Mohamed Latib, Ph.D, Founder & CEO of CX University, USA
Customer experience has nowadays become the chief differentiator among competing businesses. Many companies have therefore started to adopt design principles that engage all the five senses of the customer, thus delivering a ‘gestalt’ experience. The significant part played by the human senses in influencing customer experience was determined in a research conducted recently. This particular area of research is also known as the study of ‘embodies cognitions’ or marketing based on senses. This kind of study-based marketing is becoming more popular as it influences how businesses go about understanding their customers at an intimate level that not only helps drive business but also results in acquisition and retention of customers. Moreover, it creates a sense of loyalty among customers that has long-term benefits on revenue and profitability. To put it simply, what this means is that as businesses develop their customer journey strategies in the digital environment, key ‘sensory’ design principles should be made an integral part of the blue print.
Every point of contact with the brand presents businesses with opportunities to influence the behavior of customers. The contact can be on a website, in a store, during a telephone conversation in a call center, or even while using a product of the brand. This approach allows the communication to be taken to a whole new level where it appeals to the deep subconscious elements of human minds. Most importantly, it offers amazing opportunities to impact the way customers think, feel and act at the point of experience. These sensory engagements must be carried out as a part of ‘after purchase engagement’ too. To create better perceptions of products and services, marketers have been experimenting by appealing to the five human senses in creative, interesting and surprising ways.
Chuck Jones1, Chief Design and R&D officer at Rubbermaid, says that they pay close to the ‘hand’ or ‘feel’ of packaging material for their pens, the sounds of the paper unfolding, and the way the package opens as an unveiling (and extremely pleasant) mystery. Even a potato chip has the properties of sound (crunching), taste, smell, sight (packaging) and touch (Krishna2). Creating an ambiance of sensory engagement is crucial for staging positive experiences. Even in a digital web journey, a sense of ‘taste’ can be developed by using the right language and visuals. As an example, let us consider the florists who do their business online. They can create emotionally powerful connections with their users by marketing their products with words like ‘vibrant colours’, ‘delightful fragrances’ instead of cliches like ‘beautiful flowers.’ Even supermarkets nowadays have introduced smell in their stores to drive more sales, for example, the scent in Nike stores has increased the propensity to spend. The colour theme, space configurations and furniture decor in the Cleveland Metropolitan Library has created more visitors and readers. Williams and Ackerman3 gives us strong evidence of the value of this sensory strategy. Bed Bath & Beyond too designs customers’ journeys to experience their way through curtains, linens, and other home furnishings, thereby creating a homely atmosphere of familiarity. Whole Foods is another company that is highlighting organic feel by offering taste stations all over their outlets. Touching and tasting food products builds a sense of trust in customers.
The evidence is quite compelling and indicates that creating or developing a memorable experience through engagement of the senses is an innovative strategy, which professionals should adopt to enhance customer experience. Pirch is an example of a company that has taken the purchase of kitchen and bath products to an entirely different sensory level, which appeals to all the sensory touch points. These examples all highlight the importance of design thinking. Kolko4 states that applying these principles that embody the maximum number of senses would lead to a responsive and flexible customer-centric organization culture. Creating a customer-centric culture is the top most priority for an engaged organization.