Engage the senses and create new experiences

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Multisensory retail touches all your customers’ senses. That’s something a website just can’t do.

Every retailer was a kid once. And every kid knows the five senses. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. So how come every retailer doesn’t know the five senses?

Multi-sensory retail is a philosophy of retail environments that engage all five senses. The idea is that if your senses are engaged, consumers will be more engaged in the brand. And while the idea is not new, the idea that it can be applied to almost any product is.

The supermarket is one place that will never be fully replaced by e-commerce. Why? Because the supermarket engages all five senses. From the neat piles of red peppers to the smell of fresh baked bread, to the soft music playing in the aisles.

And while much of it may appear to be merely an extension of the products on offer — grocery has been engaging in multi-sensory retail for decades.

So, let’s walk into the typical automotive retail facility with multi-sensory marketing in mind:

  1. Sight: New vehicles spread over the showroom floor expanse. The invitation to get into the vehicles is implicit in their being placed there.
  2. Smell/Touch: The hope is that once they get inside, they will feel the leather, manipulate the controls and smell that new car smell.
  3. Touch/Sound: Sorry, unless you’ve gone on a test drive, you lose the consumer at step 2.

Swatch books and paint samples go a long way toward telling customers how the vehicles you have on offer will feel when they get in them.

So, the question is, how do you appeal to consumers through sight, sound, smell, touch and taste on the showroom floor? Before a key ever gets turned?

  1. Sight: Vehicle placement is great. But don’t forget the other Vs: Video and VR. But they have to be developed to match the brand and sub-brand. For instance, performance brands with heritage are perfect for in-depth video content that goes deep into the brand itself. Selling people movers to moms? Skip the racing videos and go straight for virtual reality that outlines the benefits of the vehicle layout to busy families trying to balance soccer practices with, well, other soccer practices.
  2. Sound: Sound in multi-sensory marketing can mean lots of noise — or complete silence. A Ford Raptor would probably be perfectly happy listening to Metallica. On the other hand, a Lexus would most likely prefer the soft guitar of the Golf Channel. But it doesn’t only have to be music. Many retail environments pipe in the sounds of nature to relax customers and increase dwell time.
  3. Smell: While everyone knows how food plays into multi-sensory marketing (if you need a quick refresher, drive past a KFC), less obvious are scents not meant to be eaten. That new car smell goes a long way to making the test drive memorable. But Nike recently published a report that introducing scents into their stores increased intent to purchase by up to 80 per cent. The key to scents in a retail environment is subtlety. A light hint of lavender can be nice. A wave of body spray not so much.
  4. Taste: No, don’t get your customers to lick the tires. Taste takes us back to a piece I wrote last year about food in your facility. Taste can be as subtle as always having icy carafes full of cucumber water on the ready in the summer. Or a signature coffee blend ready to go year around. It doesn’t have to be fine dining. Think inside the box. If your facility lacks food prep space, have a signature candy or a bowl of shiny apples that your customers will look forward to every time they visit.
  5. Touch: The vehicles you have on the floor are one thing. And if you have an array of them up and down the trim levels so much the better. But there is a reason high-end brands have samples from up and down their product line on the floor. Swatch books and paint samples go a long way toward telling customers how the vehicles you have on offer will feel when they get in them.

    I’m going to add one more “sense” to the mix:

  6. Interactivity: Digital technology has amplified all the senses. From guiding consumers through feature sets to remembering how they like their coffee when they come in for a service, digital ties the retailer to the consumer through their senses in a way that we are just now beginning to explore.

Most powerful of all, digital in your facility will allow you to track how successful (or unsuccessful) all the other senses have been in drawing consumers in, keeping them there, and having them engage with the product.

Now, I’ll save the best for last: Multisensory marketing is (for now) solely the domain of bricks and mortar retail. After all, there are some things you just have to see, hear, smell, touch and taste.

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