In-Store Social Crowdedness and Customer Behaviors

Prof. Dai YAO, Associate Professor of Marketing, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Date: 17 April 2023 (Monday)
Time: 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Venue: E22-G015
Host: Prof. Yan LIN, Assistant Professor in Business Intelligence and Analytics
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In-store social crowdedness is an indispensable contextual component that shapes customers’ offline shopping experience. Studies on the effects of social crowdedness primarily utilize laboratory settings, and the findings are mixed. Leveraging smart traffic counters installed at 1,800 brick-and-mortar stores across the malls of a large property group, we accurately calibrate social crowdedness at the store- and hour-level. In addition, we link visits to different stores by customers who are members of the property group using their transaction records. Whereas existing literature focuses on in-store purchases alone, this unique data offers an opportunity to examine how social crowdedness affects customer behaviors at three distinct stages: prior to, during, and after a store visit. We find that, overall, in-store social crowdedness leads to more store visits and sales, and it creates some substitution between current and future shopping trips, i.e., customers extend their current trips while postponing the next ones after experiencing a high level of social crowdedness. Additionally, while more members are drawn to stores with higher levels of crowdedness, the sales boost is mainly contributed by members at lower membership tiers and to a larger extent by non-members. The positive effects of social crowdedness are more pronounced for younger male customers and members with longer tenure. Finally, the substitution effect is homogeneous across members. Together, these findings shed light on the holistic effects of social crowdedness during and across customers’ shopping trips, providing rich managerial implications for context-based marketing.


Prof. Dai YAO is an Associate Professor of Marketing from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He received his PhD in Management (Marketing) in INSEAD. He has published papers in top journals such as in Marketing Science, Management Science, Journal of Marketing Research and Marketing Science, etc.

All are welcome!