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Too close for comfort?: The impact of salesperson-customer proximity on consumers' purchase behavior
University Agder, NOR; Institute of Retail Economics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0283-8777
Vanderbilt University, USA.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Service Research Center (from 2013). Hanken School of Economics, FIN.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7006-9906
2021 (English)In: Psychology & Marketing, ISSN 0742-6046, E-ISSN 1520-6793, Vol. 38, no 9, p. 1576-1590Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Across a series of lab and field studies, with a total sample of over 1200 participants, we investigate how the physical proximity between salespeople and customers can impact store loyalty, purchase intentions, and actual spending. An initial survey among a representative sample of retail salespeople reveals that they associate close physical proximity between employees and customers with positive consumer outcomes, an intuition that dovetails with prior research documenting the positive influence of such proximity on purchase intentions, particularly in nonexpressive consumption contexts. Contrary to this work, we demonstrate, across four studies in which proximity was both measured and manipulated, 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. Psychological discomfort mediates this effect, such that consumers experience greater discomfort when a salesperson is standing close by, which in turn decreases spending. Importantly, this phenomenon is moderated by identity relevance, such that the negative influence of salesperson-customer proximity specifically emerges when consumers think about products in terms of their ability to express their identities. These findings carry important implications for retailers operating in expressive consumption contexts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2021. Vol. 38, no 9, p. 1576-1590
Keywords [en]
discomfort, ecological validity, field experiment, identity relevance, personal space, proxemics, proximity
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-84452DOI: 10.1002/mar.21519ISI: 000655924800001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85106972962OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-84452DiVA, id: diva2:1565462
Available from: 2021-06-14 Created: 2021-06-14 Last updated: 2022-12-19Bibliographically approved

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Otterbring, TobiasKristensson, Per

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