A lot of people find stores stressful – here’s what you can do about it

Consumers have trouble admitting that their emotions are their best shopping buddies. Almost 80 per cent of participants in Clicktale’s 2017 study said they are rational when shopping. However, 74 per cent of study participants have stress-shopped at least once in their life, while 40 per cent of them said they often shop to let out some steam.

Hacking into the customer’s brain and finding ways to know their sentiment when they enter the store is still a dream for many retailers. What if I told you that basic knowledge of the psychology of emotions is the answer to making this come true? While each customer is individual, all customers share one thing in common – they all experience the same basic human emotions.

Let’s be real: bricks-and-mortar stores induce stress

Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards solving it, yet retailers fail to recognise the emotions of their customers. Did you know that one in three customers have lost their temper in a bricks-and-mortar shop? Addressing this simple challenge of understanding what emotions your in-store experience evokes will provide plenty of opportunities for improving customer experiences, delighting customers and capturing more sales.

The root of the problem

We live considerably faster than we did just a decade ago. Many consumers now think that they don’t have any second to waste. A website is not loading instantly – close it and open a new one. A friend is not answering the phone after two rings – hang up. The line at the counter is too long – drop the items and go to another store. The salesperson is asking too many questions – make up a lie and storm out of the store.

See the pattern? Modern consumers are in a hurry. Up to 88 per cent of them have already researched the product they want to buy online, and they came to the store to see it in person and finalise their decision-making process. Standing between them and what they have come to do frustrates them. More importantly, they can associate your store or the brand with negative feelings, never to return again.

What actually stresses customers out?

I recently stumbled upon a report from customer feedback company Usabilla conveniently named “Retail Nightmares.” If you want to improve customer in-store experiences, I urge you to read it. Let me highlight the major findings relevant to our topic today.

The primary source of a negative bricks-and mortar-experience is the sales staff and having to wait too long in line to purchase a product.

Next in line, we have sales associates being too eager to jump into assisting customers even though they don’t like it. Can you imagine the level of inconvenience that causes almost 50 per cent of consumers to lie to a salesperson to get out of a conversation?

It becomes evident that sales staff, including sales associates, need some training. Recognising whether a customer needs or doesn’t need help can be crucial for retail success in years to come.

Each customer is looking for a different in store experience driven by their emotional needs. Some want an experience of exploration and discovery (a la Peter Alexander and Ikea) while some want a simple process: Get to the point and make it quick! Understanding what these emotional needs are can allow you to tailor your in-store design to creating lasting customer loyalty.

Acknowledge, make amends, act on data

Consumers are not opportunities to make more cash. They are human, and as humans, they think and feel. The data tells us that bricks-and-mortar stores cause frustration in consumers and make them feel stressed. The good thing about it is that we know the in-store experience can significantly affect how consumers feel.


The time has come to do some reverse-engineering. Start from understanding WHO your customer is, what are their personalities and what are they looking for from your store? Then, tailor their in-store experience.

However, there is something else retailers can do to facilitate a delightful bricks-and-mortar shopping experience.

How to add value to the in-store visit

Making customers happy and satisfied is a centuries-old mantra, though modern consumers are “somewhat” different. Some brands have recognised this and have decided to play to their needs and preferences to keep them happy. Adding value to the in-store visit seems to work perfectly fine when it comes to reducing stress and evoking positive emotions in consumers.

For instance, some Adidas bricks-and-mortar stores have a treadmill that customers can use to try out their new sneakers, appealing to people who want their experience to be an event. There are even fitness coaches on standby to answer questions and help customers choose the best sneakers for their type of physical activity, appealing to those who want to be reassured by experts that they have selected the right product.

Tapping into the emotional side of customers is about more than simply nudging them towards a buy. Acknowledging consumers’ emotions will help retailers fine-tune the in-store experience, discover consumers’ pain-points, build long-lasting relationships and, ultimately, appear as a friendly and trustworthy brand.

Anastasia Lloyd-Wallis is general manager of consumer insights at Retail Doctor Group.

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