Solve this real-life riddle. A 37-year-old woman's car is packed with a tub of dirty dishes, a laundry basket of stained clothes and a package of cookie dough. Where is she heading?

To her local Maytag concept store, of course, where she will test-drive a state-of-the-art dishwasher, washing machine and stove using her own dirty lasagna pan, grass-stained soccer jersey, and grandma's famous chocolate chip cookie recipe.

In early 2003, Maytag ( created an innovative experiential marketing strategy, whereby prospective customers would take their new, top-of-the-line appliances for an interactive "test-drive."

Maytag found that customers were more interested in understanding how a product would fit into their lives than listening to a pitch about the merchandise. With the high cost of upper-end appliances, it makes perfect sense to take a potential washer/dryer for a trial spin.

The company also realized that the social aspect of shopping was important, too. A new environment was designed that included wider aisles, brighter décor, and kids' play areas. In the new Maytag store the ready-to-use appliances are displayed in "vignettes" of home kitchens and laundry rooms. Since 1998, Maytag has opened close to 50 interactive stores and plans to continue expanding in 2005.

Successful retail spaces create a full sensory experience. Consumers want to see, feel, touch, taste and interact with your products before they buy. Here are some strategies that will help you stage a little retail theater of your own.

1. Present a lifestyle

Display and market your products in a way that helps customers visualize the full experience and realize their lifestyle aspirations.

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image of Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson ( is the CEO of ReachWomen ( She is also a coauthor of Don't Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy—And How to Increase Your Share of this Crucial Market (AMACOM, 2004).