Sensory marketing: get a sense for driving sales

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Sensory marketing: get a sense for driving sales

Sensory marketing targets your customers' subconsciousness and influences their buying behaviour, allowing you to create messages that go beyond words and pictures. The happier your customers are, the more likely they are to spendi; a concept that store owners can use to increase sales. Sensory marketing is one way to achieve this effect, as research shows that exposure to a positive smell, sound, touch or taste can significantly increase people's moodii.

A Today Show feature on Scent Marketing

Get an insight into how stores are implementing sensory marketing to increase profits.

Love is in the air

Humans have about five million olfactory receptor cells (a bloodhound has 100 million), and a trained human nose can distinguish some 10,000 odours. Although the human sense of smell is far less developed than many animals, "smell can [also] evoke remarkably intense emotion, just with a simple scent"iii, says Randall Reed, neuroscientist at John Hopkins University. This is due to the fact that the olfactory bulb is connected to the brain's limbic system, an area closely associated with memory, emotions and reinforcing behaviouriv.

According to Simon Harrop, CEO of Brand Sense, a positive smell has a bigger emotional impact on our mood than sound, taste or touchii, and can become an important tool to market a product or enhance a product's environment, such as in a retail shopi. For example, a sunglass store that uses a coconut scent might trigger the memory of a vacation, putting the customer in a happy mood, and hence encourage them to spend moneyv.Owners of small retail businesses can greatly benefit from scents that are associated with the brand or store image. Therefore, scents can stress attributes that best describe your store and products (for example, fresh, homey, energetic, young, elegant), creating the ideal ambiance to put your customers in the right mood to shop. However, keep in mind that a response to a scent, for instance if it triggers a pleasant or unpleasant emotion, is often a highly personal matter, as it depends on the customer's individual experience and memories.

Music to my ears

Our mood can increase by up to 65% if exposed to a positive soundii. Similar to scents as described above, music is an effective tool to impact on a customer's mood while shopping in your store. Various experiments show that the emotional response to music doesn't depend on "explicit knowledge or exposure to music", but that it can also evoke certain moods, especially when induced with happy tunesvi .Music can also help you target a certain buyer group: for example, loud, upbeat electronic music can signal to seniors that this store probably does not cater to their wants.

Seeing red

A huge part of marketing budget is spent on visual features aloneii. However, the impact of visual stimuli on a customer's buying behaviour is not limited to images or logos. Lighting, space and colours are important vehicles to create a pleasant, arousing or soothing ambiance in your retail store. Colours can not only influence whether a customer makes a purchase, but also increase brand recognition by 80%vii .

Red is closely associated with fire, and can evoke feelings such as passion, fear and anger.

Red is closely associated with fire, and can evoke feelings such as passion, fear and anger. The colour can also alert your shoppers, and make them stop in front of a product. However, experts recommend using bright colours such as red and yellow only as an accent that doesn't make up more than 20% of your store's overall colour scheme, as it might distract customers from the actual productsvii,viii.

Psychologically, the opposite of red is blue. Commonly associated with the sky or the sea, blue induces tranquillity to a point that it actually lowers your blood pressure. Blue is also associated with trustworthiness and dependabilityviii. Similar to blue, green is said to have a calming, relaxing effect on customers, as it is associated with the environmentviii.

Warm colours such as orange and brown are inviting customers to spend more time in a storevii. Orange is especially said to evoke positive emotions and happiness, as it can stimulate enthusiasm and creativityviii. Moreover, appropriate lighting and orange walls can give your store a nice warm glowvii.

Finishing touch

A positive taste and touch can increase our mood by 23% and 29% respectivelyii. However, in 2010 Fortune 500 Companies spent only 0.9% of their marketing budget against each taste and touch-related marketing activitiesii. For your retail shop, think about how these two sensory stimuli can contribute to the store ambiance you want to create. What fabric are you using for seat covers, cushions or drapes? Can you offer small treats or any form of refreshment to your customers?

A multi-sensory approach to enhance the customer experience in your store can increase sales and impact on your business's bottom line. Research shows that the stimulation of more than one sense can achieve a multiplying effectii, creating an even bigger emotional impact on your customer. In order to benefit from this multiplying effect, carefully asses what kind of emotions you would like to evoke, analyse the current shop environment, and then make necessary adjustments to provide sensory stimuli suitable for your target group. During this process, don't hesitate to take on feedback from staff and customers, as their perception might differ from your own.

iAir Aroma - Retail Scent Marketing on Today Tonight, viewed 14 October 2013,

iiTEDxTalks 2010, TEDxTransmedia - Simon Harrop - DAREtoSENSE, viewed 14 October 2013,

iiiHanock, E., A Primer on smell, John Hopkins University Magazine, viewed 14 October 2013,

ivSweson R. 2006, Review of clinical and functional neuroscience, Chapter 9 - Limbic System, viewed 14 October 2013,

vScent Marketing on The Today Show 3-24-2012, viewed 14 October 2013,

viSomerville A 2006, Music or Images: Which has the Greater Impact on Mood?, viewed 15 October 2013,, p.6-7

vii5 Ways Store Colors Can Influence Shoppers, viewed 15 October 2013,

viiiHow Color Affects Our Mood, viewed 15 October 2013,