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From senses to store layout: Unexpected ways retailers lure shoppers in their doors

Need a little help feeling the holiday spirit? Perhaps some festive scents and a little nostalgia can do the trick. (Photo/Stocksy)


From senses to store layout: Unexpected ways retailers lure shoppers in their doors

Now more than ever, retailers are doing everything they can to lure you in and persuade you to buy — in ways you probably don’t even notice

BY Joanna Clay

With more and more shoppers doing their buying online, brick-and-mortars have to find more creative ways to lure you in their doors. USC Marketing Professor Debbie MacInnis shares how everything from the music playing to the store layout are intentional tricks to get you spending.

The sounds of buying

It’s officially the holidays when shopping malls across the country put up wreaths and lights and blast holiday cheer through loudspeakers — say, Norah Jones’ rendition of “Winter Wonderland.”

But it’s not just the holidays when music plays a role in shopping, MacInnis said. It’s year-round.

“There’s research that shows tempo or speed has impact on how much time people shop and spend in a store,” she said. “Slow music encourages more browsing — and if they’re in the store longer, they are likely to buy more.”

Stores like Nordstrom, which regularly has pianists playing in its stores, are creating an ambiance that encourages you to linger. It has a restaurant. You could stay there all day. And if you’re there all day, you might buy something.

Shoppers feel like it’s not just a store, but “this is a special place,” MacInnis added.

There’s also the nostalgia factor. Research shows folks feel endeared to the music that was popular when they were young. Retailers know this and will often play the music of their target demographics.

Then there’s research that shows that music lifts your mood — and if you’re feeling good, you’re more open to buying.

“When we’re thinking positively, we tend to think more creatively,” she said. “They might see connections between products and people they might not have otherwise seen if not in a good mood.”

Maybe you went shopping for the kids, but spot a gift for Uncle Jack … and Fido … and your neighbor Susan. You get the idea.

Smells like sales

It sounds sly, but retailers have been tapping our olfactory senses for a while.

Walking around the mall, you might get a whiff of freshly baked cookies and suddenly need to stop for a sweet snack. That’s not an accident. MacInnis said the smell of cookies for many is nostalgic.

“We have a strong memory for scents,” she said. “It’s very tied to our emotional memories.”

The scent has to be congruent with the product, however. The smell of cookies works for Mrs. Fields but would be confusing at Macy’s.

But perfume and fragrance is used in retailers, encouraging folks to tap into their other senses.

“Scent facilitates touch and touch facilitates the act of trying to smell,” she said.

But it can be tricky. If a retailer pumps up the cologne too high, shoppers might hold their nose and pass by.

A unique experience

When it comes to getting folks to visit a brick-and-mortar retailer, the experience is key. For some stores, this means curating items in a way that feels unique.

Stores like clothing retailer Anthropologie, which is decorated like a boutique, limits its merchandise so it has a handpicked look. There are ceramics in one area, a shelf of cookbooks and pajamas in another.

“As stores get bigger and bigger, the chance of getting overwhelmed gets bigger and bigger,” she said.

Stores like Anthropologie give shoppers “a smaller chunk of information to process,” she said.

Curation also extends to the styling. In stores like West Elm, shoppers might notice that furnishings aren’t just stacked up with tags on them. Their products are styled like they would be in a home, showing a hypothetical living area with a couch, coffee table and a rug.

Department stores do this with designers as well, perhaps cordoning an area off for Ted Baker, the clothing retailer.

MacInnis calls this tactic creating “moments.”

“It’s not being in a store. It’s having a shopping experience,” she said, noting it gives shoppers a different experience in-store versus online.

It’s also about making the store a destination.

“Kids cannot walk by the Disney Store without wanting to go in,” she said. “It just has that gravitational pull.”

It’s not just a plain store with items on shelves; it exudes the Disney brand and the fun feeling of its theme parks.

“You’re entering a different world almost,” she said.

source: University of Southern California

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