The Power of Emotion: Connecting with Consumers Through Sensory Retail

Written by Owen Wright

21 March 2019

Image Credit: Mel Yates

Continuing our Future of Retail series, we explore the transformative qualities of sensory retail and outline why it’s more important than ever to connect with consumers on an emotional level. 

Emotional Connection

The importance of sensory stimulation cannot be underestimated in the consumer purchasing journey. From Don Norman to Dunne & Raby, designers and psychologists have long studied how stimulating the senses can elicit strong emotional responses.

Our predominantly digital existence sees consumers increasingly crave and seek out sensory experiences that spark joy, surprise and delight.

Physical Retail Needs to Get More Physical

Brands who have pivoted away from traditional store formats are finding success in creating environments that:

  • Actively encourage shoppers to be hands on with products in-store
  • Creatively combine light, sound, scent and texture to elevate the brand experience
  • Are designed to be flexible and easily adapted to create new sensory experiences over time
  • Apply sensory context to the products on offer


Dyson ‘Demo Store’

Image Credit: WilkinsonEyre

Dyson, one of the world’s leading home appliance manufacturers, identified this opportunity early, launching their first ‘Demo Store’ on London’s Oxford Street in 2016. In the two-floor retail space Dyson display their product portfolio, actively encouraging customers to interact with them. As a visitor you can pick from sixty-four types of dust or debris, pour it onto four different floor types and clean up the mess using a Dyson vacuum of your choice. Experiencing products first hand, visitors are bought into the benefits and features through:

 Image Credit Left to Right: Pop Sugar, Luke Westaway/CNET, Dyson

The company now offers a salon experience where customers can get hands-on and test Dyson’s new range of haircare products. Finding success in the store’s format the company has since continued to open new locations across the globe from Toronto to Dubai.

The White Company

Image Credit: Household

Lifestyle brand The White Company collaborated with Household in 2017 to develop their store format, ‘The Sleep Studio’. The goal of ‘The Sleep Studio’ is to bring a sensory service experience to customers revolving around ‘touch’. Navigating through their ‘7 Steps to a Perfect Night’s Sleep’ process consumers can test and purchase beds, headboards, mattresses, toppers, duvets, linen and pillows.

Oversized swatch books invite shoppers to take four tests: Touch, Rest, Comfort and Wrap. For ‘The Wrap’ test customers wrap themselves in duvets to check the size, weight, feel and ‘lovability’ factor. This simple interaction is a powerful emotive driver that puts the user in the mindset of how they will feel at home using the product.

Beyond the Basics

Brands that can identify ways to break from the mould and offer shoppers an immersive sensory experience will enjoy success in the years to come. Expect to see sensory retail become more sophisticated as innovators seek to deliver unique experiences that go above and beyond to delight customers.

In our next post, we’ll share the retailers who are successfully encouraging consumers to invest more of their time instore. Sign up to our monthly Trend Updates to read the full blog series and stay in the know on the latest emerging trends.


Written by Owen Wright

Owen joined the team as Trend Researcher in 2017 and supports the Strategy and Insight team delivering bespoke consultancy to brands and manufacturers. He previously worked as an innovation specialist at Godfrey Syrett. He has a degree in Industrial and Product Design from the University of Teeside.

Easy to digest, visually inspiring, and just the right dose of information.

Webb deVlam

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