Store Sense

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					                                             Store Sense
Reclaiming the four walls with sensory engagement




                                      The Retail Acumen Series
          By Stephen Ogden-Barnes (Retail Industry Fellow, Deakin University)
    and Danielle Barclay (Retail Consultant and General Manager, Retail Engine)
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Contents

About the authors ................................................................................................................................................................ 4
The new retail dynamic ...................................................................................................................................................... 5
The physical store under threat ...................................................................................................................................... 5
Opportunities to reinvent the store .............................................................................................................................. 6
The brand experience ......................................................................................................................................................... 7
The new consumer .............................................................................................................................................................. 7
        The youth market - ‘future-proofing’ the retail store ..............................................................8
E-sense - how technology is connecting with the senses in-store..................................................................... 8
Shopper marketing in perspective ................................................................................................................................ 9
The sensory store .................................................................................................................................................................10
A focus on the senses .........................................................................................................................................................11
        Sight: the visible building block of retailing .............................................................................11
        Tactics and techniques ...................................................................................................................... 12
        Touch: the power of the tactile experience ..............................................................................14
        Tactics and techniques ...................................................................................................................... 15
        Sound: amplifying the shopping experience ...........................................................................16
        Tactics and techniques ...................................................................................................................... 17
        Advances in sound technologies ...................................................................................................17
        Scent: the most powerful sense of all .........................................................................................18
        Tactics and techniques ...................................................................................................................... 19
        Taste: try before you buy ................................................................................................................. 20
        Tactics and techniques ...................................................................................................................... 20
Ambience - the ‘hidden’ features ....................................................................................................................................21
The sensory store and competitive advantage .........................................................................................................21
Multi-sensory engagement: 1 minute case studies ................................................................................................22
Conclusion ..............................................................................................................................................................................23
References...............................................................................................................................................................................24




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About the authors
Danielle Barclay is a retail entrepreneur having launched one of the newest retail technology agencies
in Australia and New Zealand, Retail Engine, part of the CPM Group. Retail Engine has quickly developed
a reputation as innovators in the retail space, developing leading edge solutions to traditional activities
including point of sale, display, visual merchandising and product demonstrations. Their clients in
Australia and New Zealand have included McDonald’s, Mercedes Benz, Lion, NZ Lotteries, Telstra, Intel,
P&G and Kimberley-Clark.

With a retail marketing background spanning 11 years and three continents Danielle has worked in
management roles both for FMCG companies and advertising agencies giving her unique insights into
the way consumers think and more importantly how they interact with the retail environment.

Steve Ogden-Barnes is retail Industry Fellow at the Deakin University Graduate School of Business.
Following a diverse career in UK retailing, Steve moved to Australia to specialise in retail education,
industry engagement and research. Steve has recently completed a PhD focusing on marketing
decision making and sales promotion management in the Australian retail marketplace. In addition, he
is supporting the development of the new Graduate Certificate of Retail Management at Deakin, due to
be launched in 2012. Steve is a regular commentator on retail and consumer issues, for the Australian
Financial Review, The Age, The Australian, the Herald Sun, BRW, ABC Radio and Today Tonight.




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‘Our sense of sound, sight, smell, and touch have a powerful effect on us, and psychological research is
just beginning to explain some of the physical, cognitive, social and emotional effects. Sensory stimuli
can influence environments, improve the shopper experience and change the nature of behaviour in ways
beyond our consciousness’. [1], p. 286.



The new retail dynamic
The evolution of stores and shopping in Australia is part and parcel of the story of European settlement.
As far back as the 1800’s ‘going shopping’ was still a relatively new social concept although cities and
towns rapidly formalised to offer residents and visitors greater leisure and retail opportunities.

New settlers continued to bring their diverse cultural traditions with them, buying goods from home
producers, street-sellers or at the wharf or market-place. With the first purpose-built shops beginning
to appear in Britain and Europe from the early nineteenth century, emergent colonial societies at the
outposts of the Empire quickly followed suit.

For these early consumers, the shopping experience was a special occasion - a trip to town, dressed
in their Sunday best to marvel at the spectacles presented in shop windows, combined with the
anticipation of a special purchase. The nostalgic smells, sounds and emotions of these vibrant
experiences (for example corner shops with their tempting arrays of sweets or tins of biscuits) is still
powerful and evokes memories of a time when shopping was far less complex and sophisticated but
when the experience was at its most pure [2].

Since these early beginnings and for most of subsequent retailing history, the physical bricks and
mortar environment has provided both the focus and the context for customer engagement. As
economies evolved, established brands in all major countries developed large retail store chains and
distribution networks. Competition was based on the traditional marketing pillars of price, product,
place and promotion with the scale and resources of bigger organisations providing strong competitive
advantage. As time progressed, independent retailers rapidly lost ground to both the shopping centre
and the national (and international) chains as consumers sought the convenience of location and the
confidence of the big brands.

But all this is rapidly changing. The new dynamics of the global retail economy are arguably threatening
traditional store environments, as shoppers increasing turn to alternative channels like the internet to
browse, compare and ultimately purchase. Faced with this evolution, it is essential for bricks and mortar
retailers to revisit the principles and practices of in-store consumer engagement and to understand
in greater detail how their physical store environments can be leveraged to optimum effect to ensure
sales optimisation, customer satisfaction and sustainable profitability.



