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Title: Consumers' perspectives on customer experiences: a photo-elicitation study
Authors: Petermans, Ann 
Van Cleempoel, Koenraad 
Issue Date: 2011
Source: 1st International Colloquium on Global Design and Marketing, Lincoln, UK, 8-9 December 2011
Abstract: Competing in today’s global economy is increasingly difficult. As consumers often perceive products and services as homogeneous, retailers and designers try to differentiate by directing concepts of retail interiors towards triggering memorable customer experiences, whereby multiple tangible and intangible stimuli can interact (Carù & Cova, 2003, 2007; Healy et al., 2007). Despite the growing recognition of the importance of customer experiences in retail practice, academic literature focusing on this topic often lacks empirical support (Verhoef et al., 2009; Petermans & Van Cleempoel, 2010). Aiming to address this shortfall, the authors firstly aim to explore how the design of a retail store is experienced by consumers from different socio-economic backgrounds and with different degrees of awareness and experience of the concerned retailer. The research ‘subject’ is a shoe and fashion store, located in a shopping city in Belgium. By employing the research method of photo-elicitation (Harper, 2002; Clark-Ibanez, 2004), we attempt to capture and gain insight in consumer perceptions and in-store experiences through interpretations of visual images, which were generated by the respondents themselves. Secondly, the authors use their research approach to reflect on the possibility of adoption and application of visual research methodologies in interior and retail design research. As literature has demonstrated that visual research can contribute to understanding both the symbolic and physical meanings of the built environment (Harper, 2002; Prosser, 2007), photo-elicitation seems an appropriate methodological approach when researchers aim to gain insight in questions related to experiences in designed spaces. Following the research approach employed by Burt et al. (2007) and Kent & Kirby (2009), this study used photo-elicitation as an inductive approach, whereby the photographs, generated individually by 38 research participants, acted as a communication bridge between the researcher and the interviewees. Each interviewee was invited individually to the store on an ordinary weekday in the spring of 2010. Upon arrival at the entry of the retail store, they received a digital photo camera and were asked to photograph anything in or outside the store which triggered an experience for them during their store visit, or which made a certain impression on them. Immediately after their store visit, the participants were interviewed. The flow of the interviews was inspired by the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET) (Zaltman & Coutler, 1995; Zaltman, 1996), whereby the researcher organises semi-structured personal interviews around images that the interviewees have collected. Data analyses focused on participants’ photographs of the store under study and on the transcripts of their interviews. The in-store experiences of our research participants can be captured by two main themes: (a) impressions and perceptions concerning tangible and intangible aspects of the store’s retail design (b) the product assortment and visual merchandising in the retail store. In line with Pullman & Robson (2007), the authors are convinced that applying photo-elicitation can help to study experiences people encounter in retail environments, as it allows to gain in-depth visual and verbal insight in customer experiences. These insights can be particularly helpful for retail managers and for retail and interior designers, as these stakeholders highly value understanding the consumer perspective on designed environments.
Keywords: Customer experiences; photo-elicitation; retail design
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Category: C2
Type: Conference Material
Appears in Collections:Research publications

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