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What are the vibes?: A study on how “vibes” can impact the success of a commercial space

Tired of hearing the word “vibes” everywhere? Don’t lay the blame solely on Generation Z – Millennials are just as guilty of using it, too.

That’s just one takeaway from a survey of 3,000 North Americans split evenly by gender, which sought to determine what might impact different demographics’ interactions with places they frequent such as retail storesrestaurants, cafés, hotels, entertainment venuesoffices and more.

Picking up vibes

While 18 to 26-year-olds were most likely to use the word “vibes” to describe how a place feels (48%), 27 to 42-year olds weren’t far behind (47%) – and even surpassed their Gen Z counterparts in the United States (47% vs. 42%). Combined among the U.S. and Canada, that’s almost twice the rate of Baby Boomers ages 59 to 77 (22%).

Vibes 1

But even if they don’t use the word itself, “vibes” can have an immediate impact on the success of a commercial space, as more than one in three respondents (45%) said it takes them less than ten minutes to determine how a new place feels to them. If it feels good, the survey found that regardless of age, a majority (83%) felt more likely to go back.

Vibes 2

What happens when a business gives off bad vibes?

Regardless of age, 81% of respondents said they'd be less likely to go back to a business after picking up a bad vibe there.

Vibes 3

After having a bad experience, more than one-third (35%) even said they’d actively dissuade others from going there as well — including more millennials (40%) than any other generation, and more U.S. respondents (36%) than Canadian ones (30%). Meanwhile, 42% of all Gen Zers (ages 18 to 26) would simply never go back there again. When asked what would make them return despite the failed “vibe check,” respondents were equally likely to point out improved atmosphere (54%) and better service (54%) – suggesting that ambiance can be just as powerful as good customer interactions, in some cases.

"Having a well-decorated space doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be up to date on all the latest design trends,” said President of Ambius, Lorri MacHarg. “What it does is signal to visitors that you actively care about not just the space itself, but the experience of those inhabiting it, which gives them greater incentive to connect with your business.”

Biophilic vibes

Biophilic design is becoming less of a "nice-to-have" and more of a "must-have." In fact, 68% of survey-takers believe that biophilic design is an important element of a space. This is particularly relevant for those looking to attract a younger demographic, as 80% of millennials and 74% of Gen Zers championed biophilic design. Gen X (ages 43 to 58) followed behind at 63% and Baby Boomers at 53%.

Vibes 4

Design trends can ebb and flow, but no matter the age, respondents said that nature-inspired designs, like decorative plants (33%) and wood elements (32%), gave off the best vibes overall.

“Ideally, plants should be more than just a design choice, because they do more than just bring a pop of color and life to a room,” said Lorri MacHarg. "Plants, especially green walls, have some ability to remove pollutants and reduce carbon dioxide in the air, which can positively impact fatigue, concentration and productivity. Additional benefits of plants can include increasing psychological comfort and well-being. They've also been revered for their impact on mental health, too, as it's been found that being among plants can reduce stress."

Top ten essentials for good vibes

Vibes 5

We asked what factors would contribute to a space having "good vibes." Here are the top ten:

  1. Cleanliness - (53%)
  2. Windows - (32%)
  3. Good smells - (31%)
  4. Quiet atmosphere - (25%)
  5. Music playing - (24%)
  6. Trendy design - (19%)
  7. High ceilings - (18%)
  8. Plants or green space - (16%)
  9. Comfortable temperature - (16%)
  10. Abundant seating - (16%)

Top five indicators of bad vibes

Vibes 6

When asked to indicate what factors would contribute to a "bad vibe," respondents named these as the top five:

  1. Unpleasant smells - (53%)
  2. Dirty environment - (41%)
  3. Too cold or too hot - (37%)
  4. No windows - (33%)
  5. Dead or unkempt plants and greenery - (32%)

 Ready to create an extraordinary experience for your employees, guests, and customers? Ambius is here to help you design spaces that inspire. Contact Ambius today to schedule a free consultation with a design expert to bring your visions to life.

Survey methodology

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population U.S. residents and 1,040 Canadians, split evenly by generation, was commissioned by Ambius between March 24 and April 24, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

Further information and next steps

With Ambius biophilic design services, we can change the way we work, live, and operate within the built environment.

Get rare insights into the concepts that are emerging, trending, and here to stay as the office landscape evolves.

53% of people indicated "unpleasant smells" as an indicator of bad vibes. Find out how to eliminate them, here.