Shopping cannot simply be considered as an act of buying in an exchange for goods (C. Gardner and J. Sheppard, 1989). Because of the increasingly cut-throat competition, marketers and practitioners have to go great length to attract and retain customers. That is where the experiential marketing finds its inspiration. According to the vanguard of Morris B. Holbrook and Elizabeth C. Hirschman (1982), experiential consumption is a view that focuses on the “symbolic, hedonic and aesthetic nature consumption in the pursuit of fantasies, feelings and fun”. In doing so, marketers and practitioners have spare no effort in creating extraordinary experiences by motivating multi-sensory systems of pleasure-seeking contemporary consumers in order to survive, of which servicescapes have been mostly acknowledged by both academic theorists and entity practitioners for the reason that servicescapes are all about the stimuli of physical environment of service encounters in a way that attracts customers’ eyeballs in the first place prior to the real buying(Bitner,1992).
The importance of servicecapes could be traced back as early as 1970s when Kotler (1973) used the ‘atmospherics’ to express the “quality of the surrounding place” measured through the stimulation of customers’ sensory systems in terms of “visual(color, brightness, size and shapes), aural(volume and pitch), olfactory(scent; freshness) and tactile(softness, smoothness and temperature). Other theorists have explored the equivalent but different terms of the servicecape; i.e. “healthscapes” (Hutton and Richardson, 1995), “economic environment” (Arnold et al.,1996), “marketing environment” (Turley and Milliman, 2000), “environmental psychology” (Weinrach, 2000), “interactive theatre” (Mathwick et al., 2001), “store environment” (Roy and Tai, 2003), “service environment” (Cronin, 2003) and “social-servicescape” (Tombs and McColl-Kennedy, 2003).
After three decades of evolution initiated from Kotler(1973), this paper is to examine the definitions of the servicescape in a historical order and the changes of its dimensions. Therefore, the first part introduces the theoretical underpinning in order to reveal the relevance of the servicescape in shopping experience; the second part investigates the definition of this term in an historical order; the final part explores the changes of dimensions it encompasses thereby providing a comprehensive understanding of the servicescape.
1. The Theoretical underpinning of Servicescapes
The reason why it is imperative to improve the servicescape is because it is believed that the enhancement of servicescapes can influence customer behavior and store loyalty (Ezeh C. and Harris L.C., 2007). According to two environmental psychologists of Mehrabian and Russell (1974), people react to locales in two opposite ways: “approach and avoidance”. Approach responses are positive ones with customers demonstrating “enjoying, staying and exploring of stores, spending more time and money browsing and patronizing” attracted by either the fabulous decor of stores or the friendly service of working staff out there. On the other hand, Avoidance is the opposite which means that customers are not willing to stay, explore and spend time on it thereby without return in the future (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974).
Again, the approach/ avoidance behaviors of employees much depend on customers’ internal responses to the servicescape in terms of cognitive, emotional and physiological aspects (Bitner, 1992, p.61).
Specifically, the overall servicescapes customers feel about can help customers subjectively gain the knowledge about the level of products, services and patronizers etc (Golledge, Reginald G, 1987). For example, a high-grade restaurant can be categorized through the elaborate exterior and interior decor, orderly layout, the dim lighting, soothing classical music and the attractively spruced-up...