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A Treat for the Senses

How to create a sensory experience in your store.



WHEN I THINK of a sensory experience in a jewelry store, what I recall most vividly is sinking into a buttery-soft leather couch in front of a fireplace with a cup of coffee at Jim Tuttle’s Green Lake Jewelry Works, watching the Seattle rain through a winvdow, enchanted by the colorful mural on the floor that was painted by the company’s resident artists. I can still almost hear the rain outside, feel the warmth of the fire and smell the freshly brewed coffee.

What do people remember about your store?

Michael Green of GN Diamond, who has decades of experience in retail, says it’s important to appeal to all of the senses because customers will remember 20 percent of what they hear, 40 percent of what they see AND hear, but 100 percent of how they felt in your store.
What is your sensory experience like? If you’re not sure, pretend you’re preparing for a party in your house. You’d run through a mental checklist:

  • Does the place smell great?
  • Do you have something temptingly decadent to serve your guests?
  • Is music low enough to carry on a conversation?
  • Is your space sparkling clean?
  • Is it comfortable?

Eric Zuckerman of Pac Team America agrees it’s important to consider what effect — positive and negative — your store has on all of the senses. “For instance, smelling fast food from the kitchen or hearing a radio commercial for pre-owned vehicles does NOT enhance the intimate shopping experience you are trying to create,” he says.


Dianna Rae High, owner of Dianna Rae Jewelry in Lafayette, LA, incorporates the five senses into every customer experience. “We have slide shows featuring our custom designs playing in the store, we have music playing, some jewelry is displayed out of the case so customers can touch, we serve snacks and drinks on a tray to every customer and we have a signature scent,” she says. “We focus on the whole experience.” Her signature scent is grapefruit, which is pleasant, welcoming and often noticed by customers. Sometimes the soundtrack is classic rock, sometimes the Tony Bennett channel.

Di’Amore Fine Jewelers in Waco, TX, serves homemade Indian food, fresh fruit smoothies, signature cocktails and “deliciously famous” chips and homemade salsa. If you’re there for an in-store charity benefit, owner Jay Pandya and his daughter, Monali Pandya, will glide over on a hover board to serve a dry ice cocktail.

At The Jewelry Mechanic in Oconomowoc, WI, the sensory experience begins with touchable soft textures, from the store dogs to the carpets, says vice-president Jo Goralski. “The shop is in charge of music, and they play everything. To get rid of the cooked human flesh smell coming from the shop, we use scented candles, and for tasting we keep lovely bottles of booze to do shots with the clients.”


Keep It Low Key

3 Music should be appropriate for the ambience of your store and set low enough that you can carry on a conversation. Harris Botnick, owner of Worthmore Jewelers in Atlanta, doesn’t play elevator music. “We’re very much rock ‘n roll people,” Botnick says. “We’re in here all day, every day and we want to hear it.” It fits though, with the ambience, which includes brushed steel showcases and bar stool seating.  “The music is upbeat, it’s exciting, but it’s kept at a very background level unless there’s a party.”

Think about sound from a design standpoint, too, says Ruth Mellergaard of GRID/3 International. “Because so much of a jewelry store is hard materials, with glass showcases, absorption is important so there aren’t a lot of echoes,” she says. Specially designed panels and wallpaper can be used to absorb sound.


Don’t Overpower

Smell is the most primal scent, writes Martin Lindstrom in Buyology: Truth And Lies About Why We Buy. “When we smell something, the odor receptors in our noses make an unimpeded beeline to our limbic system, which controls our emotions, memories and sense of well-being. As a result, our gut response is instantaneous,” he writes. So, when choosing flowers, for example, make sure they aren’t overpowering. If you’re considering purchasing a scent system, top-selling scents at Air Esscentials are subtle, like green tea lemongrass, ocean mint, grapefruit vanilla and southern spring.

Turn Your Store Into a Treat for Your Customers’ Senses

At Worthmore Jewelers in Atlanta, there’s a lot to look at, from video screens at the custom design bar to art on the walls, all accompanied by a rock ‘n’ roll beat and Champagne in a can.

Turn Your Store Into a Treat for Your Customers’ Senses


Think Texture, Color and Light

Consider visual interest, color and texture. Dianna Rae High’s wallpaper has a subtle alligator pattern and her design team added tiny bits of reflective glass to the final paint treatment. They catch the light and give the walls a sparkly shimmer.

Drapes and other textures appeal to the sense of touch, even if such objects aren’t meant to be touched. You can imagine how they would feel.

Walls can’t be bare. Stores that thoughtfully display art for sale have found that rather than compete with jewelry, it can add visual interest.

“When we opened our store, the space originally was a folk-art gallery, and as we were cleaning it up, we had three or four people come by and say, ‘Oh, are you a new gallery?’ And eventually I thought, ‘Well, we love art, we’ve got walls,’ and from there, it just blossomed,” says Botnick.

Studies have found that color can increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent.  Worthmore’s signature colors are brown and orange. “We repainted the store this year and still have brown and orange in the stores, but went to a tan shade of gray on the walls to make the art pop. Every five to seven years, we give the store a fresh coat of paint. Paint is an inexpensive face lift and every time we paint, people think we redecorated the entire store.”

Adding color to your store — both to the environment and the inventory — is critical to engaging young, self-purchasing women, according to Marty Hurwitz of MVI Marketing. “For so long, we’ve been a white diamond retailing environment,” he says. “But there’s no accessorizing, if that’s all you’re showing. A fashion forward environment allows women to accessorize. That invariably means color.”

Natural light is important, too, because it enhances not only the color of diamonds, but the sense of well-being. The tone changes from bluish in the morning to gold in the evening, which reflects people’s circadian rhythms.

Advances in technology allow for a balance of natural and artificial light, depending on time of day and weather conditions, Mellergaard says. LED lights can be linked to sensors so that in the morning they are less bright, and as daylight fades, the brightness of the LEDS increase.

Turn Your Store Into a Treat for Your Customers’ Senses

A professional-grade coffee bar and blazing fireplace invite visitors to venture in a little farther at Green Lake Jewelry Works in Seattle.



Offer Variety

If your store smells like chocolate chip cookies, don’t torture your customers; make sure you have some on hand to offer guests. Botnick has rented food trucks for lunch at special events, hosted milkshake bars in the store and set up big old-fashioned catered coffee bars. In 2008, he introduced rum punch as a signature drink. Now, if it’s not available at an event, customers want to know why. They also routinely serve 8-ounce cans of Champagne that clients drink with a straw, a wry twist on the luxury experience. “It’s different and it’s funny,” Botnick says.

Turn Your Store Into a Treat for Your Customers’ Senses

At Dianna Rae Jewelry in Lafayette, LA, textures, patterns and framed photos of custom designs add interest to the walls.


Provide Comfort and Luxury

Furniture should be soft fabric, which appeals to both touch and sight, says Elle Hill, CEO of Hill & Co. and international fine jewelry launch and growth expert.

Make sure customers are invited to touch the jewelry. Botnick asks his staff, “Before you all started here, what was the most expensive piece of jewelry you ever touched?” Usually, it wasn’t very expensive. “It’s exciting, exhilarating.”

Send them home with a good impression, too. “If the packaging is on brand with a gorgeous texture, a soft matte or high-polish finish, they will sense quality,” Hill says. “Add a handwritten note at the bottom of the bag. Infuse your gift boxes with your store’s signature scent. A quick spray inside the lid before you close and wrap it means the recipient gets another whiff of where it came from.”



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