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Lost in Sensation: The Multi-Sensory Experience of Wearing New Shoes

Crunch of a Kit-Kat. Bubbling of Coke. Slurp of a Jell-O. Smell of freshly brewed coffee. Microsoft Windows’ startup sound. Swipe of a VISA card.


As marketing and UI/UX gurus would say, the experience of using a product stays in consumers’ memory when their senses are activated while using the product (read more about it here).

While most brands traditionally focus on the visual aspect of product design, there is a growing interest in providing a multi-sensory experience to clients, through experiments with sonic branding, scent branding, and other experiential marketing techniques



For example, a few years back, VISA rolled out sensory elements such as sound, animation and vibration cues to signify a completed transaction in digital and retail environments, representing ‘speed and convenience’ of service (read more about it here).


We studied if the experiential/sensorial experiences of consumers could be detected when they spoke about sneakers.


We studied 37,738 reviews of the most popular sneakers on a leading e-commerce website. We were amazed by the range of adjectives used to describe the sensory experience of wearing shoes! Sharing our key insights below.


SOUNDS: FROM NINJA QUIET TO ANNOYING TAPPING


One of the most popular concerns with the sonic aspect of sneakers seems to be “shoe squeak”.


With ‘Ninja Quiet’ being the benchmark, marking a good quality shoe and memorable user experience, to animal sounds such as hissing and squeaking, and beat sounds such as snapping, popping and tapping used to describe the sounds produced by sneakers!



We also found numerous home remedies and hacks recommended by users, from sprays, to wood, to baking powder and baby powder. It seems to be an age-old issue, and more of an irritation than shoe brands might appreciate.


SMELLS: FROM FRESH TO INORGANIC


If there’s one thing we don’t want to deal with in school or work is to sit next to someone with stinky feet, and even worse, be the one with stinky feet!


Shoe odour seems to be another popular concern with sneakers, the benchmark being “fresh like Tic-Tac” to the worst being smelling like plastic or chemicals.



Several home-remedies are offered to tackle this as well, including using baking soda, citrus foods, and odour sprays.


SIGHT: FROM SHARP ELEGANCE TO UGLY CLOWNISH


The visual design of shoes has definitely been emphasized more than the other sensory aspects of wearing shoes. Sneakers have become increasingly popular as lifestyle shoes and not restricted to athletes.


It’s not surprising, then, that many consumers review shoes basis their exterior design and how they look. Interestingly, the descriptions range from looking elegant, sleek, stylish and modern, to looking faded, clunky, ugly, and even clownish!



FEEL: FROM FAMILIAR TO UNSTABLE


Finally, when it comes to the feel of a shoe, perhaps the most important element contributing to the overall experience and satisfaction of wearing new sneakers, we found that the positive reviews talk about the shoes being well-cushioned, comfortable, sturdy and light, while the negative reviews talk about the shoes feeling flimsy, snug, squishy, hard, heavy, slippery and even unstable.



Whoever thought that wearing sneakers could be a sensory carnival, right?

Sneaker brands typically sell their products by highlighting their features, benefits, and price. Going through the customer reviews on sneakers made us realize the multi-sensory nature of being truly comfortable and satisfied with one’s shoes.

As Donald Norman writes in The Design of Everyday Things’, “Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.


We learned from our analysis of sneaker reviews that the same holds true for shoes, where the luxury of experiencing no smell and no sound are benchmarks of a quality product! Further, it’s evident that in addition to functionality and comfort, consumers also care about the exterior design of sneakers.


All of this shows us that sneaker brands have the opportunity to invest in curating a more conscious multi-sensorial experience, beyond just immersive retail outlets.

The ideal shoe is, therefore: Quiet like a Ninja, Smells like a meadow, Elegant like a modern shoe, Comfortable like an old shoe.


If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like:

Sole Stories: What Do People Look for in Sneakers & is Nike the GOAT? Walking down the High-Street: Streetwear in the 2020s

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