Monday, 14 May 2012

Using the 5 Senses to Your Retail Advantage

As human beings, most of us are lucky enough to have five senses: sightsoundtastetouch and smell.  This week’s Flourish tip of the week was all about stimulating as many as possible of those five senses to engage your customer to the fullest.  Getting our senses going is a way to create an exciting and memorable shopping experience for your customer.


Sight is arguably the most important of the five senses where shopping is concerned.  Customers are attracted to merchandise, first by looking at it.  The overall look and feel of your store can also have a huge impact on your sales and overall image!  

This is why visual merchandising is a career choice for many and why Flourish Design & Merchandising offers the services that we do!  Stimulating your customer’s sight is what draws them into the store, attracts them to look more closely at product, and most often entices them to buy.  Sight is one of the major ways in which we make product selection.

In order to make the most of the visual appeal of your store, ensure that everything is neat, tidy, and in its place.  Clean visual merchandising is often the most effective type.  Combine major displays and features with basic merchandising.  If everything is a “feature” the customer won’t know where to look first.

Don’t forget to include your logo!  Reinforcing the brand identity in-store is so important!

Last, but not least, if you’re not sure of the most effective way to merchandise your store visually, then hire a professional, someone who is educated and trained in visual merchandising.


Sound can have a huge impact on how we feel while we’re shopping.  The music in your store needs to feel just right to your target market.  Listening to the wrong music choice can have a very negative impact as can music that is too loud or not there at all (it makes customers very uncomfortable).  Know your target market and make your listening choice accordingly.

Consider listening to satellite radio or an mp3 player hooked up to the stereo system as well as music on CDs and other forms of non-traditional radio music.  Avoiding the commercials, talk, and occasionally poor reception is a good thing!

Here’s another thought when creating atmosphere…  What suits the merchandise that you’re selling right now?  Is spring time fast approaching and do you sell outdoor product?  Consider something with nature sounds such as birds or water to make the customer feel more “outdoorsy”.  Also know that holiday music during the holidays is an absolute necessity.  While, as retailers, we often get tired of hearing it, it is proven to increase holiday sales by getting customers in the spirit.


Okay, so you might be thinking…  How are my customers going to taste the merchandise?  This one may only apply directly to a few of you, but the rest may be able to apply it on occasion!

When you sell food of any kind, customers are more likely to buy if they get a taste.  This is actually the case by a large margin!  You will, most likely, more than make up for the cost of giving away samples in profit you make.  Not to mention, customers feel more engaged and may even buy more of other products in the store!  I always semi-jokingly tell my clients: “If you feed them, they will buy.”

Now, if you don’t sell food?  I don’t recommend tasting soaps, shirts, candles, or any other product!  Instead, on special occasions, feed your customers samples from a nearby local eatery. It’s a nice gift to give to them, you can advertise it on social media and hopefully that local eatery will be willing to sponsor at least a portion of the cost of providing those samples.


Touch rivals sight for being an extremely important sense!  If a customer can’t hold and feel a product, they generally won’t buy it.  Take a look at the customers milling about your store; they’re always grabbing things, stroking them, and picking them up, aren’t they?  That’s a good thing!

Customers may consider an item based on the way it looks, but they won’t make a final decision unless they can hold it in their hands and feel the texture, finish, etc.  The most important thing when doing your visual merchandising, is not to impede this urge.  Remove from plastic wrap, packaging, and boxes as much as possible.  At the very least, offer a sample of merchandise that is out of the package for customers to pick up and feel.  

In the case of high theft items, some of them simply must be kept under lock and key, often in a display case.  Just ensure that this display case is well-lit and that there is always someone available to pull out merchandise to show interested customers.


Smell can be a touchy subject!  What about allergies or people with different tastes?  What about conflicting scents?  These are all valid concerns.

I think that the guiding factor with scents is that less is more.  Avoid overpowering scents that will take over the entire store.  Customers can’t escape from them if they’re allergic and there’s a possibility that it will conflict with another scent in the store.

The main thing with scents is that you want to avoid having bad ones in store which is sometimes a possibility, especially when unpacking new merchandise.  Consider using a gentle air freshener or a scented product you sell.  I especially recommend something that generally eliminates odours as opposed to trying to cover them up.  Try to also remove the source of the bad smell right away!

Another creative way to use smells is by using something (again gentle) that works with the theme of a particular display. Think about a display of margarita products, for example. You could add the soft scent of lime by including some fresh limes in the display or even just their zest!  Cinnamon is popular during the holidays and pumpkin or apple pie during the fall. Grocery stores do this, too. It’s like torture when you walk in to pick up some fresh fruit or veggies in the morning and can smell fresh bread or cinnamon buns baking!

Lastly, make sure that scented product, such as candles or soaps, is available for sniffing.  If you keep all of a particular product under wraps, customers will get frustrated by not being able to give it a sniff before making a purchase!  Be sure to include a tester for lotions or sprays of any kind so that customers can give them a try!

The important thing to remember when creating a sensual store (in the purest sense of the term), is that we’re all human beings and operate in similar ways!  If you appeal to common human urges and make shopping easy, you will be successful.

Have you got more questions about the senses?  Get in touch with Melissa of Flourish Design & Merchandising today!  To get updates for new blog posts, like us on facebook or follow us on twitter!

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