Despite the holiday rush, is your retail shop struggling to stay in the black? It may be time to implement an “olfactory marketing” strategy. That’s right: How your store smells can influence customers’ behavior.
Retailers of all sizes have long used music to create auditory ambiance — or sounds conducive to keeping shoppers in their stores. Today, some are appealing to consumers’ sense of smell, too, by diffusing pleasant scents in their stores.
Your olfactory marketing strategy doesn’t have to be costly. A mom-and-pop shop can be filled with fragrance for less than $100 a month.
Here are five ways in which in-store scents can boost sales:
1. Use simple scents. Researchers at Washington State University compared consumer responses to scents in tests involving more than 400 shoppers. In a test, one group of consumers sampled a pure orange scent, and another group smelled a complex blend of orange, basil, and green tea. The consumers who were exposed only to the orange scent spent 20 percent more than those who were exposed to the blended one. Why? Eric Spangenberg, a co-author of the study, concluded that a one-ingredient scent “did not distract” shoppers “from the task at hand.”
2. Tailor scents to your marketing strategy. Jennifer Dublino, chief operating office of the Scent Marketing Institute, says small businesses “need a scent logo,” in order to stand out in a crowded marketplace. According to the institute’s website, lavender evokes a sense of relaxation, while citrus makes shoppers more alert. Dublino, who also contributes to the Neuroscience Marketing blog, says shoppers are a hundred times more likely to remember a smell than a print ad or a radio commercial.
3. Reinforce branding with a signature scent. People also remember scents better than photos, according to the Sense of Smell Institute, a nonprofit arm of the Fragrance Foundation, which disseminates research on olfactory marketing. That’s why in-store fragrances often act as an olfactory in-store “billboard,” boosting impulse purchases. Customers subconsciously follow their noses, as the pleasant scent attracts shoppers to a specific area of the store. Developing a signature scent typically takes about 90 days.
4. Use fragrances that keep patrons in the store. A piña colada smell used in a toy store caused parents to linger, according to a British news article. Martin Lindstrom, author of the book Buyology, says the aroma of lavender slows the perception of time; smelling it encourages shoppers to spend more time in a store.
5. Don’t overdo it. Gino Biondi, vice president of marketing for Zenith Products and former chief marketing officer for ScentAir, warns retailers not to saturate a store with fragrance. “When it’s done best, it’s not overwhelming,” he says. Before you roll out the new scent, remember what happened to Abercrombie and Fitch when the chain went overboard in dispersing in-store scents. (Protesters assailed the retailer for exposing its customers to “harmful chemicals.”) Fragrances can trigger negative emotions as well as positive ones.