The physical store under threat
The explosion of internet and multi-channel retailing in the last decade is having a considerable impact
on the evolution of retail environments and shaping how people buy. The growth in online sales is
capturing a significant and increasing share of the retail dollar, estimated by Forrester research to
reach 8% of total retail sales in the US and Europe by 2014 [3]. In Australia the value of online purchases
has grown at an average rate of 15% per annum since 2005, with Forrester predicting that Australian


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online retail sales will more than double from $16.9 billion in 2009 to $33.3 billion in 2015.

With the ease, convenience and cost effectiveness of new technologies at their disposal, consumers
are increasingly playing the currency markets to take advantage of lower overseas product costs, and
domestic retailers are finding it difficult to compete in key commodity categories like home electronics,
books and music. In addition, online retailers are using web-based technologies - for example 3D -
to create virtual online environments where consumers can interact and engage with products and
retailers much the same as in a physical store. Other consumer benefits offered by online shopping
includes virtual shopping carts, product comparison and recommendations based on purchase
behaviour, tailored advertising and access to limitless information and reviews. Finally, for the time-
pressured, there are no queues and no need to leave the comfort of home or the office. Technology
enables consumers to do all this ‘on the move’ with mobile phone internet penetration reaching 50%
in Australia [3]. Social media has become a critical component in the retail message mix, changing the
way consumers hear about products, research and acquire. Now consumers seek the opinion of others
in relation to their purchases, bypassing (or at least qualifying) the mainstream marketing messages
of retailers.

There is no disputing the fact that the multi-channel consumer is here to stay. With the explosion
of new ‘connectivity’ between consumers, brands and channels [4], many retailers are strategising to
capitalise upon these new market channel and dynamics, for example in evaluating the role that
mobile phone applications and social media channels like Twitter and Facebook can play in relation
to both sales promotion and transactions. Anticipating a very different future, some researchers have
conducted focus groups with ‘avatar-shoppers’ in virtual worlds like Second Life [5] to understand the
similarities and differences between the truly virtual and the real world shopper. Research into virtual
category management, for example in online grocery stores [6], is also helping ambitious web retailers
to identify improvement opportunities for selling products, thereby driving transactional efficiency
and optimising sales. The physical bricks and mortar store, it would appear, is under increasing threat
in the multi-channel age as both research agendas and media attention turns to alternative channels
of research, engagement and acquisition. So is it all over for the humble shop, or can retailers work to
restore the high street experience with new strategies to re-engage the shopper at the sensory level?



Opportunities to reinvent the store
While the significance of the internet and social media in the retail mix is not to be underestimated, the
very conservative recent sales growth noted in countries like Australia [7] reveal that retailers need more
than ever to optimise every physical customer contact and engagement opportunity (and crucially
every store visit) to drive customer numbers, sales and customer satisfaction in bricks and mortar
environments. It is even more important to address some of the commonly reported negatives about
the physical retail environment, for example the spatial and human crowding which affects consumer
perceptions of their shopping experience [8, 9]. With the significant capital investment that retailers
have at stake in physical retail stores, it would be short-sighted indeed to both underestimate and
undervalue the significance of tactile interaction with a product and the human service interactions
that can only be found in a store environment.




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The brand experience
More than any other medium, the store offers the greatest potential for consumers to really experience
the brand. Brand experience can be thought of as sensations, feelings, perceptions, and behavioural
responses evoked by brand-related stimuli (Fig 1). These influence consumer satisfaction and loyalty,
enabling the brand to sell products at a premium and create a powerful competitive advantage.



                                                         Sight: brand look




                            Sound:
                                                                                       Taste: brand flavour
                                                   Sensory
                        brand soundtrack



                                                    Brand
                                                 Engagement


                                    Smell: brand scent                          Touch:
                                                                             brand texture




Figure 1: brand experience via the senses



The more powerful this experience, the stronger the brand impression and the retailer’s ability to
create meaningful and memorable differentiation. In recent years, companies like Nokia, Apple, Barbie,
and Gucci have opened flagship stores in various countries to provide more consumer-brand sensory
engagement opportunities. For example the newly-built Barbie Store in Shanghai, a 6-floor megastore
with a spa, offers a design centre, café and interactive activities designed for girls. It rapidly became
an ‘experience hotspot’ with thousands of young shoppers now visiting the store every day. These
‘flagship’ stores are a powerful example of the interactive avenues retailers are using to connect their
brand with consumers in an experiential environment [10].




The new consumer
Consumers live busy lives and the shopping experience can be both time consuming and
overwhelming. With so much visual noise and clutter to contend with it is not surprising some of the
traditional methods of communicating within a retail space - for example static posters and product
displays - don’t have the same impact they once did. Faced with instant access to information and
limitless choice, it is not surprising that many retailers have found it challenging to understand how
to engage today’s consumers and how evolve their stores for the future. The key issues for retailers
are therefore not only to understand the evolving multi-channel retail mix, but also to understand the
new, multi-faceted consumer and determine how the physical store environment can be fine-tuned to
retain both its appeal and its effectiveness at a significant time of sector change.


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The youth market – ‘future-proofing’ the retail store
In considering retail’s long-term bricks and mortar future, it is also important to consider the priorities
and preferences of tomorrow’s shopper. Research conducted into the demographic most likely to defect
from physical stores to internet shopping - the youth markets - reveals them to be still significantly
influenced and affected by the degree of in-store sensory engagement, despite the attractions of their
multi-channel consumer environment:

‘The ambience of retail stores, whether pleasant or unpleasant, moderates the arousal effect on satisfaction
and in-store buying behaviours...Satisfaction in a pleasant retail ambience where music, hands-on
experience services, playing areas and recreation are integrated maximizes consumer arousal. It has been
observed that young consumers perceive positive effects on in-store behaviours if shopping arousal is high’
[11]
    , p.273.

