A laughing woman in a wedding dress clinks glasses of champagne with friends off-camera. In the background is a wall of windows and another dress on a mannequin.
Bridal shops and other high-end retailers can incorporate the sense of taste into their shoppers' experience by offering champagne during fitting sessions. — Getty Images/jacoblund

Sensory marketing can turn a one-time customer into a loyal repeat brand advocate. By appealing to all five senses, retailers can solidify their store as a must-visit place for shoppers by creating an unforgettable experience that just can’t be replicated online. If you want to give your brick-and-mortar store an edge over e-commerce competitors, follow these tips for incorporating sight, smell, taste, touch and sound into your retail experience.

Incorporating the five senses into your retail experience

Sight

Visualization is the most important sense to perfect for retailers. The look and design of your store will communicate more than just a product line to potential customers. The exterior of your store is the first thing your customers will see, so ensure that it is welcoming and visually appealing. Your retail space’s interior should remain well lit with eye-catching displays. Remember to research color psychology and the best retail floor plans to customize the space for both customer experience and increased sales.

[Read more: Pop-Up Store Experiences That Blend Physical, Digital Worlds Woo Pandemic-Changed Shoppers]

Smell

The sense of smell is one of our most powerful senses, affecting our emotions, memory and creativity. The power of aroma can connect with a person’s long-term memory, which gives businesses tremendous power to positively influence the retail experience — if used correctly. Brands such as Starbucks, Hollister and Nike add a specific signature scent to their store that reminds people of the brand, even when they're not physically in the space, and begs them to return. “Pumping” the scent out the doors can entice passersby.

When adding a scent to their retail space, many stores make the mistake of overwhelming their customers with strong odors. Less is more when it comes to adding a scent to a store and retailers should be mindful not to incorporate a smell that is too sweet or strong.

Many customers who choose to shop in person do so because they enjoy the tactile experience.

Taste

Engaging people’s taste buds isn’t just for restaurants: Retailers can create a more memorable shopping experience by offering customers light refreshments such as coffee, tea, soft drinks or pastries to create a feeling of comfort and pampering. Some high-end stores like Tiffany’s and Cartier even offer champagne for an upscale “luxury” feel when a customer is speaking with a sales specialist.

When using taste to appeal to customers, the best options have wide appeal, are low-cost to you, and make sense for your brand.

Touch

Many customers who choose to shop in person do so because they enjoy the tactile experience. They want to know what products look and feel like in real life before purchasing them. Retailers can take advantage of this desire by setting up their store layout for product interaction. You might even consider posting signage that clearly indicates customers are invited to test a product out in the store.

Touch can also play a role before potential customers walk through the door. Direct mail campaigns printed on heavy card stock and quality paper products can communicate your brand experience and aesthetic, encouraging customers to come in and check it out for themselves.

[Read more: Craft Retailer Joann Embraces These Post-Pandemic Customer Service Lessons]

Sound

When incorporating sound into the retail experience, retailers should think through what they want the “soundtrack” of their brand to be. Consumers react differently to jazz than they do to modern pop or classical, so find music that plays both to your brand identity and your customers' preferences. According to Retail Touchpoints, many retailers that incorporate sound into their in-store shopping experience go with ambient sounds (low-level music with minimal elements), background sound and music to set an underlying tone or music and sound played at a volume that can act as an “aural cue” without being intrusive.

Optimizing for your sensory experiences accessibility

Regardless of what experiences you're adding to your retail store, always ensure that you are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so you can serve differently abled patrons. This may include having spaces designated for people with disabilities, leaving a minimum of 32 inches of clean space between doors and having aisles that are a minimum width of 36 inches and counters that are higher than 38 inches.

In addition to what is legally required, you can also optimize your store for accessibility by removing unnecessary clutter, adding ramps in place of steps when possible and training your staff on how to engage with customers who have disabilities.

[Read more: Smarter Selling: The Five Tech Trends Reshaping Retail]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 04, 2022