Photo by Katie Gibbs
There are five basic senses of the human body, but some believe there are nine senses, which go beyond taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell to include thermoception, balance, body awareness and pain. Shoppers’ senses are subtly—and not so subtly—engaged to encourage browsing and buying. For successful sensory immersion, retailers must understand the ideal shopper experience to delight the appropriate senses that support the brand’s promise and functional benefits. Here are five examples of retail sensory experiences that have caught our eye:
The Museum of Ice Cream, currently stationed in San Francisco, is an entire 60-minute experience focused on immersing guests in the world of ice cream. With 10 exhibits total, visitors can play in a pool of sprinkles, smell mint in the mint exhibit and meet giant gummies in the Gummie Garden. It’s no surprise the museum recently started selling their own brand of pints of ice cream.
adidas created a virtual reality (VR) experience that captures the thrill of extreme outdoor climbing by following two accomplished climbers. The brand captured 360-degree footage of their ascent of the Bavellas mountain range on Corsica. At the end of the experience, viewers are given a chance to virtually step into their shoes and take on the mountain themselves. This experience intentionally stimulates users’ balance, along with sight, sound and touch, as they virtually ascend the mountain.
The Smithsonian has recently employed a humanoid robot named Pepper that roams the different halls of the museum. The goal is engagement: visitors can use Pepper to hear more information on an art installation and learn about some of the exhibits that are frequently overlooked. The use cases for this interaction usually involve a conversation, but there is an entertainment factor: Pepper also dances, entertains and offers “selfies.”
4. AI Immersion
Amazon’s Experience Center allows consumers to walk into a model home and experience what a connected home would feel like. The Experience Center stimulates nearly all of the senses, and allows people to more easily imagine how a smart home would work.
5. Low-Tech, Multisensory
Build-a-Bear Workshop is our favorite low-tech example of multisensory perfection. No VR, AR or AI needed. Multiple building activities allow consumers to see and touch, sound inserts to hear and choose, and SCENTIment products to make the memory unforgettable.
Craig Kavicky is vice president of client services at Lextant, a human experience consultancy firm. A veteran of the design industry, he previously worked at FITCH and Big Red Rooster, and he now oversees the development of Lextant’s client services team, leading Lextant’s clients to long-term success.