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What Really Influences You to Make a Purchase?

Print and The Neuroscience of Touch

While shopping, you're encouraged to pick-up, play with, and touch the merchandise. Smell the flowers, feel the fabric, try something on. Smart marketers have long known that once a customer touches a product, they're much more likely to purchase that product. Are you familiar with the study of haptics, also known as the science of touch? You might be surprised to learn how powerful the influence is between the sense of touch, customer perception, and the brand experience. After all, it's common sense . . . we all know a cashmere sweater feels better than polyester, and none of us are surprised that it's more expensive.

A distinguishing quality that many successful brands have in common is their mastery of haptics—leveraging the science of touch to create impactful marketing experiences that positively attaches their brand to the customer. The human touch is a powerful form of non-verbal communication. It plays a fundamental role in daily life, from learning about our surroundings to communicating with others. Remember the old saying, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?" Meaning, if we have something in our possession, it tends to have more value. This is also known as the Endowment Effect: the realization that people assign more value to things merely because they own them. We see this example all the time with unsold items on eBay; even though eBay allows you to search for items that have successfully sold, and at what price, people still try to list items for a higher minimum bid than history might suggest they are worth. Why? Because they perceive these items have a higher value simply because they own them.

Print and the Endowment Effect

According to Stanford University researcher Dr. David Eagleman, studies have shown that even the simple act of touching objects, like catalogs, brochures and direct mail pieces, can trigger the endowment effect, subconsciously increasing the perceived value of both brand and product in the eyes of the customer. Think about it: by just touching a brochure or catalog page, the perceived value of the pictured product or service is elevated in the mind of the customer.

The sense of touch is very powerful! In fact, a single touch can alter one's impression of a person, place, or product. This phenomenon is called incidental touch, and it works like this: Let's say we're conducting an interview. If we're holding a resume printed on heavy weight paper, we're more likely to perceive this candidate in higher esteem. If the resume is on lighter stock or flimsy paper, we're more likely to view the candidate as less worthy, or not nearly as deserving of consideration.

A recent study performed by the Eagleman Lab at Stanford took these findings further, discovering that even paper quality makes a difference. In this case, participants were more likely to recall information printed on high-quality papers rather than lower-quality stocks.

The National Institute of Health also sponsored research on incidental touch with fascinating results: Given the fact that heavier, more high quality papers and substrates create more positive responses to printed communications, the addition of tactile enhancements such as spot UV, textured UV, and textured/raised foils, created even more enhanced sensations that stimulate interaction and elevated both the end-user experience as well as the response to the offer. Therefore creating higher response rates and recall, as well as a deeper connections between the brand, the message, and the consumer.

The mere fact that our judgement can be significantly influenced by a momentary touch of enhanced printed materials has tremendous implications. The studies mentioned above, along with others, have found that communication through physical media, particularly print, is more likely to lead to improved recall than communication via digital media alone.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published a piece entitled, "The Science of Sensory Marketing." HBR pointed out that "New research suggests that we're entering an era where more consumer products companies will be taking advantage of sense-based marketing."

Much of the new research centers around the idea that without our conscious awareness, our bodily sensations help determine the decisions we make. According to Adam Brasel, an associate professor of marketing at Boston College, Marketing researchers are, "starting to realize how powerful the responses to no conscious stimuli can be." At the 2014 Association for Consumer Research's North American conference, Brasel heard more papers on sensory research presented than at any previous conference. That same year, the Journal of Consumer Psychology published a special issue on embodiment and sensory perception, with a focus on how sensory inputs can drive consumer behavior.

First impressions are everything, and using the sense of touch can help ensure your first impression is a good one.

Contact Us today to learn how enhanced print can be integrated into your marketing plan.


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