Scents of success

July 31, 2013

Aromas that seem natural for a retail environment and time of year may sway shoppers to stay longer and buy.

Shoppers can sniff out a lot—bargains, items that ease their lives, and displays to ignore.

They’re not really sniffing—they’re deducing.

In a physical sense, however, retailers have long tried to pump sales by wafting the aromas of bakeries, tortillerias, pizza and barbecue through store aisles. These item-driven tactics have had mixed effects—they can attract buyers or drive them away. If a scent seems forced and unnatural, it can overpower shoppers and cause them to shorten their store visits.

The Lempert Report believes pleasant food aromas could work within the right context. We urge stores to take a thematic approach that connects with shoppers’ mindset and buying missions on particular days. Many of these are seasonal, but some are everyday.

First, some seasonal examples:

  • Barbecue aromas for 4th of July
  • Mexican aromas for Cinco de Mayo
  • Chocolate aromas for Valentine’s Day
  • Turkey aromas for Thanksgiving

Second, some everyday examples:

  • Lavender scent near baby needs
  • Sizzling bacon scent near meats and breakfast foods
  • Beach scent near sun care

Done with taste and constraint, these scents could associate the store with the happiness people feel hugging and caring for babies, and being with friends and family around specific holidays and events.

A natural association could be quite effective, suggests research done by Hasselt University and the University of Antwerp that will appear in the December 2013 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology. The ambient scent of chocolate on 201 participants shopping in bookstores, “improves approach and buying behavior toward thematically congruent books,” the study abstract says.

When the scent was present, a Forbes account reports, shoppers were more than twice as likely to examine multiple items and read synopses for multiple books and more than three times as likely to interact with store staff.