CAN'T MISS: How our senses influence our purchases

It's no secret that our five senses -- sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound -- exert a powerful influence on our everyday purchase decisions. Such is the argument made by Martin Lindstrom in "Brand Sense," which stresses that retailers that deliver a multi-sensory experience achieve greater sales and higher levels of brand awareness in the minds of customers.

Here are a few findings that illustrate how important it is for companies to appeal to consumers' senses to shape their behavior:

  • In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Ronald E. Millman showed that the pace of music playing in the background of restaurants and stores had a considerable effect on spending, traffic flow, and service. The slower the music, the more people shop. The faster the music, the less money people fork over. Related studies have demonstrated that the slower the music at restaurants, the longer people stay wining and dining. In fact, the average bill for diners was 29 percent higher with slower music playing in the background.
  • In another study, nearly a third of consumers claimed they could distinguish one car brand from another just by the sound of their doors closing.
  • For many shoppers, their choice of perfume depends more heavily on the shape or design of the bottle than how the perfume actually smells.
  • Results of a survey revealed that close to 50 percent of U.S. consumers felt the way their cell phone felt mattered more than how it looked.
  • Eighty six percent of U.S. consumers find the smell of a new car appealing. Many of them cite the car's smell as a key factor in their decision to buy a particular vehicle. 
  • A study was conducted in a shopping mall to assess the impact of fragrance on consumer shopping. A citrus scent was spritzed into the air, and consumers were interviewed after leaving the store. The results showed that younger shoppers spent significantly more time at the mall during the times the ambient scent was sprayed.
  • Another study showed that consumers overwhelmingly preferred shoes mixed with a floral scent (unbeknownst to them at the time of the study) to those that carried no such scent. What's more, subjects estimated the value of the scented shoes to be much higher.
  • Stores like Victoria's Secret have their own blend of potpourri, lending their stores (and even their merchandise) an instantly recognizable scent.
These findings clearly demonstrate that retailers who harness the power of the senses position themselves for great success. Consumers are bombarded by stimuli everywhere they go, which is why it's so important for brands to leverage the power of the senses to cut through the clutter and distinguish themselves. Indeed, the more a company can engage a consumer's senses through different touchpoints -- from browsing products at the store to visiting the website to actually smelling the product via a magazine ad -- the more likely he or she is to become a loyal customer. 

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