The findings presented in this case show that as shopper engagement and arousal increases, so do
sales (when compared to regular, more neutral and transactionally focused shopping trips). This
research further reveals that improving in-store sensory engagement can lift average sales by 5.4%.
This presents retailers with a specific opportunity to ‘win back’ the youth demographic by refreshing
their approach to in-store retail engagement and sensory immersion, especially at key impulse buying
times of year (e.g. Christmas) and not just by driving awareness at the pre-purchase stages with slick
web-based and social media campaigns. The research conclusions support this sensory view:

‘The perspectives of store ambience and shopping satisfaction effectively become a measure of retailing
performance, as perceived by young shoppers, which can indicate directions for change in retailing strategy
by offering more recreational infrastructure, extended working hours, places for demonstrations, and
consumer education on innovative and high-technology products and services’ (pp.280-281).

For other youth demographics that offer increasingly significant market potential (but are perhaps
often overlooked by retailers) opportunities to leverage retail engagement and sensory experience
have also been identified. Hence retailers who seek to develop retail environments which offer sensory
rather than economic appeal (i.e. The Entertainer in the UK, and Smiggle in Australia) find opportunity
not at the lowest price points but at higher levels of emotional engagement even with their youngest
shoppers. For retailers therefore, focusing on the tangible, sensory aspects of consumer engagement
in-store can provide a pathway to a more effective and productive retail store environment, even in
the online age.




E-sense – how technology is connecting with the senses
in-store
It is inevitable that advances in multi-channel consumer technologies have had a significant impact
on the traditional ‘servicescape’ i.e. the retail store or shop. Consumers now commonly use both fixed
and mobile technologies to conduct research and comparisons and increasingly these activities are
integrated into their physical store visit [12]. Exploiting and incorporating these channels, as well as the
increasing raft of sensory-based digital and technology innovations is arguably one of the biggest
challenges - and opportunities - for retailers. It questions the very nature and future of the retail store
as a static and generic shopper experience as opposed to a mobile and flexible one.



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In many ways, digital retailing is evolving much more rapidly than bricks and mortar retailing.
For example the increased use of SET (sensory enabling technologies, i.e. 2D, 3D and ‘virtual try-on’)
offer significant store-based advantages to at-home shoppers [13]. As UK researchers investigating the
use of 3D in relation to product presentation concluded:

‘Authentic 3D product visualisation enables consumers to experience online products without directly
inspecting them; it makes non-store retailers the best place to examine a product virtually; and it provides
consumers with a sense of having a direct experience with the product’ [14], p.109

This digital or virtual communication method can of course be used within store environments as
well as at home as part of an integrated multi-channel strategy. Digital communication plays a part in
entertaining customers in the same way television or moving image communication does at home. It
presents an opportunity to communicate multiple messages in a dynamic way within a small space.
In relation to other virtual mediums of engagement, research from the UK has revealed that the use
of digital screens to convey marketing messages increases both enjoyment levels and information
provision to key shopper demographics, and they are more welcome and impactful in areas where
shoppers are stationary, waiting or dwelling, (i.e. in queues, lifts or cafes), providing the content
and messaging is mood appropriate [15]. The integration of the store environment with consumer
technologies will redefine the shopping experience as retailers learn how to optimise the physical
senses and leverage E-sense across the key shopper decision stages.



Shopper marketing in perspective
The increasing significance of shopper marketing as a retail discipline has provided added impetus for
store-based retailers. Shopper marketing is defined here as:

 ‘The use of insights-driven marketing and merchandising initiatives to satisfy the needs of targeted
shoppers, enhance the shopping experience and improve business results and brand equity for retailers and
manufacturers.’

At the most basic level, the buying process is shaped and influenced by the stimuli encountered
and perceptions created in bricks-and-mortar stores. Shopper marketing however goes beyond the
transactional basics to include all activities and points of engagement along a ‘path to purchase’
designed to influence brand awareness and preference, store selection, in-store experience,
comparison, purchase and, ultimately, post-purchase review and evaluation.

Improved consumer insight and purchase behaviour data have made it easier to capitalise on the 68%
of customers who make their decisions in store and the 70% of in-store purchase decisions which are
reported to be made on impulse [16]. Although a move to develop and employ shopper marketing
strategies is evident in FMCG environments like supermarkets and pharmacy, this is however often
category-specific and supplier-driven with a focus on brand defence, brand promotion or brand attack,
seldom encompassing the whole retail experience.

Retailers, it is proposed, need to develop a more holistic store engagement strategy to capitalise
on all the opportunities that a store visit can present, not relying solely on supplier-driven shopper
marketing initiatives, but instead developing a comprehensive and robust understanding of how a
shopper’s senses in-store can be positively engaged and optimised in relation to the purchase process,
in order to once again place the store at the heart of the decision-making process. Welcome to the
sensory store!

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The sensory store
As the dawn of the virtual age is fundamentally changing the DNA of retail and new metrics of
performance measurement enter our vocabulary, it is important for retailers not to overlook new
thinking in relation to their physical store environments.

At its core a visit to a retail store is and always has been a sensory experience: sight, sound, touch,
scent and taste all shape the propensity to purchase, with the subsequent opinions, emotions and
experiences shaping the purchase process.

