6 Sensory Branding Ideas to Grab Customers by Their Emotions

Create a memorable shopping experience — and boost revenue — by appealing to all five senses.
Scents can create an ambiance in your store and help drive sales. (Photo: Daria Minaeva/Shutterstock)

With the ease of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores need to go above and beyond to get customers in the door — and keep them coming back.

“Today’s consumers have higher expectations than ever before,” said Scott Moore, global senior vice president of marketing for Mood Media. “They have more choices, both online and offline, and they will choose to associate with brands that build the strongest personal and emotional connections.”

Marketing that appeals to customers’ emotions through the five senses, a concept known as sensory branding, will help etch your brand into shoppers’ minds.

“What we see, hear, smell, touch and taste at any business has a powerful effect on how that business is perceived, both consciously and unconsciously. Your sensory brand is not something you want to leave to chance,” said Moore.

Here are some sensory branding ideas that put customers in the mood to buy.

Limited, powerful signage

The visual elements of your store should make an impact with customers as soon as they walk in, said Moore. Everything from the fonts and colors to the style and size of the signs should have a consistent feel throughout your store.

“In the store itself, consider all customer traffic patterns and associated sightlines. Ask yourself, ‘What do I want my customers to see and experience when they are standing or sitting here?’”

While some promotional signage can alert customers to a sale or new product, Moore said you should balance this type of marketing with informative and welcoming graphics. “Of course promotional signage is powerful, but a little can go a long way, and too much can be off-putting. Consider a good balance of visual content that sells, informs, enhances and invites interaction.”’

He recommends investing in digital signage to maximize the flexibility of your messaging.


Music plays an essential role in setting the mood in your store, says Scott Moore, global senior vice president of marketing for Mood Media. (Photo: Scott Moore)

Play with your playlist

Sound is another way to strengthen shoppers’ relationship with your brand. Moore says music plays an essential role in setting the mood in your store.

“Music should be treated with the same level of consistent respect and care as the company logo. Define the mood you want to establish and the experience you want to create.”

Decide what genres of music fit your brand and your target customers. A fast-fashion store for teens may opt for Top 40 hits, while an upscale home goods retailer might stream jazz or classical music.

Adjust your playlist to match the ebb and flow of traffic in your store. “Adapt the music by times of day and changes in energy or customer flow,” Moore said. “Music might need to change for the weekend as well, but the core elements of your sound should always stay true to your brand personality or mood.”

Welcome touching

The sense of touch is frequently overlooked in retail environments, but it’s important, said Moore.

“Presenting merchandise in a way that invites customers to touch and feel products is a powerful way to create the most basic connection and interaction between customers and products.”

Display products with tactile elements, such as fluffy sweaters, smooth candlesticks or beaded jewelry, within easy reach. When the product feels nice in their hand, customers are more likely to take it home.

Keep the store tidy so customers are more tempted to touch. “This also crosses over with our visual sense, as things that don’t appear clean can create negative touch perceptions, like dirty windows and door handles. You want your customers to sense that they can comfortably be hands-on with your business and your products.”

Select a scent

The sense of smell is strongly tied to memory and can be used to increase the likelihood of sales. One study found that sales of women’s apparel doubled when “feminine scents,” like vanilla, were present in the store. Similar results for men’s products were found when rose maroc, a “masculine scent” (with spicy floral tones), was used.

Moore said retail businesses can enhance sales by spraying or diffusing a fragrance that matches the mood of their brand.

“Retail stores have endless options when it comes to specific scents they can utilize. Fragrances that are fresh and clean can help create a more relaxing and inviting environment. Herbal and organic scents can invigorate and convey a personality that is down to earth.”

Once you’ve found a signature scent, use it for a while. Give customers plenty of time to begin associating that smell with your store.

“Creating a level of consistency with scent is important. Stick to a plan for the scent that you deploy to establish and leverage the memorable factor. But it’s okay to make a seasonal change now and then.”


(Photo: Nuno Monteiro/Shutterstock)

Consider food and drink

Realtors know the secrets to making a house seem homier, such as simmering potpourri on the stove or baking cookies so the scent wafts through the house. Some realtors go out of their way when it comes to offering small bites and drinks.

Retail stores can follow suit.

“Nothing says ‘warm and welcoming’ better than some chocolate chip cookies. Simply offering cold water says ‘relaxed and refreshing,’” said Moore.

At holiday time, mulled hot apple cider can lend an appealing aroma and also warm up shoppers coming in from the cold.

Shoppers will remember these intimate details and be more inclined

to make future trips to your store.

Offer experiences

Special experiences will connect your store with customers on a deeper level, and if they allow your customers to handle your products, even better.
“Experiential activities can make sensory components of the brand more immediate and personal, and they’re inherently interactive,” said Moore.

The activity could be a cooking class that allows shoppers to handle your cookware, a climbing wall that lets your sporting goods patrons take your climbing shoes for a spin or a quilting or knitting class that lets customers handle your yarn.

“Experiential doesn’t mean you have to create a big event. All the little things working together consistently build the total experience. To do that well, you have to know your brand and have a vision for what you want that experience to be. Then focus on what it takes to execute across all touch points.”

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