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The new sound of shopping: Visa's point of sale multi-sensory assets

The new sound of shopping: Visa's point of sale multi-sensory assets

With 44 million merchant locations and 3.1 billion cards in circulation, Visa is the world leader in digital payments. Their visual logo is commonplace across card machines and websites, and a recent study showed that up to 71% of consumers felt that a website was more secure when the Visa logo was visible. Now they are hoping to replicate that success with a foray into multi-sensory branding. 

Visa have released three new multi-sensory branding elements - a sound, a logo animation, and haptic vibrations - which are designed to signify completed transactions. The campaign will debut  at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

Visa's one-second sound took over a year to develop and is designed to incite feelings of happiness and excitement, whilst also signalling speed and convenience. 83% of those surveyed said that the sound or animation cues positively impacted their perception of the Visa brand. 

The evolution of Visa's visual logo, 1960-2014

Audio branding is a relatively new ground for Visa, whose past sound has consisted mainly of traditional advertising devoid of a sonic logo or musical consistency. It is unclear whether a broader sonic identity or guidelines have been created to accompany these assets. 

Visa’s sensory roll-out plans cover both physical retail spaces and online shopping. The assets will be available as a software development kit, and through the Visa Ready program in 2018, along with pilot programs with a national merchant and POS hardware vendors. There is no mention of whether the sound will be used at their 2.6 million ATMs

With the rise of contactless payments, audio branding allows Visa - and other tech companies - to be present, even when their visual logo is not. 

Visa claims their new assets will give "consumers the assurances we know they want every time they use Visa". These sensory cues have the potential to provide piece of mind to customers - particularly in an age of cyber security threats - and provide a practical notification about their transaction.

Visa's new transactional animation (Graphic: Business Wire)

Visa's new transactional animation (Graphic: Business Wire)

Those who set to benefit the most, however, are Visa themselves. Successful role-out would raise the bar in retail branding and product sound, with potentially unprecedented reach. At its height, Nokia tune was estimated to be played 20,000 per second across the globe. With 65,000 transactions per second (as of 2016), Visa's reach could be set to triple Nokia's.

Retail sound can be a risky venture - particularly if the element of customer choice is removed. Organisations such as Pipedown actively complain about unwanted noise in shops, while some well-known retailers have opted for music-free stores.

Given the (often piercing) beeps used by retailers at present, Visa's designed sound is probably preferable for most consumers. In the future, the rise of wearable haptics could reduce the need for sound in retail. Meanwhile, Visa's new development may provoke other retail and tech brands to question how their customer experience could be improved through sound. 

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