Underrepresented Senses in the Electronic Age

There’s a disparity in how our smartphones and computers cater to our senses. They rely heavily on the eyes and the ears. What’s left out is touch, smell and taste. Not strictly a sense, but scale of size is another I would add to this list – it’s the difference between looking at a T. rex in a museum vs a TV documentary. These can be a differentiator for brick-and-mortar stores.

I’m probably not saying anything new here. In a recent walk in the Stanford Mall, here is a sample of what I saw: apparel and shoe stores, L’Occitane en Provence (perfumes), Lust (soaps), K. Minamoto (sweets), Tiffany’s (jewellery), a variety of restaurants, Pottery Barn (furniture), Sur La Table (kitchenware). These are things hard to buy online – the eyes and the ears are not enough.

Anthropologie is a store that seems to capture a lot of these things. There is a large-scale exhibit in the front window, a section on perfumes and candles, home furniture, kitchenware, live plants, and of course, clothing and jewelry. Totally not easy to buy any of these online. Maybe someone came up with a bucket-list of things that can only be shopped for in your full person, packaged them up into a consistent style, and turned it into a store experience.