While retailers increasingly seek to connect with consumers with diverse multi-channel approaches (i.e.
direct marketing, internet marketing, loyalty card segmentation), it’s vitally important to acknowledge
the need to leverage engagement and immersion opportunities within the store. As it becomes
increasingly difficult for store-based businesses to compete on price, range, convenience, time saving
and transactional efficiency, it’s imperative to create a new and integrated point of competitive
advantage and trading philosophy, one which capitalises upon the estimated 100 billion neurons in
the human brain across the consumer’s five key senses.

The impact of engaging the senses in store is often referred to as ‘shopping arousal’, a powerful trigger
in the purchase decision process. The challenge is to understand and apply the appropriate strategies
which enable the senses to complement, rather than compete with each other.




                                                                               holistic
      sensory                   sensory                 sensory
                                                                                brand
     strategies                experience               impact
                                                                             engagement




Figure 2: The sensory engagement process




A number of retailers have recognised the importance of revitalising the store experience via sensory
engagement:

Harrods in London recently ran an exhibition of the senses - an innovative means of increasing footfall
to the store. Each of six store lifts was themed around a different sensory experience. The ‘sound’
lift had a specially commissioned piece composed by Michael Nyman to demonstrate the impact of


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sound in a confined space: for ‘sight’ micro lasers directed beams of light on Swarovski crystals. In
another lift: different ‘smells’, including the scent of a new car, were emitted at the touch of a button
and the ‘taste’ lift provided the opportunity for customers to create their own ice-cream flavours. The
‘touch’ lift demonstrated the challenges that face the sight impaired. The store even created a special
‘6th sense’ lift for ‘cosmic ordering’ - the potential to grant wishes!

Apple with its ‘come and play’ feel and Nike with its sporty imagery both express their brands superbly
through their store environments. Shoppers feel like they are immersed in the brand - an interactive
emporium where they are welcome to engage and be engaged and browse and shop at their leisure
[1]
   , p.287.

For many others however, reactive price-based promotions rather than proactive shopper engagement
continues to dominate promotional thinking in increasingly challenging times. Prior to focusing on
the new strategies and solutions available to retailers to enable them to connect with their consumers’
active senses, it is essential to review what retail and consumer research has revealed about the
potential to better leverage the shopper’s senses and in doing so create more engaged, loyal and
profitable shoppers.



A focus on the senses

Sight: the visible building block of retailing
The power of selling through sight alone has been fundamental to retailing throughout the ages.
Beginning with the shop window, customers could view products available in store that would
influence their decision to explore further. Visual merchandising, store design including colour and light,
packaging, ticketing, signage, point of sale and space planning are all forms of visual communication
techniques utilised by retailers to appeal to this sense.

Most shoppers rely on visual cues to find their way around stores and assess merchandise displays to
identify options and make final purchase decisions. In self-select environments like supermarkets, the
merchandise has to largely ‘speak for itself. Where product is best placed within the store environment
and what affect placement has on brand recall and sales continues to be a key area of interest for
suppliers and retailers.

Recent research [17] into visual attention has confirmed that the number of product facings and
product placement on the shelf have a significant impact on shopper behaviours. It is important to
acknowledge that the research in this case identified that grabbing a shopper’s attention with bigger,
more dominant product displays doesn’t always translate to increased sales, hence ‘more of the same’
may not always be more effective for established brands. Niche brands were found to benefit most
from greater increased display presence, a significant factor when retailers are predicting the margin
implications of category performance as a result of display changes. For the average brand and
consumer it is reported for example that:

‘In the best-brand scenario, for occasional users of a low-market-share brand, doubling the number of
facings increased noting by 28%, re-examination by 35% and choice and consideration by 10%. Positioning
the brand on the top shelf (versus the bottom one) increased noting by 17% and choice by 20% and 36% of
the gains in terms of brand evaluation came from attention’ (p.14).



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What is interesting to note from these specific category (pharmaceutical) findings is that the effect
of visual impact is reported to be different for diverse demographics. This proves that engaging
consumers with sensory visual stimulation is often more complex than may be imagined as other
psychological and sociological factors act upon the decision making process. For example older
customers in this case considered fewer brand alternatives and were less responsive to changes in
the number of facings presented to them. It was a different story for younger customers in this case
however, who were more receptive to changes:

‘We found that in-store marketing works particularly well for younger, more educated, and ‘opportunistic’
consumers, not because of differences in attention (attention patterns and the influence of in-store
marketing were similar across all consumers) but rather because these consumers were more willing to
consider and choose brands that were brought to their attention as a result of in-store marketing’ (p.14).

Supporting this research into visual influence, UK research into grocery shopper’s brand perceptions
shows that consumers take a keen interest in the quality of merchandise display and presentation
when assessing overall retailer image [18], focusing their attention and energies particularly on key
‘sensory categories’ (e.g. bakery, fresh produce, flowers, fresh fish).

The way that products are packaged is also a key sensory consideration, as consumers respond to the
visual stimuli in the packaging design at the point of purchase across both visual and verbal (written)
elements. Studies reveal that consumers are impacted in different ways by these variables, depending
on the nature of the product [19]. For example for consumers of milk and washing powder verbal cues
are more important for consumers than visual cues at the point of sale, even when time is short. The
challenges for retailers are therefore to understand which verbal / visual packaging design mix is most
appropriate for which product type, as well as giving consideration to how product information is
efficiently conveyed to time poor consumers via technological means at key decision points.

