Multi-Sensory Stimulation

In the last ten years our knowledge of the human brain in particular, but also human behaviour and the stimulus that affects it has grown exponentially.

We now know that – subject to the retail category – up to 92% of why we buy is sub-conscious or un-conscious and that of the remaining 8% we are conscious of, human beings are poor at articulating. This goes a long way to explaining why 8 out 10 new products fail within 12 months of launch.

It also explains why sometimes the best we can explain about an amazing shopping experience is that “it just felt great”. So much of the experience is not on a conscious level.

Since the cosmetics retailers of the 1920’s – if not beforehand – we have known about the power of multi-sensory merchandising. Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste have long been used – to varying degrees – to influence customers. Around the world, smart retailers have been using air scent dispensers, temperature controllers, taste sampling, tactility, music and visual merchandising to sell their wares.

In recent times however, this has become much more of a science and much less about the subjective judgement of a merchant or their style guru.

We now know for example that citrus scents slow down the heart rate while stimulating mental alertness; while musk based scent has the ability to speed up our heart rate and stimulate amorous desire. Likewise, a selection of Bach’s Goldberg variations have been composed at exactly the right tempo to mimic the optimum heart rate to aid “super learning”. We understand the effect of colour and optic recognition.

This is not about getting the customer to buy things they don’t want or need. Any retailer who does that trades off short-term gains for long-term pain. And multi-sensory retailing doesn’t aid products pushed at a customer just as (contrary to common misunderstanding) hypnosis can’t actually make you do things you don’t want to do.

Today multi-sensory merchandising is a science that can alter the customer experience, create a deeply branded shopping environment and alter customer behaviour. Far from being a trick to exploit customers, multi-sensory merchandising is how we create a shopping experience that is richer and deeper for the customer. An experience that helps them to enjoy their shopping experience more because it is more aligned to them.

After all, shopping at it’s best is retail therapy.

And if the customer enjoys their shopping more, they relax and invest more of their precious time. They may not be able to put their finger on why, but the results speak for themselves. In the words of retail giant Stanley Goodman “If the customer enjoys themselves, they spend more money”.