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Sensory perception in customer experience

Coke, coca-colaFor retailers, a key link exists between shape, colour, texture, sound and taste. It’s a complex and intriguing intersection of senses that influences, impacts on, and determines consumer perceptions, expectations, purchase patterns and satisfaction.

Collectively, these factors offer an entirely new and insightful understanding of the much-touted phrase, ‘customer experience’.

For example, coffee served in a transparent glass is considered and accepted as being less intense (in street language that means “not as strong”) than that which is served in china cups and mugs.

Soft drinks that feature a dominance of white in their packaging are perceived to be less sugar-laden.

Overall, the typically plain packaging of private label products in supermarkets projects images and establishes expectations that such will be of lower quality than recognisably branded competitors.

The nature and importance of sensory perception are recognised, respected and utilised by global brand leaders such as Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Red Bull.

Jewellers display their wares on colours of black and regal purple to create a positive ambience for select product ranges.

Interestingly, male deodorants seem more masculine when the sound of a spray mechanism is louder. The ingredients and formula seem to be secondary considerations in establishing an image and brand profile.

Thus, consumer perceptions about the shopping experience are often a composition of contextual aspects, rather than the specifics of the product, service or application. Images of companies, brands and people are often determined by the inordinate wait-times and multiple steps involved in negotiating an automatic telephone answering system, rather than the personal and professional service extended by a caring gracious individual.

It’s a ‘waity’ issue, worthy of consideration by business owners and senior executives who do not themselves have daily or regular interactions with customers and clients.

It makes sense, and lots of dollars, to give heightened consideration to sensory perceptions and the roles they play in multi-dimensional customer experiences.

Barry Urquhart runs Marketing Focus and is a business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and keynote speaker. He can be contacted at or on 0419 835 555. 

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