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Friday, January 16, 2009

Touch Matters in Retail

Touch matters in retail.  I have proof.   Proof that engaging your customers in your retail experience, getting them to physically interact with the sensuousness of your products, will lead to sales. 

I found the proof in Retail Customer Experience which published an article titled Shoppers willing to pay more for products they can touch.  The article is based on research from The Ohio State University and Illinois State University - published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making [see The Power of Touch]- examining "how touching an item before buying affects how much [consumers] are willing to pay for an item. A simple experiment with an inexpensive coffee mug revealed that in many cases, simply touching the coffee mug for a few seconds created an attachment that led people to pay more for the item."

Are you surprised?

Touch something, hold it in your hands, feel its shape, weight, softness/smoothness, warmth/coldness, texture...  Interact with it for 30 seconds or so and you will start to feel that that something is yours.  

Talk about ownership starting in the eyes, or rather the hands, of the beholder.

Once that sense of ownership begins - in as little as 30 seconds - you'll willingly go to extremes to maintain your hold.

The article describes the tests and the decisions that participants made in bidding for their mugs. "The results showed that people who held the item for 30 seconds bid significantly higher than people who touched the mug for 10 seconds. The average bid in the open auctions was $2.44 for people who touched the mug for 10 seconds and $3.91 for those in the 30 second experiments. This finding was also consistent for those in silent auctions, with people in the 10 and 30 second experiments bidding $2.24 and $3.07, respectively."

All this for a generic mug - chosen on purpose by the researchers who wanted "the most minimal type of attachment" to test their theory.  Physical contact affects how consumers value products.

Certainly this proof substantiates the car dealership test drive, or the importance of trying on new clothes [ideally in attractive fitting rooms], shoes or jewelry. Or interacting with a puppy. But, what about the carpet or flooring buying experience? Couldn't we make it more about touch and feel?

What about a flooring store where customers are invited to take their shoes off so they can feel the product with their feet as well as with their hands?  Of course, that means selling beautiful products that exude feelings of goodness and comfort. Wouldn't that would make for an interesting retail experience!

Next time you interact with something, let me know how you felt after holding it, and whether you bought it [or felt intensely like buying it].

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