Just try it: What brick-and-mortar stores do better than online retailers

Experiencing and testing with all senses

Photo: cold and rain chamber at Globetrotter in Cologne; © Globetrotter

11/02/2015

Over hill, over dale or off to bed ‒ getting to test products directly in the store is a real advantage brick-and-mortar businesses have over online retailers. All of our senses become a part of the purchase decision in this case. Creating an experience can range from very simple settings all the way to gigantic backdrops.
Photo: barefoot path at vivobarefoot Flagship Education Store; © vivobarefoot

At the recently opened Vivobarefoot store in Cologne, Germany, customers can test the barefoot shoes on a barefoot path in the store, so they can be sure how the shoes might feel in “real” life.; © vivobarefoot

How can a customer best try out whether a shoe fits or not? By putting the shoe on. Of course, the customer can also order the shoes online and then try them out. He or she then might send them back, orders the next pair and so on. That makes sense because clothing, in particular, needs to meet our sensual and mobility needs. And those needs only exist in the real world.

Appealing to all of a customer’s senses is therefore the best tool for brick-and-mortar retailers. The moment the customer looks at the product, holds it in his hands and checks it out, the sale is halfway done. Whether he likes the product or not is decided right at this moment. The retailer can still influence the buying decision by giving the potential consumer the opportunity to experience the product.

You can do this at the recently opened Vivobarefoot store in Cologne, Germany, for example. By being able to test the barefoot shoes on a barefoot path in the store, customers know how the shoes might feel in “real” life. Let’s see an online store do that.

The specialty bed store Bettenrid also knows that the customer is the best product tester. Since we spend a large portion of our life sleeping, many customers pay special attention to choosing the right mattress and accessories. Solely testing the bed triggers the decision to purchase. Bettenrid which incidentally landed among this year’s Trade Association of Germany’s Stores of the Year offers customers a matching apartment where they can spend a test night. Shopping in your sleep … now there is a new concept.

Photo: climbing at Globetrotter store in Cologne; © Globetrotter

Outdoor gear only reveals its true characteristics when it is used in an "outdoor" scenario – which means let’s go to the climbing wall with the matching equipment; © Globetrotter

The much-lauded Globetrotter store in Cologne takes this to a whole new level with the so-called “Experience Destination”: outdoor gear only reveals its true characteristics when it is used in an “outdoor” scenario – which means, let’s head for the water sports pool to dive in or test a canoe, let’s go to the climbing wall with the matching equipment or test a rain jacket in the cold and rain chamber. After all, the robust clothing is not necessarily cheap and the customer thinks twice whether he or she will spend money on it. Experiencing things on your own is the best salesperson. Even the best consultant is not able to accomplish that. After all, whom can we trust more than our own senses?  

Not only the products themselves and touching and trying out items at the store can cause us to make a purchase based on the decisions made by our senses. We love to follow our instincts and have our nose guide us. What does a store actually smell like? That’s also something retailers can deliberately influence. Whether it’s through the careful and discreet use of scents, the help of technical devices or natural aromas produced by candles or oils in smaller stores – at this point, there are thousands of resources that are able to “inspire” customers.

Photo: Coffee bar at concept store 'Type Hype' in Berlin; © Type Hype

The Type Hype Store in Berlin: Right in the middle of all the products that center on letters, customers can also find a milk bar which serves organic milk and coffee products; © Type Hype

Aside from technically generated scented delights, the simplest, natural methods can ensure that customers feel at ease at the store, for example by offering culinary options. If you smell coffee, you might feel inspired to immediately relax after shopping with a delicious hot beverage.

This is something the Type Hype Store in Berlin indulges in. Right in the middle of all the products that center on letters, customers can also find a milk bar which serves organic milk and coffee products. The retailer in the pedestrian area can also accomplish this with a cozy coffee nook. The impact on customer loyalty is immeasurable. After all, customers remember those brief relaxing moments during their shopping excursions and gladly come back to the store.

Touching, trying, tasting, smelling and feeling the vibe – those are the sensual moments an online store is not able to offer. This is how the brick-and-mortar store creates experiences that get engraved into a customer’s memory. A clear advantage that retailers can use in large and small areas.


Author: Natascha Mörs; EuroShop
First publication at iXtenso.com