Guest contribution • 06.01.2020

Smell – association - sale?

How scents affect your customers

It’s highly likely that you have entered a store and immediately noticed a distinctive scent. The deliberate use of scents is no longer a rare occurrence.

For quite some time now, companies like Abercrombie & Fitch, Motel One or Singapore Airlines have routinely used scents to create a pleasant atmosphere and immersive brand experience.

Older woman standing in front of a fruit shelf in the supermarket and smelling...
Source: PantherMedia / Wavebreakmedia

Different scents for different retail environments

The science of scent has made enormous strides in recent years. A recent study conducted by Professor Mark Leenders from Melbourne’s RMIT University found that the use of melon scent positively affected the perception and behavior of shoppers at a supermarket. Customers indicated that the scent improved their mood and gave them a more positive attitude towards the store and its products. Unlike customers who were not exposed to the scent, the time exposed shoppers spent browsing in stores increased by an average of nearly 30 percent. That being said, scents tend to have different effects in different retail environments. While smells like grapefruit, ginger, and orange in department stores prompt customers to feel more positively about the retail environment, scents like mint and lemon work better in fashion boutiques and similar settings. If retailers manage to craft the perfect pleasant ambient scent, their customers spend on average up to 23 percent more according to a recent analysis published by the researchers Holger Roschk and Masoumeh Hosseinpour.

Man in grey bago smiles into the camera
Jun.-Prof. Dr. Marcel Lichters
Source: Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg

Cool and warm

Another type of research studies the difference between cool and warm scents. Cool scents like mint or eucalyptus prompt customers to perceive the retail environment as colder than it actually is. This physical sensation of cold means shoppers subsequently tend to buy and consume more calorie-dense and unhealthy foods. In contrast, warm scents such as cinnamon or caramel have the exact opposite effect. They prompt customers to reach for a healthy salad or a chilled coke. A U.S. research group led by Dipayan Biswas attributes this phenomenon to our body’s innate sense to maintain body temperature and keep it balanced.

Meanwhile, the effects of warm and cool fragrances are not only reflected in food consumption. Warm scents make customers feel more confined and enclosed, similar to the feeling you might experience in a large crowd. For most people, this is a rather uncomfortable sensation because when we are in a crowd, we often feel helpless and subject to the whim of others. This association evokes the desire to set yourself apart from the crowd or to regain control over the situation. It results in customers buying luxury products because they promise to make you stand out from the crowd and signal an affluent status.

Explicit associations

Some scents can evoke specific associations. We all know the feeling when we recall scents from our childhood. Suddenly, certain memories are summoned in your mind’s eye. The same applies to traditional scents associated with the Christmas season like cinnamon or chocolate. Yet these specific scents are not just working their magic at Christmas time. Belgian researchers led by Lieve Doucé have shown that people at bookstores buy more baking books and related books on chocolate when they smell chocolate - even in the summertime. In this case, customers were unable to find a causal relationship between the scent and their behavior.

Man in dark bago against dark background
Prof. Dr. Marko Sarstedt
Source: private

Smells can have a lasting effect

Apart from the different types of scents, researchers have recently studied whether ambient scents also have long-term, lasting effects on customer behavior. Our current research also focuses on this area. In a series of field studies with over 700 railway travelers, we have shown that the targeted scenting of train compartments prompted travelers to rate the company's services more favorable. However, the assessment of the brand identity was not positively affected. What makes this so interesting is the fact that while rail passengers did not consciously detect the scent, it nevertheless influenced their assessments. The heightened value perception was sustained as even two weeks after the scent was no longer employed, its effect still leveraged a more positive assessment of train rides.

Ethical concerns

Scents are not just able to help customers build a favorable perception of services or subtly prompt them to spend more time at the store and buy more. In fact, smells are especially significant in situations that are actually not terribly pleasant on closer inspection. One example of this pertains to the notion of entering a metal tube along with several hundred other passengers and moving at 600 mph (1,000 km/h) at 30,000 feet (10,000 meters). The deliberate use of fragrance in the cabin during air travels ensures that passengers relax and fosters the subjective experience of time passing more quickly.

At the same time, the use of ambient scents also raises health and ethical concerns. For people suffering from allergies or asthmatics, for instance, it is vital that companies indicate the use of ambient scents. What’s more, when it comes to the subconscious effects of scents, the question is whether their use crosses the ethical line. This is where current research helps shine a bright light on these challenges.

