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Exploring Consumer Retail Shopping Experience

Faculty Contributor : S. Ramesh Kumar, Professor and U. Dinesh Kumar, Professor
Student Contributors : Shreya Manjunath and Ketan Ray

With the growth of modern retail in India, it is important to examine the factors that affect the consumer’s shopping experience in the Indian cultural milieu. There has been significant literature on consumer motivations, expectations and shopping orientations in the Indian context, there is a need for studying motivations and behaviour with respect to actual retail store attributes. This article provides an insight about various factors influencing consumers in the modern retail context and the preference order for the same.

Of late, India has seen tremendous growth in modern retail. Various factors affect the consumer’s shopping experience at modern retail grocery outlets in India and have varying influence on consumer satisfaction. In this article a model of the shopping experience was envisaged, regressing satisfaction with the shopping experience at a modern retail store vis-à-vis store attributes. Several hypotheses related to typical purchase & post-purchase behaviours of the Indian consumers are tested using the same and relevant conclusions drawn.

Shifting Research Focus

The initial emphasis of published literature on this subject was on tangible functional qualities. However, it was found that psychological attributes also play a critical role in defining store image (Martineau, 1958). Subsequent works have focused on various non-functional attributes, including store atmospherics, in defining store image. Researchers have found that motivation for shopping can be based on the quality of the experience rather than the purchase outcomes. Thus, focus has shifted towards the customer shopping experience that includes both functional and emotional components.

Indian Retail Shopping Context

In the Indian context it is important to view shopping as an experience rather than an activity. To model this experience in both functional and non-functional domain, certain characteristics need to be taken into account. Shopping in India is a family ritual for many consumer segments. Tripathi and Sinha (2006) argue that it is mostly the family and not the individual who is the consumer of the retail offering . Being of a collectivist culture, post purchase experience sharing through word of mouth is very effective in India.

Store atmospherics and store facilities contribute to the organized retail experience and offer modern retailers a considerable advantage over traditional retailers. Besides increased competition has necessitated the focus on experience as a differentiator. Modern retailers therefore cater to the hedonic shopping motivations of the consumer by providing facilities for leisure and entertainment. A case in point is Shoppers' stop that has a quasi-mall format with its own cafe’s, spas and bookstores. Further, retail has redefined itself into an experience which is therapeutic for the urban Indian consumer. Even value oriented stores like Big Bazaar offer entertainment facilities to consumers.

Retail outlets are increasingly evolving into community centres where young urban Indians meet and socialize. In this context store atmospherics play a very critical role. Middle class urban Indians are increasingly seeking material success and choose experiences that have a symbolic overtone. In this context the aspirational experience offered by modern retail outlets, the variety and assortment of branded products that they stock draws such consumers. Though some maintain that price might be a determining factor in the shopping experience, given the price-sensitivity of many Indian consumers but as has been explained above, there is an increasing need to focus on other variables of the experience as well. Moreover modern retail outlets use discounts and other promotional schemes to satisfy the consumers need to save as well as their bargain hunting need e.g.: Big Bazaar’s scheme “Sabse sasta teen-din”.

Framing of Hypothesis

In order to arrive at factors that affect consumer retail experience, especially in light of the recent proliferation of modern retail outlets, a number of hypotheses were developed. The rationale has been explained first, followed by the hypothesis that has been created based on the rationale.

Indian shoppers were found to gather information actively while shopping (Sinha, 2003). They sought help of others before making the final decision. (Sinha P. K., 2003). Idea shopping which refers to shopping to gather information was found to be one of the hedonic shopping motivations of Indian consumers (Patel & Sharma, 2009). The shoppers found shopping similar to exploration (Sinha, 2003). Indian consumers looked for excitement and were curious to know about new things (Sinha, 2003). Hence, the following hypothesis was developed:

H1: Consumers are interested in gathering information when they shop

The foremost shopping orientation of the Indian shoppers was their inclination towards sharing the shopping experience among friends, colleagues, and neighbours (Sinha P. K., 2003). With regard to post-purchase information management was found to be a distinct characteristic exhibited by Indian consumers, vis-à-vis shoppers from developed countries (Sinha P. K., 2003). Hence, the following hypothesis:

H2: Consumers share shopping experience with friends & colleagues
Corollary: Recommendation by friends affects shopping experience positively

Shopping is a family ritual in India (Kumar, 2009) which is why it is likely to be emotionally rewarding. In a study on shopping orientation, it was found that Indian shoppers show an orientation based more on entertainment value than on functional value (Sinha, 2003). Indian shoppers were found to have hedonic shopping motivations (Patel & Sharma, 2009). Hence, the following hypothesis:

H3: Indian consumers find shopping experience emotionally rewarding

In the Indian context kirana stores offer only limited SKUs in comparison to modern retail outlets. Therefore consumers expect variety when they shop in a modern retail outlet. A study confirmed the hypothesis that Indian consumers appreciate variety at modern retail outlets (Sinha, Agarwal, & Gupta, 2008). A large variety of products in one store increases shopping convenience. Therefore consumers seek variety in line with the utilitarian motivation of convenience shopping (Patel & Sharma, 2009). Hence, the following hypotheses were created:

H4: Product variety affects shopping experience positively

Convenience and perceived freshness are the primary reasons for purchasing daily fresh food requirements from kirana stores though a growing demographic of young professionals and households with dual-income generally prefer making monthly purchases of food involving processed and branded products from organized retail stores (Aradhey, 2009).

