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Comment: Ed King of MaxMedia on measuring emotional experiences in-store

The face of shopping is changing drastically. Amazon and other ecommerce solutions have cornered the market on convenience, selection and price. And thanks to same-day delivery and possible drone delivery in the future, these tech-enabled retailers are making a play for owning the speed attribute. How can bricks and mortar possibly compete?

Well, one thing hasn’t changed: our craving to viscerally engage in the shopping experience. Since the hunter/gatherer days of our ancestors, our primitive brain likes to learn through sensory input. The modern shopper equivalent is the desire to touch, taste, try-on and try-out what we are interested in buying.

When asked if they would prefer to shop at Amazon.com or at the Amazon bricks and mortar store, millennials said they preferred the brick and mortar option1. No matter your age, there is something about the feeling of finding the perfect-fitting pair of jeans, or the bonding experience between a parent and a child when selecting a loving teddy bear companion.

Shopper feelings and emotions dictate the majority of purchase decisions2, and it’s now been found that giving shoppers positive emotional experiences is the single most significant driver of customer loyalty3. This information has given rise to a new discipline — measuring emotions in retail spaces. The ability to measure and promote positive shopper emotions across multiple retail touchpoints – from the parking lot to the checkout line – is now a critical discipline in helping retailers survive and thrive in an increasingly digital-dominated world.

Transactional data (what shoppers buy) and behavioural data (how shoppers behave) have dominated store metrics for decades. It’s time to introduce a new lens of data – emotional data (how shoppers feel). And with it, an emotion-based metric: EpX (Emotions per Experience).

Thanks to technologies like anonymous video analytics (AVA), which measures facial micro-expressions; biometric wearables that can measure things like Galvanic skin response and heart rate; and cognitive linguistic analysis software that can “read between the lines” of what shoppers say to better understand what they feel about the shopping experience, we are able to collect a wealth of emotional data at each touchpoint.

Our behavioral analyst then interprets this data through the lens of four positive emotions (happiness, excitement, crave, gratitude), four negative emotions (confusion, disappointment, frustration and anger), and a neutral state. The emotion and the potency of each experiential touchpoint in a shopping journey are measured on a scale of 0-5.

By applying measures in this way, we are able to determine which experience points in the store cause significant friction – what we call churn triggers – and which experiences impart positive emotional experiences, what we call loyalty triggers.

Disciplined retailers which take note of shopper emotions inside the store, and impart more positive emotional experiences per visit, enjoy increased sales per square foot and increased customer loyalty.

As technology and shopper expectations transform the retail space, possessing the knowledge and ability to pinpoint how shoppers feel about their in-store experiences gives retailers a quantifiable foundation for success in transforming the store for today’s new shopper.

ED KING is VP of Strategy at MaxMedia, a digital retail experience design firm in Atlanta, GA USA.

1 2015 Time Trade Study: The State of Retail

2 Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market

3 2015 Temken Consumer Benchmark Study (293 Companies and 10,000 Consumers)