Colour also plays a role in shaping mood and perception and is culturally specific, with different colours
holding different meanings in diverse contexts:

‘We all share similar responses to colour, although some cultural variations exist. For example, white is the
colour of marriage in western societies but is the colour of death in China. In Brazil, purple is the colour of
death. Yellow is sacred to the Chinese, but signifies sadness in Greece and jealousy in France. People from
tropical countries respond most favourably to warm colours; people from northern climates prefer cooler
colours. Our heart rate and blood pressure rise when we look at intense reds; conversely, we can become
tired or anxious by looking at large areas of bright whites or greys. In a retail environment, understanding
those responses can be crucial to enticing that customer inside, and then enticing open their wallet or purse’
[20]
    .




Tactics and techniques
There are a number of new techniques available for retailers and marketers to re-invent visual
communication and merchandising in store. These include digital signage which plays animated
content via a screen, the use of projectors and specialised film on walls or windows, electronic
ticketing using e-paper or small LED screens and sequence-lit signage and point of sale using
electroluminescence paper.




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Telstra’s flagship Melbourne store has some of the most visible window display space in the central city
with tens of thousands of people walking past each day. For many years Telstra have utilised traditional
visual merchandising techniques with static signage displayed in the window but recognised an
opportunity to try something new to better communicate with their technology savvy customers.

As part of a recent Christmas campaign, window displays were brought to life via a 24-metre long
interactive window. The space incorporated projected animation about product, a gesture-based
snow globe which shoppers could ‘shake’ by moving their hands and a giant mobile phone offering a
live video call to Santa.




Image 1: Telstra connecting at Christmas




Image 2: Santa on call



In the supermarket sector, a recent innovation by Tesco to combine physical retail communication with
mobile marketing in South Korea has captured the attention of marketers all over the world, winning a
Grand Prix Media Lion at Cannes in 2011. The Homeplus Subway Virtual Store enabled commuters on
their way home from work to enter a virtual supermarket and shop their way around the aisles using
2D photos of products. Shoppers scanned QR codes on the product images with their mobile phone
and the product was added to a virtual basket and then later delivered to their home.


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Image 3: Tesco’s virtual store




This virtual shopping experience could easily be implemented within traditional physical retail spaces,
enabling product purchase and without product displayed on shelf an presenting opportunities for
both greater sensory engagement and inventory optimisation.



Touch: the power of the tactile experience
Central to consumer engagement in-store is the power of touch. Although virtual representations of
products online can convey look, shape and colour, our sense of texture, temperature, weight and feel
is realised only through touch. Retailers can however often make it quite difficult for consumers to
readily access products, especially in upmarket retail environments where security may be high but
staff numbers low.

It’s important to remember however that touch and ownership - or anticipation of ownership - are
closely related, with recent US consumer research confirming that (in an experimental setting) when
consumers physically handled a product their sense of ownership and their valuation of the product
both increased [21]. Interestingly, other related research [22] revealed that the concept of touch holds
further implications for purchase behaviour dependant on who has been seen handled the product:

Specifically, male consumers responded positively to the contaminated (touched) product when it was
touched by a highly attractive woman but not when it was touched by a highly attractive man. Similarly,
albeit to a lesser extent, female consumers responded positively to highly attractive male contagion but not
to highly attractive female contagion’ (p.698)

Retailers should therefore not underestimate the role that touch plays in the buying decision process,
especially where product integrity, quality and comfort are involved. So how can our sense of touch be
optimised in retail environments?



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Tactics and techniques
We know that touch gives the consumer a sense of empowerment in their shopping experience which
cannot be replicated online. It enables them to have a tactile interaction with the brand or product,
thereby influencing their experience and subsequently their purchase decision.

In fashion retailing a lot of the decision-making is tactile. Shoppers like to feel the textiles as well as try
the clothing on, fuelling emotions for aspirational decision-making. Beyond the traditional `product
touch’ approach in-store, intangible products can also be experienced and there are many other ways
of bringing touch into the traditional retail environment.

Touch screens have become more commonplace within retail spaces as a way of mimicking the
flexibility of an online experience in-store. Kiosks with in-built touch screens have enabled many
retailers to present more product information and choices to consumers, increasing their product
knowledge and simplifying the purchase decision. However many retailers have tried and failed with
this approach, perhaps underestimating the need to provide consumers with unique content which
adds value to their sensory shopping experience.

Footwear retailer Adidas has recently taken the idea of touchscreen shopping into their stores with the
introduction of an interactive shopping wall enabling shoppers to examine up to 8,000 3D models of
shoes. Shoppers can navigate and manipulate the virtual product showcase using touch gestures. The
benefit for the shopper is that they can enjoy browsing in one location in store, have access to a more
extensive inventory and at the touch of a button can have all their questions answered and choose to
purchase. Rather than ‘replacing’ the store, this technology is a good example of how to blend virtual
technology with more traditional in-store sensory engagement.




Image 4: Adidas in-store touch screen


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In Australia telecommunications retailer Telstra has again applied the same concept of touch-enabled
communication to their Melbourne flagship store windows. For the launch of the Windows Phone 7
mobile handset, Telstra brought the new user interface to life for consumers by projecting an image
of a large phone onto the window and installing a paper thin touch film behind, enabling consumers
to interact with the device from the street. Hence shoppers were able in interact with the brand at a
sensory level prior to entering the store, breaking the tradition divide between the exterior and the
interior of the store.




