings.

These three aspects of ambiance, about Bitner (1992), are positively correlated with customer’s joy and satisfaction. Additionally, these aspects work together to ensure that customers are happy and satisfied. It is, therefore, rational to make the assumption that the utilization of ambiance aspects in the Hyde Winter Park contributes to a positive customer experience. Bitner (1992) notes that there are numerous social aspects that influence the perceptions of customers in a business entity. The design of a winter park contributes to the perceptions that customers hold towards an entity and the ultimate satisfaction that they get. The design of an entity is different from the ambiance that a business entity creates since it focuses on the physical and tangible aspects of the business.

Hyde Park’s Design and effects on customer behavior

Kotler (1973) stresses on the significance of physical design by delineating atmosphere as the sentient design of space to generate a particular effect on consumers. In this regard, an individual can well brand design as an attention seeking medium. Notably, the physical design of a business entity attracts the customer’s attention. The physical design of Hyde Park is so fascinating to anyone who visits the place. The big wheel has a fascinating design that appeals to everyone, both old and the young (Hyde Park, 2016). The physical design of the wheel allows the customers to have a wider view of London City. On the other hand, the hangover thrill rides drop tower well designed with an excellent finishing and lighting (Hyde Park, 2016). Additionally, the Air thrill machine is designed as a space machine and rotates and spins customers 100 feet above the park enabling them to have a once in a lifetime experience. The Hyde Park also has a star flyer that is majestically designed as a star and offers a breath taking the experience to the revelers and takes them 60 meters above the ground. In this case, the physical design of the park is utilized to influence the experiences of the customers (Hyde Park, 2016). The sitting allowances of the air thrill machine, the roller coaster, and the giant wheel are designed to offer comfort to all customers with the seat belts well placed and made with a spongy and strong material that cannot cause discomfort in the event of the thrill ride. The seats are also fitted with a spongy and firm material too that offers comfort making every ride comfortable and memorable (Hyde Park, 2016).

A review of the literature available on customer satisfaction shows that the physical designs of a business entity affect the experience that customers get from the business. Bitner (1992) showed support for physical design as an aspect that would make customers spend more time in an entity’s environment. Bitner’s (1992) study established that the physical surroundings of a service entity are positively correlated to the service experience assessments and customer loyalty behavior. The aesthetics of a service center are highly associated with the desire to stay for long in a service setting and the loyalty of customers. Research acknowledges that the physical design of a business entity can arouse emotional feelings and feelings of attachment (Bitner, 1992). Bitner (1992) asserts that any setting can be situated in a two-dimensional space that typifies people’s emotional reaction to the surroundings. Wasserman et al. (2000) support this by stating that different service centers layout and interior design affects the customer’s emotions. Additionally, particular settings are in a position to arouse feelings of pleasure. Notably, an effective physical design is compelling, concise and involves all the senses. Therefore, an individual can acknowledge that the design of an entity is particularly significant for customer experiences, especially for winter parks since customers visit for a joyful experience and great times. In this regard, it is probable that suitably designed physical environment can arouse the feelings of joy among customers.

It is acknowledged that consumer’s emotions and behavior are associated. This opinion is grounded on the certainty that emotions are crucial instigators of behavior. Research shows there is an association between consumers’ loyalty and their experiences and emotions. Yi-Ting and Dean (2001) portrays that there is a correlation between the emotions generated from the experiences customers get and the post-purchase behavior such as repeat purchasing. As a result, effective encounters are valuable for forecasting the purchase behavior of customers. Most of the studies have utilized the repeat purchase plan as a measure of service loyalty. The best way to determine the intention to visit again is based on praises and word of mouth as measures of loyalty and satisfaction. Hyde Park has had a high rate of repeat visits among its customers with almost 73% of its customers having visited the park again after their first encounter (Hyde Park, 2016). The management has on numerous occasions reported that there are some international customers that have repeatedly visited from United States, Australia and other parts of Europe. With the great experiences that customers have had, word of mouth has also contributed to increased customer flow, with many other customers acknowledging that they had been referred to the park by friends and family members (Hyde Park, 2016). Additionally, Hyde Park has gained accolades from all over the world because of the positive sentiments that customers who visited the park have had. In essence, this has been a way the company can assess its experience to customers with studies such as Slatten te al. (2009) offering support for winter parks on how they can assess the experience customers acquire.

Conclusion

Slatten te al. (2009) content that generating unforgettable experiences is fundamental in retaining and attracting consumers. This paper has highlighted the significance of atmospherics with Hyde Park as the case study. Even though the paper focused on the winter park, the items identified in the paper can be used and applied in any other organization in hedonic services to improve the services offered. Notably, it is rational to make the assumption that customer’s discernments of design in the hospitality sector are highly and positively associated with the feelings of joy and satisfaction of the customers. As a result, it is significant to take into consideration consumer’s emotions when assessing their encounters. From the evaluation of Hyde Park’s atmospherics, it is apparent that there is a strong correlation between the customer’s feelings of joy and satisfaction and the surroundings and that their feelings act as a source of information that is utilized in forming discernments. It is noteworthy to note that Bitner (1992) established that distinct customer feelings are associated with their decision-making process and loyalty. With present day organizations competing with experiences, they all must endeavor to arouse positive emotional feelings among its customers to be successful. With the present businesses focusing on atmospherics, the buyers have themselves expected their shopping to be just more than the normal experience. Most of the consumers look for excitement and stimulation from the purchase environment and end up spending more time and money.

From Hyde Park’s case, the atmosphere of a company engrosses numerous elements such as music, color, lighting and the interior design. Notably, customers view these elements as a collective item that affects their purchase behavior. Through focusing on Hyde Park’s ambiance and the physical design, the paper highlighted the significance of atmospherics to an organization, particularly one involved in hedonic services. A review of the available literature identified that ambiance consists of sound, smell, color, lighting and air quality. Hyde Park has some background music that generates an exceptional experience to customers. Additionally, the winter park creates a unique experience through its unique lighting on its rollercoaster and the big wheel. On the other hand, the physical design of Hyde Park has also contributed highly to the customer’s satisfaction. The giant wheel, the air thrill machine, and the star flyer have exquisite designs that captivate all revelers to the winter park, an aspect that has contributed to repeat visits and increased sales revenue.

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