Sensory experiences are driving shoppers back into stores. Fiona Rayner, Head of Experiential & International Operations at leading staffing solutions, travel retail and experiential agency Blackjack Promotions looks at why personalisation is the sixth sense.
A nicely scented business, the ability to touch, feel and try different products, using engaging visuals and the right in-store music are just some of the multisensory steps that retail stores are employing to differentiate and enhance the experience over e-commerce.
And a new report confirms that these measures are working. These steps would, in fact, persuade nine out of 10 shoppers to ditch their devices in favour of visiting high street shops that offer an enjoyable in-store atmosphere.
The study, which quizzed over 10,000 consumers across 10 countries, defines an ‘enjoyable atmosphere’ as one with the right combination of music, visuals and scent – with 78% of shoppers likely to make purchases in this kind of store.
In Travel Retail the sensory approach has always been a big driver in influencing customers, who only have a finite amount of time to make purchases before resuming their journeys.
The report cites the ability to touch, feel and try different products or services as the biggest driver in making consumers more likely to want to buy something while shopping in a store (at 56%).
I’ve always believed in the power of human touch and the benefits of having a brand ambassador to enhance a brand or retail experience. Our challenge now is to try and take this to the next level and to turn these experiences into complete brand stories and to encourage customer loyalty, as well as sales.
This could be through creating a complete themed day around a well-loved character, which tells a story through experiences in passenger lounges and via food and drink retailers.
And while pulling in all five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell – is important, it also helps if consumers feel that the experience is relevant to them.
In the age of AI, algorithms and recommendation engines, digital consumers have become used to more targeted and relevant messages so we need to bring this in store too. Personalisation has become our sixth sense.
More than a third of consumers interviewed for the report (38%) said that feeling like the experience was personalised to them made them more likely to purchase something.
A great example of this currently in Travel Retail comes from Atelier Cologne in Dublin Airport. When a customer purchases a 200ml bottle, they are able to choose a beautifully designed leather pouch for their free travel sized bottle. Brand ambassadors are on hand to create a personalised label for the leather pouch, which could feature a name or a unique message if purchasing for someone else as a gift.
Camus is another great example. It provided Chinese calligraphers at Heathrow around Chinese New Year to create personalised gift tags for customers with every purchase by writing a message or their name in Mandarin. These little touches enhance the shopping experience.
Elsewhere, another interesting finding the report makes is the importance of scent psychology, with one in two consumers reporting that a nicely scented business lifts their mood. I think there’s a lot you can do with scent in Travel Retail to make it a more targeted and personalised experience.
While some retail environments use their own ‘signature scent’ by deploying diffusers in their air conditioning, some of the most innovative retailers are now even looking at using this to promote certain scents, so that when shoppers walk through a store or past a particular display, they experience this overwhelming sense of a new fragrance.
The report also suggests the importance of research and careful application of customer data to make sure the experience is relevant to the target market – especially when you’re looking at the influence of sound on consumers.
Music was cited in the report as the number one factor to improving a shopper’s mood in the store, with 85% of shoppers stating this had a positive impact. But get this wrong and more than half these respondents said they would disengage.
These findings should help all retailers focus on the experiential side of what they’re doing, so that they can create the mooted ‘enjoyable in store atmosphere’ that should see consumers returning to their stores in droves.
The challenge now is to use the data to take the in-store experience to the next level. We need to pull in the best of both worlds, combining the personalisation enjoyed by e-commerce consumers, with the sensory tools that are already starting to lure shoppers back to the high street.
By Fiona Rayner (née Tindall)
Head of Experiential & International Operations