Image 5: Telstra’s interactive window




Sound: amplifying the shopping experience
Research has consistently revealed that music and sounds influence the shopping experience in retail
environments and can affect consumers in very tangible ways.

It’s important for retailers to consider the ‘soundscape’ of the retail environment, especially as the
perceived congruence between music and the brand or retail product has proven to affect consumers’
in-store response, dwell time and perceptions of brand [23]. As our auditory sense is keenly developed,
unattractive or unappealing sounds can literally drive customers away, but by the same measure the
targeted or timed use of sound stimulation can be used to attract - or maintain - shoppers in a featured
location.

As well as creating mood and ambience, music can also be used strategically in relation to service,
with researchers in the US finding for example that shoppers’ negative perceptions of crowded
retail environments are modified when slow-paced music is played. The worst sensory combination
is conversely proven to be providing loud, frenetic music in crowded settings [24]. The type of music
played in-store has also been identified as tangibly influencing shopper moods [25] with sad music
perhaps not surprisingly being identified as fostering more negative consumption emotions while
happy music fosters positive buying emotions and can lead to customers spending more time in
store. Consumers tend to underestimate time when their auditory senses are positively engaged. For
retailers interested in increasing both shopper dwell time and consumer sentiment, there is a simple,
valuable recommendation proposed by the authors in this case:

‘ ...Results confirm that if retail stores adopt joyful music, positive emotion can effortlessly be produced,
leading to the underestimation of time perception’ (p.178).


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It’s critical to ensure that the music experienced in-store reflects the consumer’s perception of brand.
US research [26] into the brand / music fit in a high-end supermarket for example found that playing
brand-appropriate music increased average in-store dwell time by 22 minutes. Although there was no
direct evidence in this case of increased spending, choosing the right music did increase the potential
selling time available to the business.

Actively considering the brand music fit may be more significant for retailers whose products serve
a clear emotional - rather than a functional - need, where mood is more closely linked to purchase
behaviour. French research [27] has revealed for example that when romantic music was played in a
florist shop, more money was spent by customers than if no music or pop music was played. These
findings have obvious implications for niche retailers who are seeking to create a particular brand feel
and market position in specialist sectors and who need to leverage both dwell time, average spend
and repeat visitation much more so than mass or discount retailers.




Tactics and techniques
Music should add to the ambience of the store, but, unless it is crucial to the product and market, should
not be so loud to be immediately noticeable. It should however mask the sounds of customers moving
about the store, employees working or the conversations of people across the room. The challenge
with using sound is scheduling the right music to enhance the experience for a broad demographic, as
well as minimising the ‘annoyance factor’, particularly for the retail staff themselves.

In-store radio is one-way retailers have experimented with sound, choosing music to influence
customer behaviour and scheduling audio advertising messages throughout. For many retailers this
has also become an additional valuable income stream, offering advertising space to suppliers.

Regency Duty Free in New Zealand used sound to influence customer behavior in their stores
located at Auckland International Airport. The customer demographics and shopper behaviour in the
‘Departures’ and ‘Arrivals’ stores each store were slightly different so distinct playlists were created to
offer specific shopper appeal. In the Departures store, people were browsing quickly before moving
down to the departure gates, so the playlist was changed to reflect a slower tempo, and to feature
popular/romantic music designed to reduce the perception of time pressure and extend dwell-time.
In the Arrivals store it was completely the opposite. Many flights and customers arrived at the same
time and the majority of customers already knew what they were going to buy so the playlist for this
store consisted of popular music with a fast tempo to get people moving quickly through the store to
reduce crowding and queuing.




Advances in sound technologies
Directional sound, originally developed by the US and Soviet Navy for underwater sonar, is an effective
tool to emit sound for the purpose of interruption within a retail space without generating constant
sound within the space like a normal speaker. The speaker concentrates acoustic energy into a narrow
beam so that it can be projected to a discrete area, much the same way as a spotlight focuses light.
When a sound beam is aimed at a listener, that person senses the sound as if it is coming from a
headset or from ‘inside the head.’


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When the listener steps out of the beam, or when the beam is aimed in a different direction, the sound
disappears completely.

The Intel brand is one of the top ten known-brands in the world, perhaps most recognised for its
iconic five-tone ‘Intel inside’ musical jingle composed by Walter Werzowa and first developed as sound
branding in 1995. Intel recently developed a display for one of its Australian retailers using a built-in
directional speaker to send the recognisable Intel brand sound toward the entrance to the electronics
department to focus attention and attract customers to the branded display.

Sound doesn’t just need to be utilised inside the store. A surface speaker no larger than a mobile
phone can be used to turn a glass surface like a shop window into a speaker to emit sound to passing
foot traffic. Telstra have been utilising this technology for the past year as part of their innovative
window campaigns, turning 3 metre high panels of glass into large speakers to convey audio messages
to support the window’s visual communication.




Scent: the most powerful sense of all
Our sense of smell is highly developed and like our auditory senses different odours can evoke different
moods, perceptions and emotions. Scent has the power to strongly influence people because it has a
direct connection to the emotional seat and memory centre of the brain.

This has become an increasingly significant research arena. The Sense of Smell Institute in the US for
example sponsors research into the diverse impacts and effects that smell can generate with impact
and effect distinctions drawn for example between genders and life stages.

