Appeal to the senses

Take a holistic approach to merchandising by considering all aspects of your customer’s experience.

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July 14, 2021

Shopping is about more than products; it’s about fulfilling emotional needs, said Joe Baer, founder and CEO at ZenGenius at Cultivate’21.

Your goal as a retailer is to give customers what they want and make them feel great about buying. What kinds of emotions do you want your customers to feel? That’s where you want to start when you think about experiential marketing. Focus on engaging the senses, increasing loyalty and keep guests coming back, Baer said.

The five main senses hit at different times when customers come to your store:

  1. Sight
    Sight is the most important of the senses when it comes to your store, Baer said. Think about color, focal points and how you’re telling your store’s story when customers walk in, or even as they pull into the parking lot.
  2. Smell
    Smell is one of the biggest factors of customer satisfaction in the first few seconds they enter your store,” Baer said. If your store smells bad, you can see it on your customers’ faces. (Think about the smell of mulch.) Consider candles, scent machines or diffusers to create different scents throughout the store.
  3. Sound
    If people don’t hear sound or music, it sets them off or makes them uncomfortable, Baer said. Sounds can support your brand, your image or your marketing initiatives. Think outside of standard radio to different sounds like records or local musicians.
  4. Taste
    Baer recommends finding your store’s flavor. Some options could be a food sampling at your IGC or offering water with sliced lemons. Or offering orange juice in the morning and sparkling water in the afternoon.
  5. Touch
    You want people to pick your products up and interact with them. Encourage people to interact with displays and consider how you can engage them.

The other senses

We have more than 20 other senses outside of the five main ones like  temperature, direction, balance, motion, tension, time, thirst and hunger. “If you’re thirsty or hungry when you’re shopping, usually that means you’ve got to get out of there,” Baer said.

Motion: “Motion works on me every time because it gets me to pay attention,” Baer said. “It gets me to turn my head.”

Balance: The way products are positioned and merchandised can give shoppers a sense of balance and comfort in a space. If a space is too cluttered or there’s too much going on, it can make people uncomfortable.

Time: How much time is your customer usually in your store? How much time do they have? It’s important to respect customers’ time and make the time they spend shopping enjoyable.

Empathy: Be sensitive to how customers feel and make sure they’re safe and supported while shopping, especially during difficult times like COVID. “Ask them ‘How are you?’ ‘What’s going on?’ If they drop something or knock something over, help them out,” Baer said.