Walk past a coffee shop and the smell can be more than enough to entice you inside. A colourful window display can be an invitation to buy, or an upbeat jazz tune could draw you in.
Studiesi have found that if a shopper’s five senses are engaged, they tend to spend more time in a store and are more likely to make more purchases.
So how can you enhance your selling experience using sensory marketing to engage touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste?
So glad you asked! We have a few tips to help you…
Observe how a customer walks through your outlet. When you approach to offer assistance, how many customers respond with ‘I’m just looking’?
But are they just looking? Do they instinctively touch the merchandise? Reach out to feel material? Pick up an item and turn it over in their hands?
The tactile shopping experience of touching an item and feeling the softness of a fabric, or the grain of a wood, encourages a customer to try on the piece or imagine how it will look in their home – and hopefully purchase it.
Many consumers are seeking out bricks and mortar fashion boutiques for just this reason. The softness of a pair of leather shoes. The plushness of a velvet jacket. When it comes to clothing, the touch and feel of a product can be the major selling point.
And do not underestimate the sense of touch when it comes to your product packaging.
A thick glossy laminated bag gives a sense of luxury, or a printed brown paper bag gives off an eco-friendly vibe. Consider adding tissue paper to the sales process to enhance the unboxing experience.
Have you ever walked through a large chain store during sales time, or an outlet shop jam-packed with excess stock? Clothes jammed onto racks in disarray. A mishmash of colours and fabrics thrown over stands. While some shoppers enjoy sifting through mountains of garments, too much clutter can cause sensory overload and many shoppers will head straight back out the door.
Ensure you can easily navigate around your store and your displays are well-lit and appealing.
Don’t miss an opportunity to promote your business and ensure your brand is reflected in your retail packaging by customising your paper bags with your logo. This provides an opportunity for the customer to recall your business each time they look at your bag, even long after they have left your store.
Background music can be soothing and delightful, or loud and stimulating. The tip here is to know your target audience.
Studies have found that shoppers tend to make impulsive purchases if they are over-stimulated. Clashing percussion or repetitive dance beats may be just the thing if your business attracts a young, funky clientele. Music played at a loud volume can weaken self-control. But play the same music to your more mature customer base and they may turn around as soon as the beats hit their eardrums.
Choose a playlist to suit your brand and your customers.
If you are in the delicatessen business or you are selling chocolates, then product sampling is a no-brainer. Bakeries have been doing this for years, too – offering a tray of samples available for the customers.
But you do not have to sell food to engage the sense of taste. Everyone loves a free wrapped lolly or mint at the cash register. A little tasty offering can go a long way to encourage repeat business and can be a great conversation starter while people are waiting to be addressed.
But in current climate of COVID, remember to offer wrapped goodies or supply tongs or toothpicks so customers can try before they buy. And keep a garbage bin on hand for the rubbish.
The sense of scent is known to trigger powerful emotions. That is because odours travel through your nose to your limbic system – the brains’ mechanism that deals with long-term memory.
A burning candle (make sure they are out of the way of little hands), or a diffuser can work magic. If you consistently create a signature smell for your business your regular customers will always associate that with your brand.
But like sight, sometimes less is more. Don’t pump too much fragrance into the air. If your customers are sneezing, then pull back on the aromas.
Online retailers – we haven’t forgotten you…
While not all the senses can be engaged in the e-commerce world, sight and sound are imperative to attract and retain your online customers. Sight is considered the most prominent of the senses, so it makes sense (pardon the pun) to focus on this when designing your website and social media.
Consider how your online shopfront looks to the user. Is it easy to navigate? Are the fonts easy to read? Do the colours complement your brand?
And do not underestimate the sound elements. Adding video and music can enhance the experience for the customers. Think about the latest Instagram and Tik Tok trends. Video, stories, reels. The ones with background music can evoke memories and emotions. And even narration will enhance the selling experience.
One of Smartbag clients, Belinda’s Store Yamba, does this to perfection in her weekly Instagram post where she models her latest fashion delivery accompanied by her children and dog. The cacophony of kids, animals and Belinda’s narration gives off a sense of fun and joy – encouraging her 8K+ followers to tune in every week.
An inciteful product description can also help the customer imagine the physical merchandise. Investing in a good copywriter who can help you write content that engages the emotions is definitely a big plus for your website content.
iMiralem Helmefalk and Bertil Hultén, Ph.D. at Linneaus University in Sweden