The recent growth in online grocery sales presents a challenge in areas such as new product development or new brand launches as consumers are denied the usual in-store experiences that can prompt purchase, but the use of sensory-charged video and sound can help.

It’s true that the surge in e-commerce during lockdown has been accompanied by consumer willingness to switch brands, although that’s often been an involuntary decision dictated by availability – and people still know more or less what they’re getting.

But how do you encourage first-time product trial in an environment where people are being asked to make buying decisions with only a fraction of the usual influences available in an in-store environment? The lack of physicality in digital channels – the “sensory gap” – can raise levels of perceived risk for consumers in buying situations.

It’s necessary, then, to create what Mark Clouse, CEO of The Campbell Soup Company, calls “a unique dynamic” to encourage impulse purchase in the e-commerce space.

The use of video is central, says MMR’s Andy Wardlaw, but it has to be more than the basic showcasing of product credentials which, up to now, has generally been the norm.

He looks to the example of Lays, the PepsiCo-owned potato chips brand, which used the power of sound – its signature crunch – across social media channels to drive a 17% increase in sales on e-commerce channels.

There’s huge potential in sensory-charged video and sound, according to Wardlaw. Writing for WARC, he demonstrates his point with MMR’s recent work for Biotiful Dairy’s range of kefir products.

Kefir, a cultured milk drink originating from the Caucasus Mountains, faced high levels of consumer resistance in the UK which boiled down to a lack of true understanding of the product experience. That situation was arguably not helped by previous communications which had urged people not to fear the product.

To improve matters, MMR set out to build comprehension and elicit an impulsive desire for kefir with a new sensory-led product description and sensory-charged video for deployment across the brand’s website, social media and e-commerce representation.

The resulting combination of moving images and audible ‘triggers’ aimed for something that stands up as a brand experience rather than being just another TV ad.

Does it work though? A 10-second edit used in a simulated online supermarket test was shown to boost brand share by seven points and to significantly increase memorability and distinctiveness.

“Given the trends we’re seeing in Asia and the likelihood of western retailers like Walmart and Tesco offering video in the months to come, the onus is now on leading brands to find ways to close the sensory gap and perform better online,” Wardlaw writes.

For more details, read Andy Wardlaw’s article in full: Bridging the sensory gap for better brand experiences online.

Sourced from WARC