Many studies have shown that the colour red has a positive effect on people’s behaviour – those who submitted a picture to an online dating site were more likely to be selected if they were wearing red. Another study, investigating the colour of painted walls in rooms, showed that whereas red enhanced people’s performance on detail-orientated tasks, green and blue walls encouraged people to be more creative.
It appears that what we touch and what we sit on can also affect how we behave. Sensory researchers found that when we touch hard objects and are then asked to judge people, we’re more likely to be ‘harder’ in our opinions of them. Taking this further, in a negotiation to buy a car, those people who sat on a hard chair were far more inflexible in their haggling, literally playing hard-ball in the discussions.
Why should this be the case and what are the implications in the commercial world? To make sense of the world and guide you through it, your brain uses external sensory cues to try and match things together and take the ‘best’ course of action, so smell (the oldest human sense) exerts a big influence of how we feel about an environment and event. Matching smell and sight actually influences our perception of an event – we actually smell rose scent more strongly if we see a red rose, and many restaurateurs (most notably Heston Blumenthal) have used smell and sound to enhance the flavours of the food they serve.
We have carried out lots of customer experience research that shows how changing sensory elements of a customer experience can deliver significant ‘marginal gains’, including the impact of what sales staff wear (its colour and style); different fragrances and colour in different retail zones to encourage browsing or buying; the use of music to speed up or slow down customer flow through certain areas; and the use of different floor materials to influence buyer behaviour.
Science shows that customers can be influenced both positively and negatively by all kinds of unconscious sensory influences during their buying journey. Most of these they will be completely unaware of, so asking them will never get to the truth. What’s needed is better investigation of the marginal gains that can be made depending on the particular part of the customer journey they are experiencing. Then we can design customer experiences so that customers feel better (increasing ‘dwell time’, driving purchase, loyalty and retention), and businesses reap the benefits in terms of sales, profit and customer satisfaction.
You can read more about our research approach and the importance of using of biometrics to understand your customers. Our how we help page can guide you through our approach