Insights in the Shopping Aisles

  • Susan Andrzejewski, assistant professor of marketing, Department of Business, Organizations & Society  

What can a trip to Abercrombie & Fitch teach you about nonverbal communication? Quite a lot, according to Susan Andrzejewski, Franklin & Marshall College’s new assistant professor of marketing in the Department of Business, Organizations and Society.

Walking into Abercrombie is an entirely different shopping experience than a trip to, say, Costco. One store manipulates every aspect of the atmosphere, right down to the aroma, whereas the other deliberately refrains from excessive decoration or interior design. The nonverbal messages are very different and apt to alter your purchasing behavior.

“For me, when I walk into huge discount stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, they’re not inviting, but they’re trying to get the message across that they’re a discount store and they’re cutting costs,” Andrzejewski says.

“It’s important to think about how certain brands tailor their stores to convey the message that they intend to,” she explains. “The message they’re conveying is that they’re not wasting money on things like atmosphere, whereas somebody like J.Crew or Abercrombie & Fitch is definitely spending a lot of money trying to entice their core demographic into the store.”

As a graduate student at Northeastern University, Andrzejewski researched many different aspects of nonverbal communication. At Franklin & Marshall, she will teach Marketing and Statistics for Business and hopes to develop a course on women and advertising. She plans to pursue two lines of research: the encoding and decoding of nonverbal cues. If you have a mismatch between the tone of a copywriter encoding advertising messages and the product he or she is selling, that could depress sales. For example, a happy message might not be the most effective way to encode a sales pitch for a serious product such as life insurance.

“On the decoding part, the research is moving toward online networks and how consumer perceptions of nonverbal cues in advertisements on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace influence brand and product evaluations, as well as intent to purchase products and/or services,” Andrzejewski says.

Her research also will examine “atmospherics”—creating an environment that evokes a mood in customers that makes them more likely to buy products. Her laboratory in Stager Hall will even enable students to create a store-like experience and manipulate variables like lighting, scent and music to study their effects.

“We will be able to bring in students or area participants and have them fill out questionnaires about what they liked, what they didn’t like, and why. I’m really looking forward to getting students involved in my lab and in my research. I hope my students catch the research bug; I want to spark that interest.”

Atmospherics are even at work on campus. “A lot of the buildings have been created with the idea of fostering more student interaction. If you walk around the newer buildings on campus, you’ll see there are sitting areas with TVs and chairs that have been consciously arranged to foster contact,” Andrzejewski says. “That’s really significant from a nonverbal communication standpoint. They’re encouraging more faculty-student interaction even in building design. That’s part of the College House system too, with the common areas.”

Apparently, the atmosphere is having a positive effect on this new professor: “I’m falling in love with the campus. It’s refreshing. I’m excited to explore what the area has to offer, even though I’m still learning the correct pronunciation of Lancaster.”

Those on campus will also be learning the correct pronunciation of the professor's name: "And-ra-jev-ski."

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