Performance in People - Mystery Shopping


How do the senses influence the customer experience?

Friday 8th March 2019

Research has shown that sensory influences such as smell, touch, sound and sight have an effect on what we do, how we feel and have an impact on every decision we make. The senses can therefore determine customer decisions and if organisations can find ways to tap into the senses, they will potentially have the ability to influence how a customer feels about their product or service.


80% of the sensory information the brain receives comes from the eyes – so the lighting in store environments can have a significant impact on how a customer feels. If a store appears to be bright and well-lit, it is more likely to promote positive feelings amongst customers. We can relate to this on a general note; when the clocks go forward and we gain an extra hour of daylight, we automatically feel better. If we think about when we go to the theatre, the majority of the performance relies heavily on the use of lighting to entertain the audience and going to the theatre is often considered an experience in itself! Businesses can also take advantage of our sight and use of lighting to draw attention to particular products and place products of interest at eye level to draw our attention.


Hearing is another one of the senses that can stimulate emotion and feelings; 75% of emotions are generated by sound. The right sounds can have a big impact! For example, when you go to the spa the music is calming and intends to help the customer relax. If businesses judge this wrong, sound can have the opposite effect. For example, studies have shown the faster the tempo of music in a restaurant, the less time the customer is likely to spend with you!


Taste is another sense that businesses can use to the influence the customer experience. Stores often offer product samples such as chocolates, herbal teas etc. used to entice customers to buy their product. Supermarkets have even been known to occupy a little stand at the end of the aisle for customers to try different products whilst they shop, making them spend a bit more time in their store, enhance their experience, and essentially spend more! It doesn’t stop there! It is not unknown for businesses to offer a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine as a ‘thank you’ for their purchase.


Scent plays a crucial role in our perceptions and can have a significant impact on a customer’s decision. There are strong links between smell and moods/feelings – both good and bad! Businesses can use scent to promote positive, welcoming feelings. When you walk into a beauty shop there is often a strong aroma of products e.g. bath bombs, shower gels and soaps. The same applies for a perfume store; a customer’s purchase relies heavily on whether we like the scent of the product. Furthermore, there are positive associations with the scent of a new car – customers seem to like this so much they buy air fresheners of a new car scent! There have been some interesting studies undertaken that prove the method of smell and consumer experiences; purchase intent increased by 80% when Nike stores added scent, and a petrol station convenience store increased coffee sales by 300% by pumping the smell of coffee through the store!


The ability to touch and feel a product has a big impact on how the customer feels about a product and increases the likelihood of making a purchase. If you think about the process of buying a new car, a big part of the customers decision is the comfort of the car and how it feels to drive. Similarly, most retail stores have fitting rooms for customers to try on clothes – did you know that shoppers who use a fitting room are 7 times more likely to make a purchase compared to those who simply browse the sales floor? A good product demonstration which incorporates the customer to use and handle the product themselves is critical in making that sale!

As we have explored, our sensory influences play an integral role in how a customer feels and if businesses get this right, this can have a considerable impact on the overall customer experience.

Performance in People (PiP) has been working with world-class brands for over 19 years to measure and improve levels of customer experience through Mystery Shopping, Customer Surveys, Training and Coaching. If you would like to find out more information, contact us. or 01983 568080

Mystery Shopping | Training | Audits | Customer Surveys

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