Retail Distances (06-03-21)

Otterbring and colleagues researched the implications of the physical distances between salespeople and customers.  Design can influence the distance between the people selling and potentially buying goods in a number of ways, for example, via sales/display counter/case dimensions and aisle width.  The Otterbring-lead team found via a series of lab and field studies that “store loyalty, purchase intentions, and actual spending behavior are negatively impacted when consumers encounter a salesperson who is standing close by (vs. farther away), particularly in expressive consumption contexts. . . . even intermediate levels of proximity can produce negative consumer responses compared to farther interpersonal distances in expressive consumption settings. . . . this effect specifically emerges when consumers are thinking about products in terms of their ability to express their identities, not when the products' functional features are highlighted.. . . . our findings suggest that the most positive consumer responses occur in the largely overlooked public zone, even compared to the more common social zone in which most interactions with salespeople take place. . . . our medium distance falls within the social zone (4–12 feet), and our far distance belongs to the public zone (beyond 12 feet).”

Tobias Otterbring, Freeman Wu, and Per Kristensson. “Too Close for Comfort?  The Impact of Salesperson-Customer Proximity on Consumers’ Purchase Behavior.”  Psychology of Marketing, in press,