Isabella Maggioni discusses the ongoing stream of research investigating how key aspects of the shopping experience impact shoppers’ overall sense of well-being and contribute to their quality of life.
Retail has been one of the hardest-hit industries by the Covid-19 pandemic. With forced shutdowns, decreasing sales and declining footfall in physical stores, retailers are reinventing themselves and trying to promote meaningful consumption activities for consumers in the comfort of their homes.
Now more than ever, consumers are becoming aware of the importance of health and wellness, and expect brands to integrate a focus on well-being into their purpose.
Consumers are not just driven by their own personal well-being from a physical and emotional perspective. They emphasise the relevance of a healthy planet, the wellness of animals and the happiness of communities as elements that contribute to one’s sense of well-being.
As lifestyles are increasingly being defined by self-care, wellness and social purpose, well-being is taking on a new meaning in the world of retail, with the Covid-19 crisis accelerating the consolidation of the well-being trend.
Well-being: a desired state of objective and subjective well-being involved in the various stages of the consumer/product life cycle in relation to consumer goods.
The foundation of shopping well-being
Well-being is a complex concept comprising subjective, physical, social and emotional components. Stemming from the interaction between consumer satisfaction and perceived quality of life, well-being is grounded on the assumption that higher well-being leads to a better quality of life, translating in happiness, life satisfaction and greater societal welfare.
With reference to shopping, professors Joseph Sirgy and Dong-Jin Lee define well-being as “a desired state of objective and subjective well-being involved in the various stages of the consumer/product life cycle in relation to consumer goods”. Indeed, positive or negative shopping experiences could spill over and affect other life domains and can determine a different consumer response in terms of repurchase behaviour, engagement and recommendation. In essence, shopping has the potential to influence multiple dimensions of well-being by providing leisure-oriented activities and creating social cohesion.
Leveraging this trend, retailers are innovating, introducing new store concepts and developing multi-purpose destinations. One example is Eccleston Yards in London, an innovative community hub focused on health and wellness that offers several boutiques, services and training classes tapping into the local interest in well-being.
Another example is the sportswear retailer Goldwin with their “remedy hub”, which opened in Tokyo (Japan) in 2017. This store merges retail and sport elements focusing on four core departments: apparel, nutrition, recovery and rehabilitation services, and educational workshops.
Well-being is re-framing the shopping experience
As the sophistication of retail environments increases, the role of shopping has transitioned from being merely transactional to deliver leisure, social and wellness value. In designing the shopping experience, retailers strive to balance shopping efficiency with the emerging desire of customers to decelerate, indulge and connect in the physical and virtual worlds. Holistic experiences are thus becoming the new black, particularly in a context where social distancing and restrictions have reduced the opportunity to experience retail spaces and engage in traditional shopping activities.
A focus on self-enhancement and emotions
Retailers are increasingly investing in transformative experiences in the domain of education and skill development to promote physical and mental self-enhancement. New retail concepts are emerging blending the physical and digital worlds and focusing on emotional health. Among them, the Department Store for the Mind help customers to become more mindful, engage in the society and live a more compassionate and joyful life by offering products that nourish the mind and help connect more with one’s inner self.
By bringing “retail therapy” to life, retailers are enhancing the emotional reward derived from shopping through sensory experiences, socialisation, learning and escaping from daily life. For example, the Coa emotional fitness studio in San Francisco offers live online classes and one-to-one therapy sessions founded on the ‘learn, exercise, breakout, discuss’ framework. Along the same lines, athletic apparel brand Lululemon has introduced daily yoga classes for their customers and further state their commitment to creating experiences fuelled with well-being by recently acquiring at-home fitness company Mirror.
Education and connection with nature are at the core of Ikea’s recent initiative, Virtual Greenhouse, which features experts and creatives from the fields of food, well-being, and sustainability to deliver a series of masterclasses and interactive experiences that promote a more conscious approach to living.
The role of arts and entertainment
Arts is acknowledged to play a central role in mental health by making people more resilient and alleviating stress and anxiety. Due to its beneficial contribution to well-being, several retailers have introduced art-related initiatives and developed shopping destinations where arts and retail blend together to offer unique experiences to customers and citizens. The Oval multi-purpose complex in Chongqing, China, includes living facilities and taps into this trend by offering physical and virtual exhibitions, thus unifying art, active living and retail to nourish its residents’ creative lifestyle and well-being. Another example is K11 MUSEA in Hong Kong which has been designed to enrich consumers’ everyday life by combining experiential art, culture, entertainment, and retail.
Engaging with the community
Retailers are also engaging with local communities to generate social value and improve residents’ quality of life. New Bangkok retail destination theCOMMONS is a great example of a hyper-local hub inviting the local community to decelerate and relax. Adopting a sharing economy approach, the complex allows residents to indulge in the open-air common areas and enjoy activities such as music performances, workshops, fitness and mindfulness classes to unwind from the chaotic city life.
A new avenue to create value in the future.
Although the promotion of well-being might seem counter-intuitive for commercial organizations, the focus on enhancing consumers’ quality of life represents a key strategy for companies to compete in the future. As mental well-being, daily rituals and the connection with nature become paramount for consumers, shopping is still a core activity in our everyday life and has the power to affect our sense of overall well-being.
The Covid-19 pandemic is increasingly pushing consumers towards experiences and digital platforms that positively support their mental and physical state. Retailers can overcome the losses in bricks-and-mortar stores by offering meaningful phygital experiences that can be enjoyed at home and deliver to consumers unique experiences and sources of well-being.