INSIGHT: Sensory Shopping
Last weekend was beautiful so I decided to take a stroll to my neighborhood farmers market. What I discovered there, were some valuable marketing insights. As I wandered around, I noticed that some booths at the market had higher foot traffic than others. A little odd, I thought, and I wasn't really sure of the reason why. But as I continued meandering through the crowds, I began to notice that the busiest vendors were those who reached out to prospective customers in a friendly, welcoming manner, inviting them in to examine, to sample, to touch, and even to smell their products. I come to realize that those were the vendors that I responded to as well. The strategy to entice me through stimulation of my senses was working. And guess what? Not only did they have fun doing it, I enjoyed being lured in! By applying a sensory strategy, those successful vendors had actually turned my mundane shopping experience into an emotional one. I ended up purchasing things I didn't plan on purchasing just because my senses were stimulated.
Is this what causes people to buy? Do emotions really play an important factor when making a purchase decision? And can these emotions be stimulated by the senses? The answer is a resounding YES!
The truth is, buying isn't a rational decision at all. Sure, facts and figures play a role in the process, but ultimately, buying is an emotional decision based on a number of factors, including stimulation of the senses. When you create a holistic and coordinated experience that engages the senses, sight, hearing, smell, and touch, then also you create an opportunity to stimulate the emotional palate and connect with the consumer in ways that distinguish your brand from ordinary, soulless retail entities and will turn your customer from a browser to an engaged, enraptured buyer.
Despite the power of all our senses to perceive the world around us, almost 83% of all commercial communication appeals only to one sense--our eyes. This is not enough. If brands want to develop a deeper, more emotional connection with consumers, they must stimulate the senses--and as many of them as possible.
Sight: Sight is the most used sense in marketing, as the visuals give the first impression of quality. Bergdorf Goodman stores are masters at creating visual excitement. They consider the store as the stage, the visual merchandising as the scenery, and the product as the star. The customer feels like an actor diving into an inspiring and exciting experience that he or she will repeat regularly. Staging the merchandise in your store using marketing or product-related themes will help make the visual campaign pleasing to the eye. The more often this campaign changes and the stronger it's tied to the product inspiration, the more successful and memorable your brand will be. Another effective way to captivate the sense of sight is to deliver the unexpected--stage the merchandise to deliver pure surprise and visual delight to passersby. Viktor and Rolf stores pushed this to the extreme. They created a store that defies logic and reason; the interior of their store is upside down.
Hearing: Images are more powerful when paired with a certain sound. Sound can and does absolutely influence behavior. Remember the Harley Davidson advertisements where the thrust is on the sound that the bike creates rather than the design? Or the Nokia tune that is installed on all Nokia phones. The breakfast cereal maker, Kellogg's, has patented a crunchy sound of eating cornflakes that is unique in its own way. Mercedes-Benz reportedly set up a special department to work on the sound of its car doors to increase the perception of high quality. Music has played a pivotal role in the customer's perceptions. For instance, Starwood's Le Meridien Hotel is putting serious efforts into a memorable and consistent sensory experience. The Le Meridien elevator music is actually a 24-hour sound track composed by Henri Scars Struck, who, with 20 musicians around the globe, composed and performed the massive piece. Music can put a customer in a specific state of mind corresponding to the products that are being sold and, if connected correctly to the product, can be a way to act on the buying behavior of the customer. Music can also serve as "crowd management" by influencing the time spent inside a store by the customer; studies have shown that fast-tempo music will push the customer to leave earlier, while slow music played at a low volume will increase the time and the money a customer spends inside. It's important to make sure that the sounds you use enforce your overall store theme. Music offers a wide range of possibilities for marketers to influence customers' behavior and create a coherent sales environment.
Smell: Studies have shown that 75% of our emotions are generated by smell, women are more sensitive to smell than men. Customers will stay 40% longer in fragrant places. Scents should add a certain note to your store without being too dominant. Less is more. Choose a scent that enhances your overall store theme. Did you know that Abercrombie and Fitch and Anthropologie each use a signature scent to lure customers into their stores? Both stores have a distinct fragrance pumping through them, and the smell lingers outside the store, triggering a connection in customers as they walk by. Nissan has used smell to boost their sales by creating an A/C system that will actually provide the refreshing fragrance of the forest. Singapore Airlines has created and patented a trademark scent for their brand (Stefan Floridian Waters) so that every time one comes in contact with the scent, the smell is associated with the brand. Thomas Pink infuses its clothing stores with a fragrance evocative of fresh dried linen. A powerful image with a distinctive smell can engage customers on a deep emotional level, creating a marriage between them and your brand.
Touch: Think about when you go shopping for clothes. Don't you always touch the garments? What about when you shop for a digital camera? Do you pick it up to see how it feels? Handmade cosmetics company Lush encourages interaction with the product by creating a service concept that's all about product experience. Items are merchandised throughout the store in a way that makes the customer simply want to touch, try, and play. The sales staff is trained to give advice and demonstrate how products can be used. As a result, the Lush store experience feels more like entertainment than shopping. People remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, but 80% of what they see and do. Retailers--smart retailers--understand that when you hold something, you own it. And when you become part of the experience, it becomes a lasting memory.
By tapping into the senses, customers will experience your store as a relaxing experience and they'll remain in store longer, which leads to more impulse purchases. Even if you don't have the time or the budget to stimulate all your customers' senses at once, try to engage some of them, and bring emotional excitement into your store.
Source: Nicola Metzger; Adam Toren, Cyril Valenti, Joseph Riviere, The Concept of Sensory Marketing; Martin Lindstrom, Brand Sense.
For more retail perspectives, please contact JP Terlizzi.