When I was a little kid my dad owned and operated several movie theaters. He'd been in that business for many years, and his office was full of relics from the golden age of Hollywood - though most of them were from the exhibitor's point-of-view. One of my favorites was a handbook of sorts for successfully running a concession stand. It was really nothing more than a collection of best practices from theater owners all over the country, collected, typed up onto fifty or so pages, and bound with three brass clasps along the left margin. I can remember rifling through the pages and learning all about how the way a snack bar was merchandised, presented, and staffed could have a positive effect on the amount of money people would spend.
One of the things that always stuck with me was the recommendation that popcorn be popped while customers were waiting for the movie to begin. This flew in the face of conventional wisdom that dictated you pop your corn when there were no customers around so you wouldn't be too busy to tend to customers. However, the smell of freshly popped popcorn and the visual of it bursting out of the popper would send customers into a buying frenzy, enticing even those who already had their Ju-Ju-Bees and Coke into buying a bucket. And do you know what? It worked.
Today, we know for a fact that we can influence buying by stimulating more senses simultaneously. Show somebody a product, and they might have an interest in it. Let them touch, hear, smell, and maybe even taste the same product, and the level of interest rises into a level of desire. This has worked especially well in the food industry with free samples, and it's a staple of the automotive industry where a test drive lets you feel all the aspects of the vehicle, smell the new-car smell, and hear the solid THUNK of the door as you close it.
So, here's an opportunity for you. Look around your store. What are you doing to stimulate more of your customers' senses? Is your background music conducive to your brand and products? What does your store smell like? Can customers touch the products? Is the lighting effective in showing off merchandise?
You probably won't be able to stimulate all the senses, and depending on what you're selling, you might not want to. But if you focus on stimulating more of the senses than you are now, you'll find customers' interest levels rising.
Okay, I've got to go get my popcorn.