Scents at your outlet will raise customers’ spending

Consumers are willing to pay more for a product if they like the scent in a particular store. PHOTO | Suleiman Mbatiah
Consumers are willing to pay more for a product if they like the scent in a particular store. PHOTO | Suleiman Mbatiah 

Floral scents increase buying by consumers, according to new research, driving moves worldwide to place scents in stores and products.

“Smell is the strongest sense tied to memory and emotion. It can create instant connections between a brand and a consumer, thus creating a lasting impression.

‘‘If a customer likes the way a particular store smells even as they are walking past it, they will be enticed to enter, walk round the store and, most likely, make a purchase, even if they had no intention to do so,” said Julie Githire, Managing Director of SixSense Marketing, an experiential marketing agency.

Indeed, research by the 2004 Nobel Prize winners in Physiology or Medicine, Richard Axel and Linda Buck, on how the olfactory system works found that smell is the most emotional sense and that a unique odour can elicit distinct memories from one’s childhood or from emotional moments — positive or negative — for many years afterwards, and even across a lifetime.

In this, “by registering particular scents in our memory, we form a bias towards a brand and we are most likely inclined to spend more when we are in that particular store,” said Githire.

Her statement ties in with a study conducted by the US Smell and Taste Research Foundation on the effects of smell on store perception, which found that consumers are willing to pay more for a product if they like the scent in a particular store.

“We placed Nike sneakers in two different rooms, one with unscented air, the other scented with a mixed floral smell. Eighty four per cent of individuals in the floral scented room said they were more likely to buy the shoes and 10 per cent were even willing to spend $10 (Sh1,030 more) more for the shoes,” said Dr Alan Hirsch, director at the research foundation in the study report.

“Interestingly, many of the subjects in the scented room said that they could not even tell that the floral scent was present, but they still liked the shoes in that room better. It is clear that smells affect our perceptions and purchase behaviour even if we cannot smell them consciously.”

Besides floral scents, research has found that consumers will spend more in a store that incorporates simple scents such as an orange or vanilla, as opposed to ‘‘complicated’’ ones, like orange-basil blended with green tea or even peppermint.

“Simple scents are more effective when consumers are shopping, we found that they tend to spend 20 per cent more money in a store when they had shopped in the presence of a simple scent,” said Eric Spangenberg, a marketing professor and dean of the Washington State University College of Business, in a report on how scents influence retail sales.

“We found that such scents are more easily processed by our brains, freeing the customer’s mind to focus on shopping.

‘‘But when that bandwidth is unavailable or when a complicated smell is introduced, customers do not perform cognitive tasks as effectively, this is because most people are processing it at an unconscious level, but it is impacting their decisions.

‘‘The important thing from the retailer’s perspective and the marketer’s perspective is that a pleasant scent is not necessarily an effective scent.”
Spangenberg also found that when feminine scents, such as vanilla, are incorporated in a clothing store, sales of women’s clothes doubled and the same applies in men’s clothing store when masculine scents such as rose marc are used.

“Men will not linger in a store that smells feminine and women will not dwell in a store that smells masculine,” he said.