Touch, and the Post-Physical Shopper

Daring Fireball picked this up earlier in relation to the "touch beats click in shopping" angle, but another aspect jumped out at me too:

“They used to say nobody would ever buy a diamond online. Not true. People are even buying homes without seeing them [in person] online,” Cohen said. “We are entering a period where we’re using our imagination rather than touch, feel, or smell. We’re using our brain differently.” Some surveys of online shoppers have reported that people believe they can imagine the smell of a perfume while shopping for scents online, for example, Cohen said.

Interesting. Of course great advertising has always done this, creating a real sense of connection with the product through the communicative and evocative power of words and images. Nevertheless it's always seemed a giant leap to get people weaned on physical presence to take the leap of faith required to respond positively to online purchasing (especially, perhaps, for physical products).

I've written and spoken many times about the increasing degrees of physical connection introduced by first the laptop computer and later the handheld and tablet, and I wonder if engaging our sense of touch enables our memory to fill in the gaps for other senses. It might be considered akin to a smell triggering our memories of taste.

Perhaps wearable computing will amplify this effect, but only, I think, if it engages more than our vision. I don't anticipate heads-up-display-style devices to have the same direct sense of connection, but time will tell.