Tag » Retailing « @ Weiner Edrich Brown

Redefining the Shopping Experience

As technology has advanced, so has the experience of shopping.  New distribution channels have provided new opportunities for consumers.  People no longer shop only in stores, out of catalogs and from websites.  Thanks to virtual reality, people can now shop in an entirely new dimension, and it is helping enhance the experience by making it more personal and realistic.  At the same time, avatars are also beginning to populate the virtual landscape and are becoming powerful economic consumers.

If most people today were to walk into a typical clothing store, what would they find?  They would find the fitting rooms to be little closets in the back, with no technology in the service of the customer.  This is largely because the store designers themselves are stuck in the world they knew before new distribution channels became popular.  But things are beginning to change.

A couple years ago, we saw Accenture come out with the Online Wardrobe, a smart closet which uses sensors, tagging and tracking technologies to keep track of the clothing you already own, and helps you buy coordinating items, either online or in physical stores. This way a new way of connecting the real/physical and virtual worlds.

I recently came across a fantastic video that Adam Gordon posted on his  blog The Future Cafe that changes the way we look at the concept of the retail fitting room:

An extraordinary revolution is taking place on the front end of retailing.  Now, time and digital technology are combining to alter the entire pre-purchase and purchase process.  The payment process is also being revolutionized.  People can “bump” their mobiles and transfer money, and swipe their mobiles and purchase products.  Social media and networks pass along recommendations and tweet product experience and preferences.  Advertising avenues and messaging are multiplying rapidly, and and the disintermediation of traditional channels is rampant.

However, as technology rapidly advances, it will be increasingly important to pay particular attention to the experience of the purchase (and not just the technology), since it is the experience, after all, that seems to generate the long-term satisfaction.

Sensory Overload

This is a test for all of you…Which sense is most closely tied to memory?  The answer? Smell.  A smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence people’s moods and even affect their work performance. Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling, smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously.

Marketers and advertisers are catching onto this.  A number of brands and social initiatives are now experimenting with sensory memory, looking to wield their own indelible stamp on consumers’ subconscious.  Here are some examples:

Meaty Billboards: Salisbury, N.C.-based Bloom grocery stores made history by erecting the first-ever scent-emitting billboard which sprays a charbroiled smell over a highway via a giant fan.  The billboard features a giant fork-stabbed bite, and emits a charcoal- and black pepper-scented oil to passing cars.

Toothsome Greeting Cards: American Greetings is introducing a new Tasties collection. Each card contains a dissolvable flavor strip that corresponds to the occasion it marks. A birthday card emblazoned with an image of a cupcake tastes like vanilla. Other reported flavors include “donut” and “margarita.”

Fresh Air Fund Fragrances: MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Majora Carter, founder and executive director of community organization Sustainable South Bronx, together with French perfumers Bruno Jovanovic and Pascal Gaurin, Carter created L’Eau Verte du Bronx du Sud (“Green Water of the South Bronx”), a scent containing essences of rain, grass and citrus fruit, with which to infuse the common areas inside an entire low-income apartment complex in the South Bronx. Carter believes that the Sister Thomas Apartments, located a little too close for comfort to a sewage treatment plant and a trash transfer station, will benefit tremendously from a real breath of fresh air.

Scenting an entire building is the latest ambition in a growing business that has, for years, gone unnoticed by most consumers.  There are now ~20 companies worldwide specializing in ambient scent-marketing and dispersion technology. Industry executives value the business at roughly between $80 million and $100 million.

According to a recent article in Business Week:

Scent branding is becoming just as prevalent in retail. Researchers believe that ambient scenting allows consumers to make a deeper brand connection, and data has led many other non-scent-related companies to join the fray. Recently, Gaurin helped create a fragrance for Samsung’s stores, which has been cited throughout the industry as a milestone in scent as design. He claims the research showed that not only did customers spend an average of 20 to 30 percent more time mingling among the electronics, but they also identified the scent—and by extension, the brand—with characteristics such as innovation and excellence. Credit Suisse, De Beers, and Sony have all been experimenting with ambient scenting in their retail spaces, too.

And starting this fall, you can even get a master’s degree in scent design at Parsons New School for Design in New York. As part of a “Scent as Design” seminar, organizers enlisted luminaries from various fields to collaborate with fragrance experts.