Retailers vying for the attention of shoppers face a lot of competition. From numerous retail choices (including online options) to the distractions caused by a consumer’s iPhone as well as the daily — if not hourly — onslaught of marketing messages, cutting through the din is difficult for retailers and brands alike.

Which is partly why there’s been a resurgence in improving the in-store experience. A favorable in-store experience can build loyalty, bolster sales and increase average ticket prices. Retailers also know that consumers prefer experiences over buying things, so why not create an enjoyable and memorable shopping experience for the shopper?

At Mood Media, the company works with retailers to do just that. Jaime Bettencourt, senior vice president, premier sales and account management, at Mood Media, said her firm “enhances the customer experience through interactive mobile marketing, visual, audio and sensory solutions. From digital signage walls to customized scents and curated music playlists, we provide the content and programming as well as the hardware and software.”

Bettencourt’s clients include AT&T Mobility, Coca-Cola, Macy’s, TJX, Luxottica and Darden Restaurants, among others. Here, Bettencourt discusses with WWD the importance of creating a “distinctive in-store experience” and how “mood” plays a role in the shopping journey.

WWD: Do you agree that a “shopper’s journey” can begin on smartphone, or a Web site or in a store? And if yes, how many “touch points” are there for a retailer or brand to engage with the consumer?

Jaime Bettencourt: I definitely agree, especially in regards to mobile use. Not only are customers using their smartphones to access apps or Web sites for online shopping, but they are also using them while in-store. In fact, research commissioned by Google actually shows that 84 percent of smartphone shoppers are using their mobile devices to help them shop while in a physical retail store, and almost half of them use mobile for at least 15 minutes per store visit. While some may imagine this is a distraction, we see this as an opportunity to engage with customers.

We have embraced this trend with Mood Presence, our mobile marketing technology that connects retailers directly to consumers via smart devices using inaudible audio beacons. Unlike other beacons that use Bluetooth to communicate with mobile devices, Presence uses audio signals from a location’s music system, meaning that customers do not need to enable Bluetooth or location services on their phones to be reached. It can be incorporated into virtually any app, such as Shazam, and leveraged from there. Once connected to the customer by way of beacons, retailers can offer in-store shoppers engaging content, whether it’s an in-store coupon, link to their social media pages, ads, etc.

Since customers are using their mobile devices in-store, this means that the medium for reaching consumers is readily available at the right place and the right time. If retailers use content that is relevant and appropriate to customers, this is a sure way to capture their attention in-store. To work effectively and reinforce overall “experience design,” this technology should serve as an extension of a brand’s existing strategy.

However, mobile is not the only touch point that brands should be using to engage with their customers. Visually, digital signage is an easy-to-implement way for businesses of all sizes to communicate their brand values and mission directly to customers in-store. Using scent within a retail space creates a positive and memorable connection for customers, serving as a sensory reminder of their experience there. And of course, music is powerful in fostering specific emotions, and it influences the energy and rhythm of a space.

WWD: Why is creating the right mood in a store or shopping experience important?

J.B.: It’s not only important — it’s vital. The right audio, visuals and scent can work together to set a distinct mood that speaks to your brand and your clientele. That very mood is what will create customer loyalty. Consider walking into a store without music, color or visuals. The effect, at best, is bland and unmemorable. If it does not trigger an emotional response, it will likely make a minimal imprint on the customer, and they will be much less likely to return.

For brands to survive and grow, particularly in their brick-and-mortar locations, they must offer a more personal interactive experience that is consistent with consumer expectations.

WWD: When working with a brand or retailer, what is exactly involved? What’s the process? And is it scalable?

J.B.: We work directly with our clients through brand discovery workshop to gain a clear understanding of their brand, business objectives and experience strategy. We are immersed into the brand, gain consensus on a common language and then translate that into a media strategy that gives the brand a roadmap that speaks to the audio identity, visual strategy, etc. From there, we are able to make informed and strategic recommendations, whether it be the scent they choose to diffuse within a set space, the sort of music played during a certain part of the day, or what images and content surround their customers via digital signage. The experiences we create are completely by design and completely customized.

WWD: What trends are you seeing in the retail market now?

J.B.: Consumers are more informed and influential than ever, and they expect experiences that are memorable and allow them to engage in an authentic way with the brand. Retail stores must provide experiences to stay relevant. We’ll continue to see social media and brand awareness campaigns, curated music partnerships and ways to create special moments that can be remembered long after the experience, we will also continue to see mobile activations targeting the right people in the right place at the right time.

To stand out, it’s critical that retailers embrace the notion of focusing on the customer journey in-store, online, on mobile and in life in a consistent way.

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