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The Total Retail Experience

Dr. Leon | November 1, 2013 | 9:49 AM

The Total Retail ExperienceIn the beauty industry we are in a strong position to create opportunities for our consumers to listen, see, touch, smell and take ownership of the products we apply during services. We have known for a long time that an experiential event for a consumer greatly advances their chances of purchasing the product.

What I am sure we are not aware of is the specific processes that our subconscious mind goes through when a shampoo, styling, or skincare product is experienced. The Total Retail Experience is a methodological framework including examining the bottle, handling the bottle, extracting the product from the bottle and applying the contents to our hair or skin.

But what are our brains doing when we see, touch, smell and hear about a bottle of shampoo?

If we can touch it, taste it, smell it, see it, and hear it, we can observe the brain’s reactions to it. If we applied this methodology to a container of yogurt, you may be wondering what is there to know that's so complex about eating a container of yogurt? You put your spoon in it, you stir it up and you eat it. Simple right?  But for your brain, it isn't at a simple process.

First all five senses are involved. Next, from a neurological perspective, there actually are several distinct steps involved.

First you see the package. Synapses in your visual cortex fire as nerve endings in your retina capture and transmit signals. Your prefrontal cortex calls the shots, directing muscles around the eyeballs to focus your vision on the target. Your brain simultaneously decodes color, shape, size, and location of the container. This data is matched against information stored in your memory, and at the same time is matched against all the data streaming in from your other senses.

The supercomputer spits out the answer in an infinitesimal fraction of a second: yogurt. That known, the prefrontal cortex proceeds to order the muscles and ligaments in your arm and hand extend toward the container. Your brain calculates the distance and amount of time to target, and adjusts actions accordingly. Your fingers form the correct shape to grasp (touch) the container.

The Total Retail ExperienceAs you grasp the round plastic, your brain modifies the amount of pressure required for your fingers to hold onto the container, as it receives data about the resistance of the package and its weight. Temperature and surface texture information are transmitted as well.

Time to proceed to the next step: lifting the container and opening it. Now the nerves and muscles coordinate anew, driven by the master control center in your prefrontal cortex. Then another sense kicks in: as you remove the plastic top and then peel the metal foil back, you hear the sound at the same time as you sense the slight resistance of the adhesive on the top of the container.

And yet another sense floods data into your neural networks: you smell the contents. Now we're approaching what everyone would consider the moment of truth: tasting the product.

Next, because its a fruit-based yogurt, you pick up a spoon, inset it downwards, feel the consistency of the gelatinous content as the spoon encounters slight resistance due to the semi thick texture and stir. As bits of fruit surface and swirl, your senses of sight, smell and touch actively process new streams of data.

At last: time to taste.

You collect a puddle of creamy substance on the spoon and raise it to your mouth. Once again, whole batteries of nerve endings, muscles, neurons, and synaptic networks within the brain interact, enabling the motion and anticipation what concerted action is required to get the spoon and its contents safely and intact into your mouth.

Before it even gets there, though, your sense of smell is heightened as yogurt approaches your face. Both your nasal cavity and your mouth receive the scent. Once inside, your mouth and tongue experience the flavor texture, solid contents and temperature of the yogurt, signaling your brain with the information that it is delicious, cool, somewhat thick, contains semi firm bits of an identifiable fruit, and is OK to swallow, which you proceed to do.
And that concludes the typical yogurt consumption process and therefore the Total Consumer Experience.    

So where's the special power and value of the Total Consumer Experience? It's hidden in the information above. So what would you guess would be the biggest, Neurological Iconic Signature embedded in the simple process? Would it be feeling that cool slick surface of the plastic container? Sticking the spoon in? Maybe stirring the fruit? Or tasting the yogurt?
 
The answer is none of the above.

The most exiting and memorable experience was grasping and removing the covering on the top of the container. Our brain loves that action and the multitude of sensations it produces. There is something about the tactile, auditory, visual and olfactory sensations that brings great satisfaction.  

As a child, the excitement of opening wrapped presents on our birthday or at Christmas is amongst our most memorable experiences.

Let’s now return to the products we offer in our salons. If we can go beyond informing consumers about the product, to enabling them to hold the product, remove the cap or lid, allow them to smell the product and apply the product to their hand, hair or skin. We are creating the Total Retail Experience and greatly enhancing the chances of them taking ownership of the product.   

If you know the process that appeals the strongest to consumers, if you know the optimum positioning, if you know how your consumer’s brain will respond before you create your marketing campaign, you go into a process with a distinct competitive advantage.

The difference is trying to comprehend the cosmos through a land-based telescope. Peering through our layered atmosphere that necessarily distorts the image, versus soaring high above the earth and gaining as clear and unconstructed a view into the depths of space as can be had by the human eye.

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