Digital sensory marketing: involving the consumer through multisensory experiences – Digital Psychology
Sensory marketing uses the senses to create experiences that bind consumers to the product or brand; these experiences generate beliefs, emotions, behaviors that guide the consumer and his purchase intentions.
DIGITAL PSYCHOLOGY – (Nr. 12) Digital sensory marketing: involving the consumer through multisensory experiences
What is sensory marketing? Sometimes defined sensory branding (more precisely: sensory branding refers to the model, sensory marketing to the techniques used), sensory marketing is an approach, a model and a marketing strategy that uses visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile marketing strategies. and gustatory to capture the attention and involve the consumer: the senses are stimulated – one or more at the same time – to create an emotional and cognitive connection and, consequently, influence the behavior and decision-making process towards a product (Hultén, 2020). According to this perspective, our experience with products is inextricably linked to our senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch, all the senses can be exploited to make us live unique and meaningful experiences.
The sensory marketing approach brings together neurobiology, social psychology, behavioral economics. As is often the case in marketing, it is a multidisciplinary vision that drives the creation of models. This is not something new: for decades advertising as well as shops have appealed to our senses, especially to sight, to attract us and make us perceive a product or brand positively with widely used techniques: when we enter an Apple store or by Abercrombie & Fitch, to give some examples, we are enveloped by an experience that also involves us on a sensorial level (visual and tactile in the first case, even olfactory in the second).
As Schwarz’s (1990) feeling-as-information perspective suggested, people use sensory experience – seeing, touching, smelling, hearing and tasting a product – to form an emotional assessment of it, as well as an internal representation. how the product actually is.
How does this process happen?
To better explain this phenomenon, embodied cognition comes to our aid. It presupposes that physical and sensory experiences contribute to the formation of mental representations. Let’s take an example: while drinking a Coca-Cola, all perceptions and experiences formulated during this interaction are stored as a multimodal representation in memory (for example, the appearance and texture of the can, the motor action of grasping the can , the touch of the cold can, the feeling of freshness, etc.). In addition, once the representation has formed, when the perceptual stimulus reappears, for example when we see a Coca-Cola on a supermarket shelf, the previous experience and the emotions connected to it are recalled. Yet, even online re-exposure to the same product can trigger the spontaneous recall (or ’embodied mental simulations’) of those multisensory representations. These perceptual re-enactments involve some of the same brain areas active during previous experiences, which, in turn, can produce similar sensations (Florack and Palcu, 2017).
According to the theory of embodied cognition, cognitive processes are grounded in bodily states and processing systems specific to the sensory modality. If consumers’ experiences are based on the integration of sensory inputs that then influence their judgment and behavior, then involving the senses can effectively influence decision making.
If we think of our five senses, of what we see, hear, hear, smell, touch, we certainly don’t think of digital contexts where interactions are limited and / or mediated by interfaces. But this doesn’t mean that the senses stop affecting cognition in the online environment – cognitive activity is still supported by sensory systems.
Sensory perceptions can be evoked through special devices: digital interactive technologies, and in particular SET, sensory-enabling technologies, technologies that ‘enable the senses’ and provide sensory . SETs include devices that are already popular such as headsets and touchscreens, as well as a whole host of other new technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and digital interfaces that even reproduce tastes and smells. Most still subject to experimentation, SETs produce sensory properties of a product (for example, taste or texture).
At the moment most of the available SETs act on sight: visual-enabling technologies, visual enabling technologies such as views larger or from multiple angles (super close-up; zoom in / out, views from 2-3 angles, view Interactive 3D at every corner by dragging with the mouse) and virtual try-ons (VTO), which like virtual mirrors allow you to try on clothes through an avatar with our features. These technologies allow you to zoom in on the product, rotate it and view it from a variety of different angles making the online experience more engaging, enjoyable and fun.
Some people feel the need to touch a product or to imagine touching it: this need is called need for touch (NFT). The NFT varies according to individuals and based on the tactile properties of products: for example, it is more salient for objects that have some properties more relevant than others (e.g. shape, size and structure). In addition to sight, the researchers are also focusing on touch with interfaces that simulate touch via mouse and touchscreen with very high texture and sensitivity. There are already devices that allow you to simulate tactile experiences such as Shoogleit, which allows the user to virtually pinch and ‘rub’ a section of the tissue by acting with the fingertips on a tablet (Cano et al., 2017). Vibrotactile interfaces are also available,
Taste also has its own dedicated technology: MetaCookie +, an augmented reality device that allows you to change the perceived taste of food, such as a biscuit, by virtually manipulating its appearance and spreading additional odor (for example of chocolate) through the Edible Marker systems. and Pseudo-gustation which detect in real time the status of each piece of food and change the perceived taste of the food by changing its appearance and aroma (Narumi et. Al, 2011).
Even more immersive is the Season Traveler, a wearable Head Mounted Display (HMD) system that reproduces smells, heat and wind to simulate environmental conditions of different landscapes while virtually exploring them (Ranasinghe et. Al, 2018).
We know that our cognitions are embodied, that all our experiences are mediated by the senses; we talked about what they can do, what value the use of sensory marketing techniques, including the use of digital interfaces, can have for marketers; depending on the objectives and results to be achieved, the type of experience to be offered to consumers can be customized; what if they don’t want to?
Petit and collaborators (2019) speak of ‘sensotype’, that is the unique combination of sensory stimulation level beyond which the latter is excessive and annoying. Understanding when the level of connection and realism is optimal is necessary to avoid cognitive and sensory overload and create positive and engaging experiences, without the risk of boring the consumer.
New technologies will increase the feeling of being immersed in increasingly convincing virtual environments and experiences, promoting new ways of interacting with products.
However, these are still prototypes and futuristic scenarios. There are many limitations to overcome, such as individual differences in taste perception, or in NFT, but also technical challenges (for example, taste sensations are more difficult to arouse than tactile ones).
So if these technologies are still far from being in common and daily use, they suggest new ways of interacting with consumers online in the near future.
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