Coming to your senses: how to use sight, smell and sound to attract customers

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* Visual Merchandising
* Retail Display
* Senses

* Retail

* Wimborne - Dorset - England

WIMBORNE, England - Nov. 12, 2015 - PRLog -- What prompts us to put our hand in our pockets to buy? Ninety percent of consumer decisions are made unconsciously, according to neuromarketing expert Martin Lindstrom. It may feel as if that trip to the supermarket is rational and needs-based, but our reasons for buying are often less sensible and more sensory than we might be aware.

More often than not, it’s the subconscious that guides our decision-making, and getting to that means understanding what influences what P&G called the first moments of truth — those precious seconds that influence whether or not someone will buy or not.

For retailers, this is why visual merchandising matters so much. “Visual merchandising is comprised of six components: image, layout, presentation, signing, display and events,” according to Donna Geary. “Everything you do within the store — how you develop your layout, your presentation…- must fit the image you choose to create.”

But it’s not just about the ‘visual’ — retailers have been testing insights from behavioural economics and sensory branding to see how much they can steer shoppers’ decisions — and their insights apply equally well to smaller settings. Here are just a handful of ways you can use sensory appeal to improve your service:

Sight Think about Tiffany, the jewellers, and you’ll probably see a light blue box. Over 92 per cent of the population rank colour and shape as the biggest influences on what they buy, with one study claiming colour alone accounts for 62-90 per cent of our first impression.
Colours can reinforce a brand image, but there is also evidence that suggests it can prompt people to buy. Red, for example, may encourage more online purchases and is an ‘energetic’ colour often associated with impulse buys and sales. Navy and teal blue may be best used for more budget-conscious buyers in ‘establishment’ settings such as big banks and department stores, suggests this kissmetrics infographic.

You don’t need to be an expert in colour psychology to use it effectively: group single colours or matching items together and you make it easier for shoppers to visualise a look. Or combine colours with the ‘rule of three’, grouping three products of, say, yellow in a symmetrical display. One Bottega Veneta store employee insists “it is a must” that the store have “at least three colours” on its main display wall: “It always attracts more customers.”

Lighting can have the same impact — a spotlight literally draws the eye to a display or a feature wall. Philips lighting division has worked with school teachers to create different intensities of light to evoke calm or energy or focus in the classroom. At clothing retailers such as Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch, dark stores, loud dance music and distinctive ‘house’ smells are combined to attract teenaged buyers (and, arguably, repel older ones).

Touch Being able to touch products may also make people more likely to buy, according to psychologist Paco Underhill. He even suggests retailers aim for ‘not-perfect’ displays that don’t intimidate potential buyers by their neatness, and accessible, carefully placed shelves that encourage people to pick up items.

Smell Research into how smell influences our psychology and behaviour has prompted a whole science called ‘scent marketing’ or ‘atmospherics’, according to Shopify’s Humayan Khan. Smells can have a Proustian significance (especially when combined with taste): they can evoke memories and cue up emotions long after an event. Research claims that while our visual recall deteriorates to around 50 per cent after three months, we can remember a smell with 65 per cent accuracy for a year.
So when retailers pipe in ‘signature’ scents that linger on your clothes when you go home, it’s a way of making your shop with them memorable. It can influence behaviour: in Belgium, when researchers injected a faint smell of chocolate into a book store, people lingered longer and bought more books.

Hearing Sound can have a similar effect – loud music may make you move through a store more quickly, slower or ‘retro’ sounds may fit with a store that wants to convey a more distinctive image, even the tempo or beat of your selection can impact how much shoppers buy, says this podcast. The lack of sound, too, can be a breath of fresh air — Selfridges offered a ‘no noise’ zone to give customers a little respite from the bustle of the rest of the store.

More obviously, the music you choose should fit the type of customer you want to attract. One small business owner used his own eclectic taste to differentiate his small, artisan coffee shop from a global brand on the same road. It enhanced the atmosphere and everyone commented on the great music he played. (But be aware: you’re likely to need a license, even if you’re playing your own tunes.)

Sensory marketing has now become so sophisticated that big brands are moving into ‘multi-sensory’ experiences — combining colour, visual displays, sound and smell like ‘pop ups’ — but be careful how much you mix it up. The smell of citrus is said to encourage non-impulse buyers to buy more but it cools impulse buyers down. This post onAbercrombie & Fitch offers some insight into how all the elements work together.

For more visual merchandising and display inspiration to stir the senses, please visit

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