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How Does the Sensory Experience Impact the Consumer Experience?

Understanding the customer journey is crucial for any business looking to improve its brand or service. But how can you truly get to know your customer? Are you relying solely on marketing conversion funnel metrics or have you experienced your brand or service the way your customers do? In this post, we explore the importance of taking a sensory approach to really understanding the customer experience.

When developing a new website, whenever possible you’ll look to gain real user insights into how easy or difficult it is to navigate or complete a task on the current as well as proposed site. If you were able to shadow an actual user by observing them and listening to what they say about the experience, it would provide invaluable insight and validate any existing quantitative data. However, I believe that it’s equally, if not more, important to walk in the footsteps of your audience by experiencing firsthand what they may see, feel and hear.

“It’s equally, if not more, important to walk in the footsteps of your audience by experiencing firsthand what they may see, feel and hear.”

Understanding the Sensory Effect of a Brand

This article shared a fascinating example of how a sensory effect can make or break a brand. It describes how Honda wanted to improve its dealership sales experience in order to increase sales revenue. To do so, Honda, hired a customer experience (CX) consultancy to record and study interactions between customers and salespeople, in addition to capturing body language and fascial expressions, including biometric data.

The article pointed out these additional observations: “The typical showroom is a very hard environment. You have hard tiles, hard chairs. Studies show that if you sit on a hard chair, you’re going to be a harder negotiator than if you sit on soft chair. We designed a blue room, a room within the showroom that had blue walls, soft carpeting, soft music, soft lighting, a pleasant fragrance—everything designed to make the customer relax.”

“By taking a firsthand sensory approach to both brands has helped us to create user and digital experiences that allow us to bring aspects of the sensory experience to the site.”

“We could see why customers didn’t buy. We could provide the biometric information to the sales team and provide training for how to be better at recognizing these moments. We approached it from a different perspective. It wasn’t the rational reasons the customers were giving. We could see through the research what their real reasons were.” Creating the “Blue Room” and the softer approach resulted in a more than 30% hike in like-for-like sales, a 12% rise in profit per unit, and a 62% increase in staff retention rates.

Here at ScheinerInc., we’re presently in the middle of two fantastic website projects that are going live over the next few months, one for a hospitality brand and the other for a growing consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand in the beverage space.

For both projects, taking a firsthand sensory approach to both brands has helped us to create user and digital experiences that allow us to bring aspects of the sensory experience to the site. For the hospitality brand, we spent several days at the property, discovering not just the hotel and its amenities, but what the hotel looked like as you were approaching it by car and by foot. We were able to capture nuances about the property, such as its architecture and how central it was to shops, restaurants and towns with that New England ambiance that may have otherwise been overlooked—traits that make the hotel not only unique, but that will allow it to distance itself from at least five competitive properties all within several miles of one another.

For the CPG beverage, the new site strategy and design was derived from simply opening a can of this brand’s beverage and being immediately captivated by the intense smell of real fruit—in this case, it was the natural black cherry flavor—which pointed us down the path of mouth-watering fruit imagery emphasized by oversaturated colors that reinforced the sensory aspects of the brand and set it apart from the sea of sameness within the category.

This post, “Exploring the Unconscious Way Senses Influence the Customer Experience,” describes how our behavior can subconsciously be guided by smell, sound, color and touch. The author provides the following examples of how each of these sensory influences alter how we feel, think or respond:

1. Smell: Researchers found that the smell of chocolate in bookshops in Belgium positively influences people’s mood, encouraging them to stay longer and browse more, and increased the purchase of all books, but particularly romance and cookery books, which customers were almost six times more likely to buy.

2. Sound: Studies have shown that the tempo of music played in restaurants affects how long we stay in them—the faster the music, the less time we stay, which has obvious implications for fast-food outlets versus expensive Michelin-starred eateries.

3. Color: Those who submitted a picture to an online dating site were more likely to be selected if they were wearing red. Another study that investigated the color of painted walls in rooms showed that whereas red enhanced people’s performance on detail-orientated tasks, green and blue walls encouraged people to be more creative.

4. Touch: As per the car showroom example mentioned above, researchers found that when we touch hard objects and are then asked to judge people, our opinions of them are more likely to be “harder.”

In order to navigate the costumer journey, it’s critical to look at both the hard data and the data that comes from observing the sensory triggers that will seamlessly and effortlessly create an emotional bond between your customers and your brand or service.

Questions? Feel free to email me here. As always, thank you for reading.

Header Image: Maxim Berg on Unsplash