One one-thousand, two one-thousand… it takes 7 to 10 seconds after walking through the door to positively impact a guest’s decision to buy. Everything they see, hear, touch, smell, and taste is a form of communication, creating tangible and intangible impressions of your brand. The cumulative effect of how their five senses are engaged say: “Here is what we have to offer. What do you think?”

Over 40 years ago Philip Kotler, Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University Graduate School of Management, coined the term “Atmospherics.” In tasting rooms, where the complexities of mapping a guest’s journey through their experience can take a backseat to the romance of uncorking a bottle of wine, Professor Kotler’s theory proposes that “the atmosphere of a place is more influential than the product itself.” This illustrates the WISE best practice of selling the brand first, the wine second.

Atmospherics is the conscious design of environments to evoke emotional responses from customers and enhance probability of a purchase. In the competitive world of winery direct-to-consumer sales, where points of differentiation can be difficult to articulate, atmospherics represents a subtly powerful marketing tool that has implications for achieving business results. It is a planned and systematic approach to communicating brand image, enhancing post-visit awareness, and increasing the likelihood of future purchases in other channels.

Now Hear This 

The style of music helps shape the perception of an environment. Background music can make time grind to an agonizing halt or, in contrast, set the pace for an experience that feels pleasantly everlasting.  Until the creation of Muzak, one of the more well-known services that produce music playlists for retailers, thinking about music as a tool to influence the unconscious behavior of a consumer was not part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Researchers from UC Berkeley found that when playing slow music customers spend significantly more time in an environment than when fast music was played. The right choice of music was shown to influence consumers to spend more than when there was no music at all.  Another study on the effect of music on wine purchases in a UK store found that on days when stereotypically French music was played, sales of French wines far outsold German wines; on days they played German music, sales of German wine far surpassed the French wines.

What music are you playing in your visitor center? What does it say about your brand? Wine can be intimidating to many.  Playing music helps people feel more comfortable, and comfortable people are more likely to purchase wine.

Seeing is believing…and buying

Layout of the tasting room determines how customers navigate through the space and is essential in creating an atmosphere conducive to buying. The expression “too close for comfort” really means physically too close.  A crowded, messy room that is difficult to move around in will result in guests spending less time and missed opportunities to sell more wine. Attractive displays of carefully-selected, brand-appropriate items can enhance the shopping experience and add interest to the stories customers share back home. Good visual merchandising, which has evolved from a decorative arts endeavor to a useful tool in communicating the brand image, is not about “making it pretty,” but about “making the sale.”

Do you have thoughtful product placements to guide the guest’s attention? By being conscious of our visual space, we can provide visual interest, reinforce our brand story, and promote customer engagement.

Sweet Smell of Success

The sense of smell is widely considered to be our most “emotional” sense. Rather than analyze the information we receive from a particular scent, we immediately get a feeling when we smell something. While tasting room visitors may respond differently to the aromatics found in their glass of wine, the impact of ambient smells in the tasting room – particularly the restrooms – do affect our guests’ perception of their experience.

The Bottom Line

Dedicating the time to think through an atmospherics-centered brand experience can be a challenge. Consciously designing the customer experience to engage all five senses provides a platform for telling our story, or discovering what’s missing from our existing story. It’s not a cookie cutter approach because each story must be unique to its own brand.

Experience your tasting room as your guests do.  What do you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste? What is your brand symbolically saying through your atmospherics?