Can Retailers Ignite Our Senses and Get Us to Buy?

Like many New Yorkers, I fell subject to the extreme temperature swings and brutal force left by Blizzard Jonas mid-winter. It started with chills due to our building’s frigid air and I could barely stay awake at my desk. As a retail strategist my remedy was a field trip with the team, and we headed to the Cigna Feel Good Pop-Up at Story in Chelsea. Perhaps a trip home would have been the answer, but to my pleasant surprise the experience was actually quite therapeutic.

From mid January through late February, the health care services company Cigna joined forces with revolving storefront Story to explore the things we can do every day to “Feel Good.” This journey took customers from prevention education to nutrition to mindfulness. I entered and learned about my heart rate, realigned myself on a small boogie board, learned a little about stress management via the Pip app and stopped for a two-minute stay-cation “at the beach” via the Virtual Relaxation Pod. My new serenity was found! For two minutes I could hear the crashing waves, smell the ocean air and find my zen through a guided mediation. The experience enlivened my energy and I was rejuvenated. By igniting my senses through this immersive experience not only did I feel energized, I was motivated to shop. I walked away with an aromatherapy shower kit, and if I could, I would have bought the pod to install right in my office.

By immersing consumers into their senses, retailers are working hard to tell dynamic stories, getting us to buy into the experiences and therefore their products. The ability to design experiences that engage a variety of the five senses are being cultivated through the combination of storytelling techniques and physical experiences. From sight to touch to taste to smell to sound, by triggering consumers’ senses brands are creating emotional connections in hopes to ultimately getting us to the path of purchase.

This concept isn’t entirely new of course, think of how it smells when you enter Sabon and the experience you feel from a complimentary hand scrub. Or when you pass a bakery during an early morning run and the scent from the kitchen keeps you dreaming about the baguette you are going to eat at breakfast. However, retailers and brands are getting more inventive and becoming storytellers and the narrative is igniting our senses and intriguing us to possible purchase something we wouldn’t have otherwise thought to buy.

Last spring, NYC based floral delivery company Ode å la Rose wanted to educate people that roses are about more than just romance. They opened a spring renaissance pop-up shop where passersby could touch and feel the different emotions roses delivered; yellow for happiness, orange for excitement, lavender for being captured under one’s magical spell.

glade museum of feelings

And, last holiday season air freshener brand Glade created their second Museum of Feelings in New York City to show how fragrances can bring states of mind and emotions to life. Via tactile and visual stimuli they evoked Optimism, Calm, Vigor, Exhilaration, and Joy. While to core sense one would associate with Glade is smell, The Museum of Feelings engaged four of the major five senses allowing one to smell, touch, listen and breathe in a unique and immersive experience. Each room tackled a different emotion from exhilarated, to calming and optimistic. The Calming room resembled a James Turrell installation with a circular ceiling light installation and a cloud of fog that encompasses the room and made you feel like you’re floating. And, although there was nothing for actual sale at their pop-up store, #museumoffeelings hashtag has over 14,000 tags and many are thinking of the brand in a whole new light.

With the continued evolution of technology, the ways in which retailers will be able to “tap our senses” will become more and more immersive. The question is… will they ignite us enough to buy?

This post comes from Gabriela Castelao of Lionesque Group – Pop-up Retail Strategists

Artwork Credit: Levalet


Lionesque Group