Authors: Jun.-Prof. Dr. Marcel Lichters und Prof. Dr. Marko Sarstedt

related articles:

popular articles:

Thumbnail-Photo: Gamification in retail: turning shopping into a game...
22.08.2022   #Tech in Retail #app

Gamification in retail: turning shopping into a game

Games and gamification can sound a little bit childish, but major enterprises love gamification as much as users love games

With the retention and engagement crises arise, the retail industry is looking for a remedy. Customer experience has become an important factor for success in retailing. Gamification appears to be a go-to tactic to enhance sales, brand awareness, ...

Thumbnail-Photo: How convenience stores can drive shopper loyalty in 2022...
08.09.2022   #customer satisfaction #app

How convenience stores can drive shopper loyalty in 2022

Convenience, prices, loyalty programs – how to retain customers

According to this year’s Convenience Store Trends Report from Intouch Insight Ltd., convenience does not trump brand loyalty for today’s consumers. For example, when it comes to their cup of joe, 70% of shoppers would seek out their ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Macy’s announces sustainable initiatives to drive a more circular...
30.09.2022   #sustainability #Tech in Retail

Macy’s announces sustainable initiatives to drive a more circular future

Through its social purpose platform, Mission Every One, Macy’s, Inc. is committed to creating a brighter future for all

Macy’s, Inc. has provided an update detailing its achievements towards its long-term sustainability goals – including initiatives that promote circularity throughout its value chain. ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Contactless mobile payments to surpass 1 billion users in 2024...
18.11.2022   #e-commerce #mobile payment

Contactless mobile payments to surpass 1 billion users in 2024

Research predicts increasing consumer demand for convenient and frictionless payment methods is accelerating this growth

A new study from Juniper Research has found that the total number of unique contactless mobile payment users will reach 1 billion globally by 2024; rising from 782 million in 2022, representing a growth of 60%. ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Insights on the Buy now, pay later market in Latin America to 2028...
07.11.2022   #online trading #e-commerce

Insights on the 'Buy now, pay later' market in Latin America to 2028

The BNPL payment industry in Latin America has recorded strong growth over the last four quarters, supported by increased e-commerce penetration

The "Latin America Buy Now Pay Later Business and Investment Opportunities - 75+ KPIs on Buy Now Pay Later Trends by End-Use Sectors, Operational KPIs, Market Share, Retail Product Dynamics, and Consumer Demographics - Q3 2022 Update" ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Survey: Most consumers say they buy based on experience vs. price...
08.08.2022   #customer satisfaction #customer analysis

Survey: Most consumers say they buy based on experience vs. price

99% also said they regularly shop online while 97% have purchased through social media

Bazaarvoice has released its latest research, based on a survey of more than 10,000 global shoppers. The report reiterates the importance of engaging shopping experiences and proves that ‘online shopper’ may in the future become a ...

Thumbnail-Photo: First retailers announced for Royalmount shopping centre...
11.11.2022   #brick and mortar retail #retail

First retailers announced for Royalmount shopping centre

Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Tiffany & Co. and RH with new presence in Montreal's new Midtown destination

Royalmount, Montreal's future destination for over 170 stores including 60 restaurants and experiential attractions, has announced that Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., RH, Sandro and Maje have been confirmed for the major new retail and ...

Thumbnail-Photo: How the COVID pandemic has upended brick-and-mortar retailing...
17.10.2022   #brick and mortar retail #customer satisfaction

How the COVID pandemic has upended brick-and-mortar retailing

Consumer behavior: “Ten years of digital transformation happened in two years”

There is no question that the Corona pandemic has changed the retail industry. Brian Dammeir, President North America at payment service provider Adyen, explains clearly which developments ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Launch of Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play...
14.10.2022   #omnichannel #food retail

Launch of Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play

Roblox community members can check out the Walmart ‘isles’ to collect verch, catch top music artists and unlock exclusive interactive content

Recently, Walmart announced the launch of two new immersive experiences in the metaverse mega-platform, Roblox. Called Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play, the spaces offer unique interactive content and entertainment for customers, ...

Thumbnail-Photo: #DWMF Europe for top-level digital marketing insights...
09.08.2022   #digital marketing #event

#DWMF Europe for top-level digital marketing insights

DMWF Europe at the RAI in Amsterdam on 21-22 November

DMWF Europe returns to the RAI, Amsterdam on 21-22 November, for a must-see hybrid conference and exhibition bringing together the brightest minds in digital marketing. It’s three days of top-level strategic content, digital marketing ...

Supplier

iXtenso - retail trends
iXtenso - retail trends
Heilsbachstraße 22-24
53123 Bonn
EuroShop
EuroShop
Stockumer Kirchstraße 61
40474 Düsseldorf
salsify
salsify
7 rue de Madrid
75008 Paris
Canto GmbH
Canto GmbH
Lietzenburger Str. 46
10789 Berlin