When Burberry’s Regent Street flagship opened in 2012, the fashion giant’s CEO Angela Ahrendts (now with Apple’s Retail division) said: “Customers can experience every facet of the brand through immersive multimedia content exactly as they do online.”
Burberry was onto something. Since then, the word ‘immersive’ has become a buzzword in the arts and hospitality sectors as well as retail. The idea is that a bit of retail theatre can truly draw customers into the essence of a brand, with scent being part of that strategy.
Why is an immersive store important?
The advent of online shopping and e-commerce in the last two decades has meant that consumers no longer need to go to physical stores to purchase products. But as we’ve all discovered, online shopping can be a chore: never particularly pleasurable, and with only two senses – the aural and the visual – engaged.
In the physical store, all five senses can be bought into play. Stores can express how a brand sounds, smells, feels and tastes. And the drama analogy is apt. The immersive store is like being in a theatre, where customers become involved in the ‘brand story’. Far more than online, the store can become the physical manifestation of a brand.
How can it be achieved?
All kinds of ways, sometimes with events and pop-ups; sometimes using technology as part of the immersion. To take a few examples, when Givenchy launched its l’Atelier collection of perfumes in 2015, it linked up with Cafe Royal to make cocktails based on each scent. Each cocktail was accompanied by a ‘scent button’, where customers could experience both the taste and smell of ingredients. In 2015, the fashion house Dior introduced its own virtual reality (VR) headset called Dior Eyes, whereby customers could feel as if they were participating in a runway show.
It’s not just in fashion stores, where you might expect flamboyant multisensory inputs. For example, a Land Rover showroom in Miami recently introduced scents of cedar, vanilla and violet, introduced via the ventilation system. And while its difficult to achieve online, the digital space remains important as immersive stores can create digital touch-points where customers can share in branded experiences.
The retail research (and history)
Retail design has become far more sophisticated in recent years, taking in sight, touch, sound and data analytics. It’s building on a growing history of retail science that goes back a few decades; building up the bottom-line case for the immersive store. In 1982, research company Milman found that slow music increased a supermarket spend by 39.2%. More recently, Nike’s introduction of scent into stores increased intention to buy by 80%. The drinks conglomerate Diageo showed that a multi-sensory environment increased enjoyment of whisky by up to 20%. As a recent study by Premium Scenting, Walnut Unlimited study showed that using scent as part of a multisensory, deeply immersive retail experience realises significant benefits – starting at the front door.
For more information about the impact of scent and multisensory experiences, you can download our ‘Ultimate Retail Experience’ report.