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Making Cents of Senses:
The Outlook on Sensory Marketing for 2021

For business around the globe, big or small, 2020 proved to be a complete wild card that presented itself in the form of a pandemic. Day-to-day life and regular habits were forced to change overnight in order to adapt and adhere to the "new normal". At one point, stepping out of our homes for a leisurely walk was nothing but a pleasant daydream, what more hopping down to the mall to shop till you drop? Almost a pipe dream. While we saw industries like brick and mortar retail, food and beverage outlets as well as hospitality and tourism head on a downward spiral, we also witnessed a stunning boom in e-commerce, delivery services and pharmaceuticals in the initial period.

But when pushed between a rock and a hard place, often times the human spirit proves to be one that is persistent, unyielding and most importantly - creative. Very quickly, we've seen retail, F&B and hospitality chains come up with fun campaigns and innovative ways in order to make ends meet. From buy now use later vouchers, to purchase online and pick up curbside, many measures have been put in place to ensure they stay afloat.

The later part of 2020 saw the reopening of physical stores and public spaces, albeit cautiously. With the emergence of multiple vaccines, there is hope that life will slowly but surely return to the normal we once knew. But with the caution in the air, masks being a latest fashion addition and people not wanting to be exposed to open spaces for too long, how does sensory marketing find it's place in 2021? Much like the human spirit, sensory marketing is also flexible, creative and dynamic.

Background music systems now see a more purposeful existence within many premises it exists in. Instead of just playing a brand's selection of music, in-store radio system now serve as platforms for Covid - 19 SOP reminders. Voiceovers meant to remind patrons to maintain social distancing, constantly sanitize and to keep their masks on are just the surface of what these systems now can do. Apart from this, many brands are gravitating to research-based background music selections in order to ensure customer anxieties are kept at bay. In order to encourage the maximization of offline shopping, many of these background music systems also host an array of advertisements by partner brands, allowing for better in store rewards and promotions in order to benefit patrons who have already taken the time (and risk!) to come out and carry on shopping for daily necessities.

With masks being mandatory almost everywhere and with some establishments practicing a "No Mask, No Entry" policy, one can only wonder if scent marketing truly serves a purpose in an industry recovering a from a pandemic? In our opinion, there hasn't been a more apt time to prove the versatility of scent marketing than now. We see many outlets, specifically cafes and bakeries still cling to the important of scent marketing, for scent doesn't just serve the purpose of attracting customers but also, encourages customers who are already in-store to get comfortable and possibly want to stay longer. A happy customer, is a customer who is going to order more off the menu! And as we know - masks are not mandatory within F&B establishments among seated customers having a meal. Many scent marketers have pivoted with the pandemic as to the purpose their scent serves. Today, scent diffusers do not just diffuse pleasant scent into the surrounding atmosphere but also serve as atmospheric disinfection with disinfectants infused into these serums. What better way to assure patrons of F&B outlets, or even hospitality establishments, that the environment they're in is a safe and hygienic one? Speaking of hospitality, we've found that this has been the perfect time for hospitality establishments to work on brand loyalty. Scent marketing does not just stop at the public spaces of a hotel. Imagine scent tags and pillow mists, signature to a hotel brand accompanying linen or bath robes within guests' room? The sense of lush comfort a guest enjoys within their hotel room may be something they would want to take home with them. Many hotels have no moved toward having merchandise such pillow mists, linen sprays and scent tags available in their in-room menus or hotel mini stores - a little something a guest could purchase and take home with them, maintaining a little memory of the hotel which subsequently creates brand recall. This way - the brand gains an alternative source of revenue beyond just the duration of stay, and a guest takes a little piece of the brand home with them. We think it's a win-win!

Last but not least, we zoom in on the segment of digital signage. In just a couple of months since the world went into lockdown, we saw hand held thermometers quickly replaced with contactless screen based temperature monitoring systems. This proved a very clear point for times to come - the less contact, the better. Digital signage is fast becoming one of the most sought after solutions in a post pandemic world. Many chains have chosen to move past front line cashiers or staff and replaced them with screens that can do all the same things, but merely with the scanning of a QR code. This ensures less contact, and less contact means lower risks of infection. Way Finders are gaining more and more popularity, also with QR codes that can be accessed from the screens of users' phones in comparison to touch-screens which encourage cross infection. More importantly, digital screens are now being used to ensure check ins by all patrons in order to keep track of patron whereabouts and to send alerts should there be a Covid-19 outbreak in the vicinity of establishments visited.

We've been thinking, with immunizations already mobilized around the world in stages, could digital screens soon serve as verifications for Covid-19 vaccine passports? The possibilities are endless. But if there's anything we take away from the insight to sensory marketing in a post-pandemic world, it's simply this - while humankind seems to be physically more disconnected that it's ever been before, there is no better time then now to connect brands and people by leveraging on sensory technology. After all, our senses, are still alive and kicking!

To know more about how sensory marketing can serve your brand, visit us at or log on to our LinkedIn Page to find out more!

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