The physical retail environment plays a critical role in how consumers behave-retailers who pay attention to what influences their space will have a greater chance at increasing profitability. While some may argue that online shopping will contribute to this growth because of the strides in winning consumer` demand for convenience, it falls short in creating a memorable, compelling shopping experience.

Moldova is among the consumers who like the in-store retail experience. An exception was the period of the Covid-19, when the number of cashless payments has increased.
According to the National Bank of Moldova for 2020, there was a significant increase in cashless payments, made by Moldovan citizens on trading platforms electronic. The number of payments was 70.3 million, of which there were approximately 11 million of card-not-present transactions.

In an online survey (200 facebook participants from Moldova), half of consumers shared a preference for shopping in-person at a physical store when given a choice, with three-quarters suggesting that a positive in-store experience will make them more likely to return. Furthermore, integrating elements that appeal to the five-senses-touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell ultimately creates the sixth sense of experience, which is virtually impossible for online shopping to provide. Remember, store opening are outpacing store closures.

The Store Environment
Consumers are more likely to dwell in multisensory retail environments that speak to all of their senses, dimensionalizing the shopping experience. Sight ranks highest across every generational cohort, followed by touch and sound. Sight and touch are the most obvious as they offer consumers tangible engagement with product offerings. Smell is slightly lower in consideration, although it most likely has a much higher subliminal impact, for good and bad. However, there is one exception, retailers who implement scent marketing- partnering smell with taste to create a memorable customer experience. The most successful example: the Defacto`s sweet aroma of oranges wafting through store aisles to create timeless sense of place for its consumers.

Consumers expect the physical retail environment to inspire their shopping journey. In an USA survey, the majority of consumers prioritize the blueprint/layout of a store, its merchandising display, mood lighting and the overall wayfinding flow as most important. And from a sensory perspective, the ability to touch and feel products also garner high marks. Consumers also mentioned that they are more likely to linger in store that offer welcoming soundtrack to their in-store experience, with manageable noise levels. The use of fragrance in stores was also a consideration but somewhat less critical to 25 % of consumers surveyed.

Let`s see what creates a good ambience in store
2021, covers non-food stores only, USA only (%)

FACTOR                                                           %mentioning
Visual inspiration                                                80.1 %
Neat merchandising/ layout                             60.1 %
Good lighting                                                        50.9%
Can interact products                                         47.6
Good noise level                                                  39.9
Good music                                                           27.5
Smells pleasant                                                    24.4
Nice background noise                                       10.3

As the industry continues its journey back to normalcy, consumers long for the same. According to Chain Store Age, 78% of U.S. consumers would shop more in-store than before, and 42% said they miss being able to touch and feel products. Providing quality in-store experience helps customers justify spending their hard-earned money, resulting in a positive compounding effect for the retailer`s other sales channel.

Despite the ever-changing trends within the retail industry, consumers will always crave a tangible, multisensory experience when shopping. This physical engagement will often translate into future loyalty fueled by customers` positive perception of the in-store experience, if done right.