The scent of extra sales

September 17, 2013

Done with restraint at the right times of year, subtle aromas could amplify holiday shopping themes.

Why did human civilization take so long to prove that chocolate—or even the prospect of chocolate—makes people do things?

Isn’t this something we all suspected since…forever?

Researchers in Belgium (where chocolate is pretty exceptional) at last found that a subtle chocolate scent in a bookstore changes shopper behavior. Forbes reports the new study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows shoppers are more receptive to multiple items. Specifically, shoppers:

  • Examine multiple items more than twice as often as in stores without the aroma.
  • Read synopses for multiple books more than twice as often.
  • Speak with store staff almost three times as much.
  • Buy just one item less than half as often.

Since they also saw more interest in food-related books from female shoppers, The Lempert Report suggests that scents congruent with a shopping mission could be effective in supermarkets at the right time.

Surely, stores walk a fine line when they odorize stores—there’s risk of backlash.

But done with restraint and limited to seasonal eating occasions people purposely shop for, we believe suggestive aromas could work. For example, Mexican food aromas for Cinco de Mayo, barbecue aromas for the Fourth of July, chocolate aromas for Valentine’s Day, and roasted turkey aromas for Thanksgiving. The baby needs department might be more suggestive with lavender aromas without regard to season.

Our idea is not to limit the role of scents to promote sales of a specific food, but to be broader, selective, tasteful and rotational in their use to successfully connect to holiday themes.