While this might sound obvious, in practice, it’s actually quite a challenge to get right. What a person sees, hears, smells, touches or tastes in your business has a strong impact on how they perceive your brand, both consciously and unconsciously. In our modern retail landscape, the retailers left standing are the ones that understand the need to create emotionally and physically engaging experiences for their customers.
In a global study of over 10,000 consumers across 10 countries, Mood Media Australia explored the impact of a store’s sensory atmosphere on the overall shopping experience for consumers. The results left little room for debate, finding that 78 per cent of shoppers believe atmosphere at a retail store significantly impacts their decision to shop in-store rather than online. On top of that, 90 per cent say they’re more likely to return to a bricks-and-mortar location if the music, visuals and scent create an enjoyable atmosphere.
While consumers from region to region had some nuanced preferences, the common theme we saw again and again was that shoppers from around the world positively respond to an enjoyable, well-thought-out in-store environment. So how do you make that happen?
Never underestimate first impressions
The old adage is true: first impressions count. Video walls, for example, can play a big part in a customer’s experience of your brand before they’ve even set foot in the store. From the vantage point of window shoppers, video walls at the rear are increasingly being used to entice consumers into stores with ambient, atmospheric content.
According to the study, 58 per cent of consumers globally say that engaging video content positively impacts their shopping experience, while 43 per cent say they’ve been directly influenced by in-store digital content.
Sounds like a sale
The sounds we hear when we walk into a store play a big role in determining our experience, which has a knock-on effect on how long we stay. Studies have shown that specific songs or musical genres can shift people’s preferences and buying behaviour. The music you play needs to connect emotionally with your guests while simultaneously reflecting your brand.
The Mood Media study found that music is the leader in improving a shopper’s in-store mood, and has an overall positive impact on 85 per cent of shoppers. The quality of your music matters, too. More than half (57 per cent) of shoppers will disengage if a brand makes lacklustre music choices or disregards volume control.
Of course, it’s critical to only play properly licensed music in your store. If you decide to flout the rules, don’t be surprised if you find yourself saddled with an unexpected fine or legal challenge. Despite the added licensing cost, it’s clear that the right music is effective enough to provide more than enough of a return on investment.
Don’t forget the smell
Smell is one of the most overlooked senses when it comes to designing the in-store experience, but it’s actually one of the most important. Wafting scent outside your store is also a great way to draw customers in before they’ve even consciously registered it’s there.
If you want your customer to relax and enjoy their shopping experience, what better way than to inject the calming scent of a spa? Or how about encouraging customers to purchase food with a subtle aroma of freshly baked cookies?
Focus on the individual
Consumers are used to having individually curated content through their smartphones, so it’s critical that we extend that to the in-store space, to make them feel like the environment has been designed exactly for them.
Messaging can also now be acutely tailored to the individual, doing away with the “one size fits all” marketing tactics of the past. Savvy stores carefully consider a consumer’s location, pace and specific touchpoints, allowing them to serve up dedicated messaging depending on the consumer’s unique journey through the store. Heat maps and directional signage are even capable of identifying the path in which consumers are approaching.
Tools such as AR-enabled digital touchscreens are set to alter the retail landscape forever, and are already making their mark on the world of high-end watches, fashion, beauty, finance and automotive.
“Endless Aisle” is a great example of the merging of the online and offline worlds in a seamless and integrated way, enabling customers to virtually browse or order products that are either out of stock or not sold in-store.
Tablets can also be useful in back-of-house efforts such as employee training and stock checks as well as providing a mobile checkout, allowing customers to pay wherever they are in the store.
While online has undoubtedly left its mark on retail, bricks-and-mortar stores must embrace the fact that they’ve got something online can never hope to replicate: a full-body sensory experience. This includes a mix of sights, sounds and smells along with a digital, experiential in-store environment with intuitive smart screens, heat mapping and personalisation. Who wouldn’t want to spend their time and money in a store like that?
Mark Larner is the head of innovation at Mood Media Australia.