Retail Innovation for Customers’ Well-being

Shopping mall in Barcelona. Photo:
By Magne Angelshaug and Tor W Andreassen

23 April 2024 10:59

Retail Innovation for Customers’ Well-being

While shopping is considered to improve individual well-being, certain aspects of shopping detract from well-being.

This study, which is part of the BEST in Retail project at DIG, investigated how different consumer behaviors in retail, such as sustainable consumption, time efficiency, and shopping as an escape, affect the psychological well-being of consumers.

Two studies were conducted - first, qualitative focus group interviews (women/men in three age groups) followed by a national quantitative survey.

The qualitative findings revealed five key concepts related to the retail business model that affected consumers' psychological well-being: sustainable consumption behavior (preferences and learning), return on time (physical and online shopping), and shopping as an escape.

The quantitative analysis with 2261 respondents confirmed most of the hypotheses:

  1. Sustainable consumption preferences and learning about sustainability were positively associated with psychological well-being. From this, we can learn that customers want to make sustainable choices when shopping.
  2. Optimizing time through physical shopping was positively associated with well-being, while online shopping had a negative effect. Physical shopping is for being inspired, getting information, and talking to knowledgeable employees. Online shopping reduces well-being because one has entered a "flow" where time just disappeared, and afterward, one feels that time has been wasted. Flow theory was developed by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and is a central concept in positive psychology. Optimizing algorithms to create "flow" is a central strategy for many online shopping platforms precisely to keep customers on their websites rather than competitors' sites.
  3. Using shopping as an "escape arena" is negatively associated with well-being, especially for the segment we call "chaos in life" where alone time is a need. But women also "escape" just as much from the private chaos of life to get alone time. We also find "shopping as an escape arena" linked to loneliness, where physical shopping becomes a way to socialize and talk to other people. Other studies on loneliness point to women being significantly lonelier than men – something that lasts a lifetime, although it decreases in extent for both groups.

The study provides in-depth insight into how retail business models can be innovated to promote consumers' psychological well-being, especially by supporting sustainable consumption and efficient use of time.

Magne Angelshaug is an Assistant Professor at the Norwegian School of Economics and a research fellow at DIG.

Tor W Andreassen is a Professor of Innovation at the Norwegian School of Economics, a research fellow at DIG, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge.

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