Retail Branding Through Sensory Experience: Local Case-Study at Chocolaterie Stam

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Abstract
In the retail business storeowners, marketers, and retail designers are all concerned with the successful branding of a store where people come to visit, shop and stay longer to entertain themselves. Studies have shown that there are factors that affect visitors’ perception of the store and their preference over other places. Store location, atmosphere, emotional attributes, sensory stimulation attributes, and visual merchandising are contributing factors to the visual perception and behavioral responses of the visitors and customers. Few of these studies were concerned with the overall experience of a store through customers’ sensory perception. Customers’ sensory experience provides a positive influence on their shopping experience. The basis of this thesis is that branding in retail design is important and can be primarily induced by sensory experience. The retail store as a branded environment extends the experience of a brand through three-dimensional space.

In a store, customers come to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste products on display as well as their environmental surroundings. Sensory experience in a retail store plays a significant role in consumers’ perception and their purchasing behavior because of its positive influence on the brand image. Ultimately, the need to create a unique brand experience through sensory stimulation is essential to the practice in the field of interior design. Research questions related to sensory experience in the retail environment are followed. The questions are (1) what kind of sensory experience occurs in the retail environment, (2) how can retail brands communicate with the human senses to create positive sensory feelings , (3) what are the retail design components, and (4) how can they create a positive sensory effect on customers? These research questions will guide the case study.

The second part of the thesis is to propose a retail brand that illustrates graphic identity, sensory devices and their placement in three-dimensional space. The purpose of using the case is to design a prototype by analyzing, developing, and visualizing a newly developed space for an existing retail store. A specific case, Chocolaterie Stam, located in Ames, Iowa is used to suggest a design guide for practitioners, marketers, and designers who strive to create a memorable, successful, and attractive store environment. A literature review, an interview, site analysis, and observations were held to study the case specific to customer’s sensory experience related to the brand and its presentation. The research method is supported by the notion that the study is exploratory, and little has been written about the topic before this time. The design analysis and design development focuses on the branding vision. Sensory perception is considered key determinant of the users’ perception in the retail environment. Design visualization of the space is mainly focused on vision as the dominant human sensory stimulus and its connection with the other human senses.

The prototype might be useful as a design guideline for store designers and marketers when creating a new brand identity through the application of environmental graphics, brand logo, typography, brand color, package design, and other graphic system components. The design approach encourages the close relationship of incorporating graphic design principles and their application to interior design. The successful design of a retail store would affect visitors and customers’ positive experience over the brand and increase the client’s business for their brand expansion. The final design shows the potential use of the prototype in other design applications that are essential to the positioning of a brand and its perception through sensory experience. This thesis suggests new research possibilities toward studying the relationships among branding, the human senses, and the store environment. Hopefully it offers new insights and starting points for future studies and design applications in the field of interior design, graphic design, as well as marketing and retail business.