Taste, touch, see, smell and listen; it’s the new store experience!

Endaba Group

Rio Carnival starts today and ends Wednesday 1st March. So we at Endaba started thinking about sensory experiences and how retailers employ them.

On first impression, the sheer scale and colours at Rio Carnival are incredible. There’s a spectacular display of costumes, dance and fun packed into one massive party. Each carnival day and each carnival bloco has its own personality, different music and locations, different mixes of friends and chance encounters. It’s a sensory overload and seems completely personalised as there’s something for every party goer.

It’s like Las Vegas, right? The themes Vegas have applied assail all the senses: a tropical waterfall mist, an impressive light beam emanating from a pyramid, smell of fresh pastries in a Parisian café, the roar a of crowd dancing to steel drums outside a carnival space, or a cold drink in a themed tumbler. Familiarity is inculcated into the consumer as each moment is a moment of the senses. You just know you’re in Vegas.

In the consumer-space, there’s been a significant trend in the pronounced use of senses. Employing the senses helps companies stand out among the clutter and noise in the market and intimately connect with the consumers. For retailers, creating a unique and compelling experience has become key to the strategy to drive traffic back to stores. Millman found in 1982 that slow music increased spend in supermarkets by 39.2%. Fast forward 20 years and Nike found that introducing scent into their stores increased intention to purchase by 80%.

Many retailers are underestimating the role of their bricks-and-mortar estates. Brands aren’t noticing a store’s potential as they are approaching it in the similar way they’d approach any other sales channel. However, a store is so much more; it’s the physical manifestation of the brand and the only opportunity that customers have to engage with all five senses.

Customers have a brand experience in-store whether planned or not. Their experience determines how long they stay in-store, how they feel about the time they spend there and how much they value the brand. There’s no more passive street traffic; retailers need to create a unique in-store experience to captivate customers. This is a necessity for traditional retailers who are watching their sales decline and shift to online and other etailers, like Amazon.

There’s not a single recipe for designing a store that customers will want to go to; companies need to build upon the core strengths of the brand for direction.

Lush is a perfect example of an immersive sensory experience. They describe their stores as a “beauty mart with a green grocers’ soul”. From the moment a customer steps into a Lush store, their senses are engaged; customers are invited to wash off the soot from the street and refresh themselves, there are doting shop assistants to describe the products and illustrate their origin, and the air is permeated with the freshness of their products. In fact, their in-store smell has become synonymous with the brand. The store also invites you to trial facials, promoting the company’s focus on personal health and wellbeing, whilst you listen to a “good day” soundtrack. Their entire store experience engages all of the customer’s senses and brings the brand’s story to life by fostering an education and creating connections between the customer, the environment, the community and the company’s products and mission.

Other great examples of in-store experience are:

The more tech-savvy our world becomes today, the more human interaction we crave and need. Between the price war with Amazon, time-starved customers, the desire and need for ease and convenience and for fashion retailers, the deviation to fast-fashion, it’s an incredibly tough climate to compete in.

Amidst stores’ identity crisis, retailers need to re-inject excitement into their store experiences chain-wide. Sensory is the way to go!