See, Smell, Hear, Taste, Touch – Shop Using All Your Senses!

Sensory marketing has drawn a lot of attention during the last decade. It is defined as “marketing that engages the consumers´ senses and affects their perception, judgment and behavior.”¹ Retailers and manufacturers recognized that multi-sensory brand experiences increase perceived product value, induce shoppers to stay longer at store, and ultimately to spend more money.

But how to best stimulate all senses for branding? Does sensory marketing help to differentiate from digital marketing or can online platforms equally apply it?


In this article we present examples from retailers and manufacturers who successfully stimulate our five senses. Moreover, we discuss the possibilities for companies operating exclusively online to apply sensory marketing.


Vision is probably the most stimulated sense in marketing. Nevertheless, companies do not have to bore shoppers with the same displays over and over again. New technologies or just creative applications of existing materials might achieve astonishing results.


Southside shopping center in London recently surprised its shoppers with an optical illusion of a collapsed elevator. Although the ad might be for a resort, the campaign definitely is beneficial to the shopping center as well. It drew the attention of shoppers and increased traffic to the shopping center by interrupting the routine and monotonous shopping paths.


Mini Cooper launched an augmented reality ad in German magazines. Entering the company’s website and putting the ad in front of your webcam, a little mini cooper appears on top of the page. The campaign currently turns viral on the internet with fans uploading their photos.


Touch is the very first sense a person develops¹. We judge quality of apparel and freshness of food based on touching the product. Retailers and manufacturers increasingly make use of haptic cues to communicate superior product quality.


Shopper Marketing magazine presented in its April issue Sleep Innovations´ approach to increasing category sales for sleep products. Based on the insight that shoppers prefer feeling a mattress instead of lying down on one, they redesigned their aisles to be more interactive and to allow shoppers to touch the actual product.


Orangina, a carbonated citrus beverage, redesigned its product packaging to resemble the actual form of an orange to better communicate its taste to shoppers. SC Johnson´s baby lotion bottle is especially processed to feel soft hence, transmitting the main benefit of the product⁴.


Smell is one of our best developed sense. As human beings we are able to distinguish some 10,000 scent combinations and “memories triggered by scent retrieval cues (are) rated as more emotional“¹.


Retailers widely recognized the influence of scent on variety-seeking behavior, product evaluation, and ultimately sales. Home Depot for example introduced a scent of fresh grass in its stores to drive sales of gardening equipment.


According to The New York Times, 81% of shoppers prefer a scented over a none-scented packaging for food & beverage products⁵. Technologies such as Rub’nSmell can give the shopper an actual hint on how the packaged product might taste and hence, increase the chance of trial for newly launched products.


Sounds are widely applied in marketing from jingles and signature sounds to ambient music. As researchers have proven, music clearly affects shoppers´mood and influences purchasing decisions.


Retailers and fashion boutiques long ago recognized the potential of music. Slow music decreases the actual speed of shoppers in a retail store while upbeat pop music works better at apparel stores creating a positive feeling.


Potato chip manufacturers are designing their very own “crunch” sound to improve perceived product quality. Apart from the product, packaging itself can have a very distinct sound which enables customers to instantly recognize a product (i.e. Tupperware).


Taste is a rather poorly developed sense. We can merely distinguish five different nuances namely, bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and umami¹.  However, we compensate by using our other four senses to judge a product´s quality.


Some retailers offer their clients sweets at the cashier. Other more exclusive boutiques such as Tiffany await their shoppers with a glass of champagne to make the shopping experience more pleasurable.


Sampling is a common technique for product launches in the food & beverage category. Giving the shopper a chance to try a product before actually buying it is still a widely applied marketing tool.



Scent synthesizers, 3D printers and haptic pads might be an opportunity in the future, but are too far-fetched today. Nevertheless, online retailers and manufacturers can already make use sensory marketing in the two following ways:

  1. Offline marketing – Digital companies are not restricted to online marketing. They can use the very same tools that traditional retailers and manufactures apply. Simon Harrop mentions in his blog the example of using field marketing by giving away branded mini bottles of sun cream to create craving for traveling among potential clients³.
  2. Delivery – The article further argues, the physical delivery of a product should provide a sensory experience to shoppers. Actually all five senses can be stimulated with a simple redesign of the secondary package. Instead of the typical beige cardboard box, goods can be shipped in scented design boxes and contain some treat as a surprise for shoppers.


Both offline and online companies can create sensory shopping experiences for their customers. Generating a multi-sensory brand experience not only increases perceived value but also augments the likelihood of positively remembering the product or service. For some commodities it might be sufficient to stimulate a few senses. For other companies, sensory marketing might be a feasible way to distinguish from competitors by creating unique and unforgettable shopping experiences.


What brand do you remember for its sensory experience?

Share your favorite products with us by commenting below.






⁴ Stahlberg, M. (2012). Shopper Marketing – How to Increase Purchase Decisions at the Point of Sale, Second Edition. London, England: Kogan Page Limited.