Using the Five Senses to Connect With Consumers During the Holiday Season

Why the Environment Plays an Important Role in Purchase Decisions

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As we approach the holiday shopping season, all eyes are on influencing consumers' purchase decisions. But it is no longer effective to just create a cross-channel campaign. Having so many messages hitting people's devices continuously may not be helping them recall your brand but instead may be causing a good case of ADD.

Here is where context comes in. Location, time of day, weather, mindset, and even our intentions create contextual ecosystems that lead people to take action. If brands become contextual planners, it then becomes possible to cozy up to consumers for a real conversation, and transaction. In order to get into consumers' heads and hearts, we must not only analyze the audience itself but also the environment, state of mind, and personal passion points at specific moments. It can be as simple as connecting with the five senses.

Sight

With audiences increasingly on the move, everything starts and ends at location. The difference in attention in accepting a message is directly dependent upon what is happening around you. If you're sitting in a movie theater, for instance, you are much more likely to watch a compelling trailer before the film begins. If you are at a live concert, you will be keener to interact with brands that let you capture and share your experience on social media. As a matter of fact, user-generated content is closely tied to location as it increases the intent of sharing. Snapchat filters, location tags on Instagram or Facebook all present opportunities for brands to drive customers to their point of sale, whether it's brick and mortar or online. Whatever people see and love, they'll be using social media to share it, helping other users discover the best spots and plan their itinerary.

Touch

Think about the last time you got stuck in the rain without an umbrella. Undoubtedly, this changed your mood. A tactile element, such as the weather, plays a huge role in decision-making. Your state of being cold vs. comfortable or wet vs. dry could very quickly impact what and how you purchase, or whether you purchase anything at all.

As consumers tap to search and tap to buy -- and with products becoming digitized, from apparel to packaged goods -- brands will need to further contextualize their messages in order to address personal needs. Even more so now that smart touch is being taken to a cellular level and onto our skin. For example, MIT and Microsoft have brought to life a smart tattoo, which serves as an on-body interface, allowing it to be used as a button to control your phone -- and possibly soon connected environments.

Hearing

Audibility is the new viewability. Music is the soundtrack of our lives and platforms like Mood Media are taking advantage of it by providing shoppers with the opportunity to create in-store, traceable playlists. With this virtual remote, customers can view live song lineups and select songs to play, allowing for interactivity, customization, and ultimately a more impactful retail experience. Spotify's Weekly Discover Playlists have also proved to be a success at understanding its listeners on a deep and personal level. When your favorite song comes on the radio or you hear a tune that was popular when you were a teenager, it can often trigger feelings and memories.

Smell

One-to-one communication doesn't always need to be visible. Our sense of smell is closely linked to memory, possibly more so than any of our other senses, and it also influences choice, thoughts, and emotions in the present term -- particularly when shopping. It wouldn't be hard to sniff out a mall's Abercrombie & Fitch from yards away. The well-known scent not only lures young consumers into the store but provides for a compelling brand association that is unforgettable.

Other destinations, like hotels, seek to provide visceral experiences for guests -- many even commission signature fragrances, hoping to transport them long after their stays. These scents are developed to reach the inner depths of guests' emotions and the environments they're retreating to. For example, the Viceroy New York's scent mixes the dark woods and leather of the hotel with the energy of Manhattan, while the Ritz-Carton Washington celebrates the city's famous cherry blossom in its fragrance.

Taste

If you went to visit a friend and sat down in their kitchen, they would respectfully offer you a drink or something to eat. So, how does that translate at retail? Advertising and trade marketing need to go hand-in-hand to win shoppers. A beacon-activated, in-store campaign, for instance, will be even more effective if combined with a food demo where people can taste the products.

Scanning for what's next

Establishing an emotional connection through the contextual experience is only one part of the job. For audiences to act on it and for brands to convert the immersion into value, there needs to be an active touchpoint across the journey: mobile scanning. NFC, QR codes, and beacons have acted as quick responses for consumers to interact with brands across verticals. We've seen our phones scan for songs and search for nutritional information on food packaging. Snapcodes have made it simple to add friends. Imagine if airline partners could entice flyers to scan items around the airport in order to earn points. Consumers, already lounging around pre-flight, would be lured to make more purchases at duty-free shops.

The next generation of the barcode is here, and there is infinite opportunity for brand loyalty and omnichannel shopping.