H5: Wide range of brands affects shopping experience positively

For major purchases the growing demographic of urban middle class prefers the modern retail outlets to due higher perceived quality and variety of brands. Hence, the following hypothesis:

H6: Purchase frequency at retail stores is monthly

For commodities like vegetables intrinsic cues are sufficient to judge the perceived quality however in case of packaged foods, personal care products etc extrinsic cues like labelling are necessary . With increasing consumer sophistication in urban centers in India and growing concerns related to food safety and nutritional health, consumers feel the need to make more informed food choices. Many such negative experiences with food labeling has led retail shoppers to ignore the information, and sometimes even reject them in favour of packages on which information is more effectively communicated (Silayoi 2004). Hence, the following hypothesis:

H7: Informational elements on merchandize packaging in Modern retail positively influence shopping experience

Missing expiry dates on products may lead to functional, physical or financial risk if the product. Overall levels of perceived risk of non-durables may be low. Manufacturing date is related to perceived quality via freshness attribute. Indian customers value freshness in many cases due to limited refrigeration and storage space at home. In this context customers may be more interested in checking the manufacturing date than the expiry date.

H8: People check manufacturing date more than they check expiry date on the product label

Findings of Study

The primary data for conducting the hypothesis tests and building the regression model was collected through structured questionnaires (using Likert scaling technique) from a convenience sample of 72 grocery shoppers. A regression analysis was performed on the collected data to determine the degree of influence of the chosen factors on satisfaction with the retail shopping experience. The results and analysis of the hypothesis testing is shown in Exhibit 1 as follows.

Null Hypothesis Outcome Comments
Consumers are interested in gathering information when they shop Inconclusive Shopping orientation is present but not universal
Consumers share shopping experiences with friends & colleagues Not rejected Word of mouth is important.
Recommendation by friends affects shopping experience positively Not rejected Recommendation by friends and colleagues and satisfaction with retail experience are correlated but the causality is not established
Consumers find the shopping experience emotionally rewarding Insufficient Data -
Product variety affects shopping experience positively Not rejected -
Wide range of brands affects shopping experience positively Not rejected -
Purchase frequency at retail stores is monthly Rejected 2 times per month
Informational elements on merchandize packaging in Modern retail positively influence shopping experience Rejected Customers rely on intrinsic cues or other extrinsic cues such as brand and retail store image
Consumers check manufacturing date more than the expiry date Rejected Consumers seek to reduce risk more than they seek freshness of product
Exhibit 1 Results of testing of hypotheses

Variety over Value

The regression model could explain only about 56% of the variation in satisfaction in terms of the factors covered. It can be inferred that the preferences of various consumer segments were in conflict with each other leading to a cancelling out effect that mitigated the explanatory power of the model as a whole.

Stock availability and quality of products were found to be two most important factors which are intuitively discernable. Variety in brands was found to be third most important factor which suggests that low involvement consumable products with high brand differences, consumers display variety seeking behaviour. As modern retail outlets offer one-stop shop convenience for monthly purchases stocking a wide variety of categories becomes relatively significant. Further, knowledge of salespersons was a significant variable since Indian consumers are idea shoppers.

Surprisingly, ambient factors such as air-conditioning and appealing interiors were found to be not significant. This appears to be counter-intuitive since these factors are expected to stimulate the customer’s perceptual and emotional responses and ultimately affect his satisfaction level. However, this indicates that store atmospherics must be considered holistically and not as disaggregate set of factors. More interestingly, given the value consciousness and the bargain hunting nature of Indian shoppers it was surprising that competitive prices and discounts were not found to be significant variables. The possible explanation may be the sample being skewed towards SEC A & B consumers.

However, this indicates that store atmospherics must be considered holistically and not as disaggregate set of factors.

Additionally, ease of locating salespersons, and courteous, helpful salespersons were also not significant, suggesting that customers who desire these factors would probably prefer kiranas over retail outlets. Further, the study suggests that labelling does not affect level of satisfaction or the shopping experience. This may be due to the fact the customers rely on intrinsic cues or extrinsic cues such as brand and store image. Similarly, ease of locating the product was not found to be significant because Indian consumers consider shopping an exploration, finding joy in discovery. The study finally concluded that on an average, consumers in the sample were satisfied with most store attributes. However they expressed dissatisfaction with relation to the support services such as parking, amenities, delivery, ease of return. Fortunately, these factors did not show statistically significant influence on the satisfaction with the shopping experience.

Thus, for retailers it is suggested that they stock quality brands that serve as an extrinsic cue to the perceived quality of products while discounts are not equally important to all customer segments. Therefore retailers should tactfully use price-coupons and other promotional schemes. Further, providing information to shoppers through well-trained store personnel and, proper merchandize labeling will serve to enhance consumer shopping experience. Further retailers can reduce their cost-to-serve by giving lower priority to support services like easy return, parking and packaging and delivery as these factors do not significantly shape customer experience.


The study concluded that stock availability, quality, brand variety, knowledgeable salespeople, layout- space, lighting, product display, category variety and convenient location are factors relevant in their order of influence in the modern retail format. While factors not significant include stocking of latest products, air conditioning, labelling, appealing interiors, ease of locating product, parking space, amenities, packaging and delivery, ease in locating store personnel, courteous and helpful salespersons, ease of return, payment ease, checkout speed, in-store advertisements, competitive prices and discounts and offers. Thus, grocery retailers can refer to the factor priority when applying trade-off between factors.


S. Ramesh Kumar is a Professor in the Marketing Area at IIM Bangalore. He holds a Ph D from Madras University, India. He can be reached at

U. Dinesh Kumar is a Professor in the Quantitative Methods & Information Systems at IIM Bangalore. He holds a Ph. D in Mathematics from IIT Bombay. He can be reached at

Shreya Manjunath (PGP 2009-11) holds a B.E from PESIT, Bangalore and can be reached at

Mr. Ketan Ray (PGP 2009-11) holds a B.E from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology, Delhi University and can be reached at


Marketing, Retail, Consumer Behaviour, India


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