The Senses of Visual Merchandising

“The most powerful of all human sensory abilities, however, is vision. The human body has about eleven million sensory receptors. Approximately ten million of those are dedicated to sight… For this reason, a small change in what you see can lead to a big shift in what you do.” James Clear, Atomic Habits


Over the last several weeks, I have been reading Atomic Habits - I know I am very late to the game, but if you haven’t read this book yet, I highly encourage you to read it. That said, after reading the above quote, it made me think just how important human senses are in the visual merchandising experience. 


Of course, sight is the pinnacle of visual merchandising. Sight, or vision, is in the name “visual merchandising.” However, it doesn’t stop there. 


When you think about the five senses, you think of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. They all play a role in your customer's experience AND the merchandising experience. 


Let’s play this out… 


After a customer walks past your store and sees a visually stimulating display in the window, they decide to come in. The next senses often stimulated are smell and hearing. 


What if I told you that there is an entire market for scent? Many call it scent marketing. So ask yourself, or a new customer, and see what your store smells like. Is it warm and inviting? Or does it smell stale and bland? Is the smell too harsh or just enough? When people come into your store, you want them to recognize your smell. Anytime they smell something similar - they will remember your store. 


The second sense generally stimulated upon entering a store is hearing. This sense comes down to the music you play in the background, if any. How loud or quiet is it? Are there specific genres of music that encourage people to buy more or less? What other noises and sounds are occurring that may distract your customers from the retail experience of your store? (construction, associate conversations, etc.)? These are a few questions you can ask yourself to hone in on the hearing experience for your customers.


As the customer moves beyond the entrance, the senses stimulated are touch and sometimes taste. As the customer moves throughout your store, they begin to touch products, because people want to feel different textures. We generally see something and think something like, “I need to touch that. It looks so soft.” It’s a small cue, but the visual stimulation and our desire to touch things go hand in hand. We either want to confirm what we already think or discover a new sensation we didn’t know existed. 


The final sense is taste. Now, I know this may not apply to every retail space, but taste can play a huge role in the success of the customer experience. For instance, if you have ever been to Costco, you would know that they have stands-upon-stands of staff handing out food samples. It’s glorious, in my humble opinion. But they are taking advantage of our human sense (taste), and are pretty successful. Even if you aren’t Costco, you can still take advantage of taste. If you own a running, outdoor, or bike store, you probably sell energy gels, freeze-dried food, or energy drinks. What if you started sampling some of these products? It can be an easy way to engage with your customers and help them decide what they want to use on their next adventure. 


Now, this customer has gone through your entire store - all five senses are activated. What do you think they would say? What senses can you enhance and improve on? 


The interesting thing about stimulating the five senses in a retail space is that they go hand in hand. A poor presentation of one can automatically impact another. For example, if you have a mannequin that is not visually appealing, and lacks quality merchandising, your customer will most likely ignore it completely. The result is that they could miss touching the shirt or pants on the mannequin and realize it is the exact breathable shirt they have been looking for. 


Human senses are an important part of the customer experience, so ensure that all of your customers' senses are stimulated. 


Stay tuned next week for more helpful visual merchandising tips, and if you have not been following along on social media, we encourage you to check out our “New Year, New Look” series. We provide even MORE visual merchandising tips and tricks.


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