Scent can be used strategically for many purposes in retail and consumer environments. Increasing
numbers of fashion retailers have created a ‘brand-scent’ for example, although established technology
enables particular parts of the store and specific products within it to offer diverse olfactory experiences.
Scent can be used to attract consumers to specific parts of the store and can prompt strong brand and
product recall. Scent can also prompt positive (or negative) associations and memories and can assist
in the formation of a stronger bond between retailer and consumer [28]. Scent can also be used overtly
to achieve a particular purpose or covertly to change behaviours to the retailer’s advantage without
necessarily being noticed by the shopper.

Research has shown that scent has the ability to improve people’s mood, make them happier, make
them more alert, reduce anxiety and make them more willing to help and get along with others. Used
alongside other positive brand experiences such as high product quality and excellent customer
service, scent marketing is a win-win situation for both the company and the customer. [29]

There are obvious ethical issues in relation to the covert use of scent to change behaviour [30] but
the fact remains that many retailers do not optimise store or category scent management. With the
average human able to identify over 10,000 individual smells, and with our sense of smell being so
vital to our environmental perception, it could be time for retailers to develop their own ‘new car smell’,
capitalising on the potential that ‘scent branding’ can offer.




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Tactics and techniques
For retailers and manufacturers looking to attract customers and develop a long-lasting relationship
with them, emotion and memory are critical connections and should be some of the top goals of their
marketing campaigns and branding efforts. Scent devices have been developed to disburse realistic
scents into the air using fans rather than sprays, enabling a more authentic scent experience.

Sony for example uses a branded aroma in its SonyStyle electronics departments, aiming to make
browsing more appealing to women. Finding the right scent involved months of research by ScentAir,
a firm specializing in scents for retailers, with over 30 mixes being prepared for SonyStyle executives
to test. In the end, a mix of a full-bodied orange, vanilla with a dash of cedarwood was selected. Why
this mix? SonyStyle felt it accomplished the goal of the appealing to women with the orange and
vanilla, with the scent of cedarwood adding a degree of masculinity preventing the scent from being
perceived as too feminine, and thereby not alienating male shoppers.

Lush stores present a strong example of engagement via the sense of smell. The scents emanating
from the products displayed provide a strong motivation for shoppers to enter the store, who quite
literally ‘follow their nose’.




Image 6: Lush, Hong Kong


The power of scent is also demonstrated in speciality retail environments, for example bakers, florists
and tea and coffee outlets. For retailers who wish to engage shoppers at a deeper emotional level,
it is important not to underestimate the power of scent as part of a sensory strategy in attracting
customers, increasing dwell time in-store, encouraging sampling and trialling and creating strong
brand recall cues.



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Taste: try before you buy
Case studies and research have revealed that perhaps the most basic form of sensory engagement
- product sampling and trial in store - can offer significant benefits in terms of sales lift. Research
into sampling at Costco in the US [31] highlights for example that tasting or experiencing a product
via sensory engagement increases a customer’s perceptions of enjoyment, increases the propensity
to impulse purchase and is effective not just for low cost food and beverage items, but for more
expensive non-foods products. Yet many retailers still do not implement a coherent sampling strategy
to capitalise on seasonal or promotional product opportunities to engage consumers’ senses of taste,
touch, smell, sound and vision.




Figure 3: Involving shoppers via demonstration




Tactics and techniques
Sampling has long been one of the more widely used promotional tactics among consumer packaged
goods manufacturers because they can generate trial while instantly monitoring sales via a physical
count of merchandise sold on the event day. In addition, in-store demonstrations are well known to
be an effective means of introducing new products to customers in grocery, consumer electronics,
toys and a variety of other categories. Simply put, the easiest way to induce trial and encourage repeat
purchase is to literally put the product into the consumer’s hand.

The feedback generated instantly in this way has helped make in-store sampling part of the integrated
launch strategies for many new products and recent studies have shown this marketing technique can
not only produce an uplift in sales for up to 20 weeks after the campaign but also create a `halo effect’
uplift for trial of the whole brand family of products [32].


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Capitalising on the power of sampling, Sample Central specialises in facilitating product trials,
providing a space where brands can promote and test products in a `try before you buy’ store model.
Once signed up, consumers can try out the latest and often unreleased products and take samples
home for free. In return, Sample Central members complete surveys, the results of which are presented
to the manufacturers, providing valuable consumer insight.

But what about products you can’t taste? Consumers have varying tastes and increasingly seek
personalisation unique product combinations. The car purchase process for example presents
customers with the opportunity to tailor a vehicle to their individual needs, with variables including
colour, interior finish and options. Mercedes Benz in New Zealand recognised an opportunity to bring
this purchase process to life by developing an interactive display where consumers could see, smell
and feel the real car but also create their own virtual car through a touch screen. Customers are able to
build their ideal car on screen, viewing the colour choice and accessory options as part of the decision
making process.



Ambience – the ‘hidden’ features
Subtle factors experienced through the senses - either individually or collectively - can affect our
sentiment in relation to degree of relaxation, stimulation and perceived market position. According
to research differing light and temperature combinations act to influence our perceptions of the
retail offer, with soft or warm light tones and cool or warm temperature variables creating different
perceptions in diverse product sectors [33]. It’s vital for retailers to determine how these key ambience
factors are optimised in relation to their brand and product offer, by capitalising upon both academic
research and industry best practice.




