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How digital sensory marketing is key to appealing to today’s consumer

Technology & Data

How digital sensory marketing is key to appealing to today’s consumer


Will Griffith explores how marketers can adapt sensory marketing – utilising senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch in a digital context.

2020 is a year of reckoning for marketers like no other. Against the backdrop of global economic uncertainty heightened by the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a spotlight on those accountable to the people they serve, and marketers to consumers have not been exempt. For many, it has been a wake-up call to adapt digitally to suit the needs of today’s omnichannel consumer.

The pandemic has forced brands to revisit their marketing strategies because as we now look to the recovery phase, there is so much more at stake. Whilst looking for new ways to reinvent themselves and embrace a whole new type of customer, marketers must forget the buzzwords and get back to basics by appealing to the five senses of consumers to drive the path to purchase.

Sensory marketing is traditionally associated with engaging in-store consumers, however, what if marketers can appeal to the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch in a digital context?

For example, visual sensory is mostly used to connect with consumers online. Evolving technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented reality and the Internet of things (loT) are now key to building more interactive, immersive and informative online shopping experiences. Marketing tactics that target any of the five senses provide ample opportunity for brands to enhance their marketing objectives, action consumer insights and develop attractive creative to appeal to today’s consumer.


Consumer’s attention spans are dwindling and for digital marketers, appealing to the sense of sight has become increasingly competitive. Marketers must go beyond traditional techniques like bold colours, logos, videos, and website design and integrate the latest technologies into their strategies. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are gaining huge popularity because, for the first time, consumers are in full control of the interaction. As active participants, they can reinvent the real-life environment and try various combinations before making a choice to buy.

From virtual catwalks, vehicle demos to testing make-up using face-tracking algorithms, AR and VR make shopping online easier and more accessible for consumers, especially when content is personalised to the user’s needs. AR provides a richer user experience that is more likely to increase consumers’ perceived value of products and brands. VR helps build trust between a brand and consumer, which is crucial during the ‘try before you buy’ phase.


Engaging the sense of touch in a digital context is difficult and has led to widespread webrooming and showrooming. These tactics make it harder for retailers to convert impulse shoppers but help provide the customer with their preferred shopping experience. loT intertwined with AR and VR encourages mental simulation among consumers. In other words, imagining taking a specific action like using a product. Brands should also consider the use of multi-gesture apps and direct touch effects – like pinching and scrunching a material – to drive conversions online.


Atmospherics in music, sound effects and voice-overs influence consumer behaviour by triggering emotion and memory. Recent industry research has found that nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of consumers globally find that “music lifts [their] mood”. Many companies have an ‘audio’ brand to accompany their visual identity, namely music played in stores, jingles and so forth. The same goes for digital. Whether it be digital ads, social media videos or embedded music on a website, marketers must select music that aligns with their brand messaging. A primary example is the affiliation of luxury brands with classical music.

Brands can successfully evoke emotion through sound at every customer touchpoint by treating them as colours (e.g. joy as yellow, grief as blue). Emotions exist on a spectrum and marketing can be truly effective if brands define which emotions they are trying to elicit from the outset. Do not underestimate the power of emotional marketing. Many decisions we make each day are dictated by how we’re feeling in the moment.

Smell and taste

Our sense of smell is tied to the part of the brain involved in motivation, emotion and memory. Therefore, it can affect how consumers behave and what they remember about a branded experience. Interestingly, when it comes to in-store shopping, scent can lead to a 28 percent emotional level increase in consumers, according to an independent sensory marketing study from Mood Media. Depending on the product, digital marketers can create and display images and use emotive language in a way that stimulates mental images of its texture, smell and even flavour. Scented packaging is also a key tool, allowing brands to develop a personalised smell which can be applied across the product range to help strengthen the brand identity as a whole or promote individual products.

While the pandemic is a passing moment in time, brands will be remembered by how they supported their consumers in a time of need. Marketers must become more innovative in their approach to connecting with their target audience using real time data and the latest technologies. Central to this is creating multisensory experiences akin to a service and which ultimately integrate the brand into consumers’ everyday lives.

But before this, marketers must have their finger on the pulse in terms of understanding and engaging their customers in real time, which is where the right technology partner is invaluable.

Will Griffith is vice president & general manager APJ at Tealium and has over 20 years of marketing, advertising and data technology experience at organisations such as Oracle and Adobe’s Marketo.

[1] Mood Media, 2019, Quantifying the impact of sensory marketing.

Photo by Vero Photoart on Unsplash.


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