sensory marketing

I’m Touched: the Importance of Tactile Marketing

Written by Jennifer Dublino, on July 9th, 2012

According to an article in a Harvard Business Review report titled “Please Touch the Merchandise,” the sense of touch is an undervalued and little thought about part of the customer experience. While it is true that customers in a store at a minimum need to pick up products and bring them to the checkout area, using the sense of touch, few stores, product manufacturers or packaging companies have fully exploited the value of a tactile sensation.

Neuromarketing research has shown that we have powerful unconscious associations between physical sensations and more abstract concepts. For example, one study showed that people who were given a warm pad invested 43% more money than those given a cold pad, showing that the sensation of physical warmth translated in the brain to a psychological feeling of regarding the other person in a warmer way, along with the safe, trusting feelings that go along with that.

Another study asked people to evaluate a potential job candidate while holding either a light or a heavy clipboard. The people holding the heavy clipboard viewed the job candidates as having a more serious interest in the job. The weight of the clipboard translated into the weightiness, or seriousness that they ascribed to the other person.

These same sort of physical, tactile associations can be utilized in marketing and in store and package design as well. In his book Buyology, Martin Lindstrom points out that stores like Whole Foods position their fresh flowers at the entrance of the store, to create an unconscious perception that their food is extra fresh. Bang & Olufson, the high-end stereo manufacturer, adds extra weight to its remote controls to create a perception of higher quality.

Stores might want to consider using wooden, rather than metal or laminate tables, to display their wares. Wood tables encourage shoppers to touch the merchandise, increasing the likelihood of purchase. In designing stores, retailers should be careful to provide aisles that are wide enough that customers will not have to step back and touch shelf or display on the other side; research has shown that shoppers get irritated if touched from behind.

In fact, if used correctly, a brick and mortar retailer can use the tactile sense to successfully compete with online retailers which are unable for the most part to invoke these associations and sensations.

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