The sensory store and competitive advantage
For emerging retailers who for reasons of budget availability aren’t able to secure the most convenient
locations i.e. shopping centres or popular strips, increasing the sensory and hedonic appeal of the retail
environment could help overcome some of the convenience and accessibility concerns that customers
may have, as well as serving to differentiate the retail offer in relation to the more accessible, but less
memorable competition. US researchers investigating the potential for greater sensory appeal and
differentiated service provision [34] concluded that:

‘Store managers have limited resources, and may have to make trade-offs when they allocate available
resources. Our findings suggest that investments into the hedonic aspects of a store can help retailers
overcome, and perhaps even exploit, the commonly acknowledged disadvantage of operating a store that
lacks convenient accessibility...If a store manager is not able to select a location that is easy to access, it is
possible that increasing the sensory and experiential aspects of the shopping environment could enhance
shopper commitment to the store’ (p.257)

This has strategic significance for the ‘new wave’ of independent niche retailers and franchise operations
who are seeking to capitalise on the slowdown in mass retail markets by creating smaller and more
focused market offers. In order to connect effectively with consumers who may be disaffected by the
retail ‘blandscape’, developing deep skills in both consumer psychology and in innovative sensory


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retailing tools and technologies is essential, especially if the competitive cornerstones of their retail
offer are based neither on price nor location.




Multi-sensory engagement: 1 minute case studies
Having considered the evidence in support of the greater use of sensory engagement in retail’s future,
further ways in which this can be tangible realised will now be presented in brief, summary case studies.

Traditional in store sampling and demonstrations present the opportunity to engage multiple senses.
Kimberley- Clark, manufacturer of innovative health and hygiene products, recently trialled a new
supermarket demonstration concept in Australia for their Viva cleaning product range. The strategy
incorporated dispersing the scent of the products via scent machines, innovative digital visual signage,
traditional product display, product demonstration and one-on-one in-store conversations with brand
ambassadors. Results showed a 40% conversion rate of shoppers compared to previous campaigns
achieving only 10-15%.




Image 7: Sensory engagement in action




Coles supermarkets have recently trialed a new store design strategy which incorporates sensory
engagement and stimulation. Open store layouts facilitate a clear line of sight, and present well-lit,
attractive and engaging displays, minimizing the sense of clutter and confinement. Products are
placed in close proximity to the shopper with barriers to both store entry and product handling
noticeable reduced. To create a, fishmongers, bakers, and butchers are encouraged to actively promote
their wares. The scents of aromatic products are emphasised via open displays, and customers can
see bakers, butchers and fishmongers at work, reminiscent of a market-style ambience. In addition,
product sampling is encouraged and promoted by staff in-store.




                                                                                                            22
Wholefoods market-style shopping experience is America’s fourth- largest food retailer chain and
the world’s biggest, and most profitable organic grocer. Whole Foods has a distinct and innovative
approach to food retailing that clearly differentiates itself and delivers a unique customer experience.
Wholefoods emotionalises the shopping experience by appealing to the five senses. Shoppers are
encouraged to taste and touch, with the aromas of bread, coffee, smoked meats, and fruits defining
the retail atmosphere.

Carrefour, the world’s second-largest retailer and the largest in Europe, has evolved the traditional
hypermarket concept with its innovative Carrefour planet concept [35].

The new concept has been carefully developed to appeal to all senses, and includes wide aisles,
softened lighting and nine colour-coded and themed zones, redesigned and rebranded to make
shopping more enjoyable and attractive for customers.

The market area offers fresh food in a marketplace atmosphere with a focus on the customer experience
with sampling and cooking lessons for example. The organic area offers organic brands and their
own private bio brand and the beauty area offers a virtual make up consultation and haircut area. In
addition, special in-store events are scheduled throughout the year, designed to arouse curiosity and
encourage repeat visitation.

Multi-channel technology is central to in-store communication with digital signage, kiosks and
demonstration centres. Through Carrefour planet, this retailer breaks with retail hypermarket
traditions and uses the merchandising methods best suited to each specialised selling area:
self-service, vendor-assisted sales, personal behind-the-counter sales and vending for example.



Conclusion
At a time when the retail industry is undergoing perhaps its most fundamental period of change since
the introduction of the shopping mall, retailers need to consider how their asset and channel mix can
be optimised for competitive advantage. The growth of online retail (and more recently m-commerce)
has naturally focused retailers’ attention on virtual channels of sales and promotion. It is important
to remember however, that the store experience is - and will be for the foreseeable future - a vital
point of interaction. For a low margin industry like retail, with high bricks and mortar investment and
operating costs, getting the best out of the physical store is more important than ever. As illustrated,
retail stores are essentially sensory blank canvases, upon which retailers can create their own picture of
the engaged shopper. Understanding the subtleties of how the senses can be engaged through light,
sound, touch, smell and taste, interwoven with brand architecture and intelligent promotional agendas
will be essential, if retailers are to capitalise upon the potential of customers in-store. For retailers who
embrace this sensory challenge, the future of bricks and mortar stores will be very different in the years
ahead, but it will without doubt be a much brighter, more interesting and a more engaging future.
That seems to make a lot of sense!




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26
Contact

Danielle Barclay
General Manager
Retail Engine Australia & New Zealand
155 Cremorne Street
Richmond Vic 3121
Tel: +61 3 9226 6403
Mob: 0439 428 158
Email: danielle@retailengine.co
Website: www.retailengine.co


Steve Ogden-Barnes
Retail Industry Fellow
Deakin University Graduate School of Business
Faculty of Business and Law
221 Burwood Highway
Burwood Vic 3125
Tel: +61 3 9244 5021
Mob: 0458 321 008
Email: s.ogden-barnes@deakin.edu.au
Website: www.deakin.edu.au/buslaw/gsb/retail

				
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