Does Smell Sell? How Retail Uses Scent to Sell

We are living in an exciting era that is rapidly changing in terms of how consumers shop. Demand for online marketplaces and virtual shops is at an all time high and does not appear to be slowing. As such, bricks and mortar store retailers are having to come up with fresh, new enticing incentives for consumers to visit their actual physical retail spaces.

Have you ever wondered if smell sells? While no doubt amazing marketing campaigns, celebrity endorsement, window displays, creative visual merchandising, lighting and music can play large roles in how much people may spend, there is research that indicates that certain scents can also inspire shoppers to not only spend, but spend more!

Scent Marketing

Scent marketing is nothing new. Retailers and shop owner’s have been employing this strategic tactic for decades. Simply put, scent marketing is the calculated use of fragrance at specific consumer touch-points in a retail environment.

I think back to the small country town I grew up in in the 1980s. Back then, and still to this day, you could not wander down the main street of town without walking in to buy something from the local bakery. Not because you needed anything but, because you were consumed by those fresh, enticing baking aromas would waft all the way down the street from early morning till baking stopped that day. How did they do this? They simply had their extraction vent systems inconspicuously mounted on the facade of the store for those tempting aromas to innocently float through the air and captivate the passer bye. Genius really!

Scent Research

Interestingly, Washington State University recently found that it’s the simple smells like the above mentioned baking aromas, as opposed to complex blends of scents, that are apparently the most powerful stimulus when it comes to consumers parting with their money. It’s thought to be that the simple scents don’t require as much brain power or mental processing from the shopper. This in turn, allowing their minds to easily visualise the images that are associated with these particular scents.

We are all aware that a scent can allow you to create an instant emotional connection so, it comes as no surprise brands are trying to align with the customer and make their shopping experience more holistic and memorable.

Scent Impact on Shoppers

The subtlety of a drifting fragrance sometimes is not even registered by the shopper. That’s the beauty of scent marketing as it is not seen as an aggressive tactic employed by the retailer. It simply adds to the bricks and mortar shopping experience at a very pleasant unconscious level, something an online sale can’t compete with…well for the time being!

Scent is directly linked to our limbic system. The limbic system is the part of the brain involved in our behavioural and emotional responses. As such, research also noted that the use of ambient fragrance may encourage the following benefits:

  • Ambient scent boosts recognition and memory performances
  • It increases the time consumers spend in a shop or business
  • It elevates mood and a person’s level of enjoyment
  • It improves the quality of a service encounter

What Fragrances Are Best For Scent Marketing

Selecting the fragrance that is right for your brand will be key to the success of your in store scent marketing. Some brands like to create a signature blend so that the shopper associates the fragrance with their store and goods. Others, like to take a more generic approach so as to appeal to a greater market. For kitchen goods retailers, fragrances like cinnamon and spice are a wonderful choice. Vanilla and floral blends are a safe choice for ladies clothing boutiques. Leather fragrance is a wonderful option for car showrooms and tool and hardware stores. Really, the options are endless.

Some leading brands spend a great deal of time and money selecting a fragrance that best represents them and their products. Customer surveys and trial test groups are a way to gauge the consumers thoughts and feelings towards scent marketing. Have you ever been able to go to the movies and not buy a bucket of popcorn? This is the perfect example of how powerful scent can be.

How Can You Integrate Scent Marketing in Your Store

There are several ways in which you can seamlessly introduce scent marketing to your customers in your retail space.

  • Candles – if it’s safe to do so, burning a fragrance candle in store can not only create a lovely welcoming ambience, but obviously perfume the space throughout. Some stores burn the same fragrant candle to instantly connect their customers to the shopping experience. Others, will change seasonly depending on the mood they are wanting to create. Be mindful that fragrance candles can be quite strong so just be aware of timing of burning.
  • Scented Room Fragrance – easily spritzed throughout the entire store, some retailers will take it that one step further and spritz the tissue paper or bag that your purchases are placed in. This is a lovely touch as when the customer gets home and unpacks, the scent can trigger a lovely shopping experience.
  • Diffuser – a very safe and effective way to scent a store. Diffusers of the same fragrance or, different fragrances, can be placed sporadically around the door to help create a scented journey for the shopper. These are a wonderful option for a busy store as there is no need to keep an eye on them like a candle is required. Simply flip the reeds around when the store requires a freshen up.
  • Incense – burning incense sticks or domes can create quite the ambience within a store. Be sure to place them in a safe area where shoppers will not disturb them.

There is no denying that we have physical and emotional reactions to fragrance. As such, investing in scent marketing can have a wonderful result on not only a shoppers in store experience but, can go a long way to helping create brand loyalty. The key is to find that perfect fragrance that captures both your brands identity and, more importantly, appeals to your customer to help encourage positive shopping experiences and in turn sales.

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