Measuring the non-conscious mind of shoppers
By Ed King
The science of retailing is nothing new. For decades, researchers and practitioners like Paco Underhill, E. Jerome McCarthy, and Dr. Herb Sorensen have studied consumer behavior in-store to the benefit of store owners. That means most retailers have used the same playbook, building their retail experiences around basic information like footfall, return visits, dwell time, shopping path, and buying habits.
From the end cap to the impulse buy, this improved, collective application of behaviorally responsive shopper marketing has produced better sales. Most of the low-hanging fruit is gone, however, as the same retail players have implemented the same best practices. They now seek new competitive advantages as technology and ecommerce dramatically change how consumers shop.
A new breed of shopper has emerged—someone MaxMedia affectionately refers to as ACES —the Always Connected, Experience-driven Shopper. These new consumers are transforming markets and shifting paradigms, and now account for more than half of all dollars spent at retail.
These ACES are plugged in, addicted to peer reviews, and are never without smart devices. For retailers that cater to their whims, many see up to a 40% higher conversion rate1 for this fickle group. While ACES cling to their screens, down deep they want to be rewarded when they choose to shop in person instead of online. They expect a store to seamlessly integrate with technology, but also want an experience where they can taste, touch, talk, try on or try out something before they buy it. That is why they come to the store, after all.
Ninety-five percent of shopping and buying decisions are made in the non-conscious2 and the five senses are the biggest triggers. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell each stimulate voluntarily and involuntarily reactions in the brain. With the rise of neuromarketing, which blends consumer behavior with neuroscience, retailers are learning how to gain an advantage with these ACES in retail and beyond.
By optimizing measuring and tracking technologies like EEG and bio-sensing wearables, we have a deeper knowledge of what is happening on that hidden level where emotions, memory, and instincts rule the day. In other words, learning more about “the gray” is revealing more subtle and nuanced ways to move retail sales numbers toward “the black.”
MaxMedia’s proprietary Emotional Experience CENTER Model helps retailers to plan retail experiences that better set up the “buying brain.” This unique algorithm gives us access to these elusive non-conscious motivators of shoppers. Let’s dig further into the T or Tactile dynamic of our CENTER model.
As one might expect, the first factor in determining “if it’s Tactile” focuses on the sense of touch. The ability to rub fingers across fabric to determine quality is the greatest advantage over shopping online. While color or shape might attract us, our touch confirms our prejudgments. This sense is especially important for clothing retailers or other products where contact directly with the skin occurs.
The sense of sight is another significant focus. Seventy percent of the body’s sense receptors reside in the eyes, and more than 25% of the brain is involved in visual processing—more than any other sense. The retail experience provides ways to better understand scale, see colors, view different angles, and eyeball the products intended for purchase.
Taste is the next sense to address in retail, whenever possible. It’s the most direct way to release dopamine, the beautiful neurotransmitter responsible for passing signals in between the nerve cells and making us feel good. Really good. It’s why high-end home outfitter Pirch employs two full-time chefs to create dishes to share in its kitchen section: to let shoppers taste the results of using its cooking wares.
Grandma’s basement. A first love’s perfume. Fresh popcorn. While smell only commands 1% of the brain, this sense is like a mental time machine. Studies
show that 65% of people will associate a certain memory to a scent one full year after smelling it. Therefore, it’s important to get the right smell to match the brand, and know how to take advantage of this sense to stir memories, dreams, and feelings of aspiration.
Don’t ask Pavlov’s dogs about how hearing can trigger a reaction. This sense is also strongly associated with memories, just like adults naturally smile upon hearing the familiar tune of an ice cream truck. Be careful, however: Sound shouldn’t startle or scare, lest create a negative experience that would fire an involuntary fight or flight response.
To be successful at retail, it takes a blend of both the analog and digital, the old and the new, and the conscious and non-conscious ways of reaching consumers. Everything must come together to create a series of meaningful and positive sensory inputs to create a more engaging, more human, and ultimately more successful retail experience.
Ed King is VP of strategy at MaxMedia.