Revamping the Retail Experience Through Sensory Appeal

illustration showing four shoppers enjoying a retail experience through sensory appealThe number of online shoppers increases by the day. We’re talking over 224 million by the end of 2019 and rising. It makes the push for a strong retail customer experience even more important for brands, knowing that a large part of their audience and sales are shifting to digital.

It’s important for brands that wish to continue running their storefronts in this age of online shopping to provide brand experiences that delight. Per a recent report from eMarketer, consumers say the experience is the number one reason for shopping in-store versus going online.

How do brands entice consumers to shop in store? Appeal to the senses. An experiential marketing strategy involves appealing to multiple senses including smell, sound, and feel. Sensory appeals that are harder to experience via an online purchase should be amplified at the in-store level.

People who buy online primarily enjoy the convenience. Rather than be bothered with parking and store crowds and long checkout lines, more people opt for shopping from the comfort of their own homes. To lure them to an actual storefront means the retail customer experience has to be worth the trip.

Creating a “Scent”ual Experience

Bath & Body Works provides a benefit to customers who visit physical storefronts: the opportunity to test scents. No one wants to get a candle or bath product that smells differently than they expected. Even fans of the brand who are familiar with the mix of scents likely will want to go to the store and “smell around.”

The brand doesn’t solely rely on this in-store experience. They merge their offline and online communications by asking to register your email at checkout. They want to opt you in even before ringing up the sale. They do this so they can send emails informing customers about new products, upcoming sales, and other discounts throughout the year.

Additionally, they promote exclusive deals only available online from coupons received in store. Their goal isn’t where the sale is made but how often.

Setting the Mood with Sound

Retail stores are thoughtful about their target demographics and set up displays and music selections that reflect what’s popular now, especially for certain age groups. For example, Forever 21 often has displays categorized in sections that reflect what music festival is coming up or the latest social media hashtag that’s trending.

By visiting the store, this demographic of concert goers and social media enthusiasts can visualize their outfits that will be made Instagram-worthy to others. This can be done all while listening to an in-store playlist that is representative of the next concert they’ll be going to or an artist they like.

While shopping for clothes online may be for necessity. Shopping in-store sells concepts and outfit ideas rather than standalone pieces. The result: larger in-store purchases and then, opportunities for follow-up emails to add upsell pieces for items the customer may have “forgotten.”

Sure, a Coachella-goer may have gotten the ultimate outfit to head to the desert, but did they remember sunglasses, a bag, accessories? It’s a matter of prompting the customer to make them feel like they have all they need to complete the experience.

Giving Customers That Loving Feeling

For some, the convenience of online shopping is enough to lure them away from stores. Even as that statistic continues to grow, the value of testing in-store products, whether it’s candles, jeans, or groceries, retail customer experiences are made better when there is an appeal to the senses.

Brands that wish to grow their in-store traffic and revenue should consider how a visit to their space makes a person feel throughout their retail experience. By doing so, there’s a greater likelihood the consumers who choose to shop in-person will make a purchase.

Retail brands don’t need to abandon their in-store initiatives completely and put all their attention toward online marketing. They simply need to create the best possible retail customer experience for their target consumers, regardless of where they may be shopping.

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