Stop and Smell the Greenbacks

Discussion
Sep 18, 2006

By George Anderson


The sweet smell of success has taken on a whole new meaning.


Retailers are increasingly turning to enjoyable scents, pumped into stores, to make shoppers comfortable and more willing to spend.


Alan Hirsch, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment & Research Foundation, told Forbes.com, “Smell has a greater impact on purchasing than everything else combined. If something smells good, the product is perceived as good.”


Smell as a marketing tool is growing in importance with retailers. Bloomingdale’s, Food Lion, HEB, Kroger, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Petco, Saks Fifth Avenue and Sony Style among those using fragrance to stimulate positive emotions along with product and service sales.


ScentAir Technologies, which bills itself as “the market leader of in-store scent solutions,” counts Bloomingdale’s among its clients.


According to ScentAir’s web site, Bloomies uses different scents throughout the store depending on the department. A baby powder scent is used in the infant department, lilac in intimate apparel, coconut in swimsuits and sugar cookie, chocolate and evergreen in use during the Christmas holiday selling season.


The Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, Florida is also among ScentAir Technologies’ clients. According to Forbes, the hotel began pumping a waffle-cone and sugar-cookie fragrance into the air to attract shoppers to an “out-of-the-way ice cream shop” in the facility. Sales jumped 45 percent in the first six months after the hotel began using the scent.


Discussion Questions: Where does scent generally rank in retailers’ strategy to encourage consumer purchases? What stores, if you are aware of any, smell
the best or worse to you?


This from a BBC report: “When your olfactory receptors are stimulated, they transmit impulses to your brain. This pathway is directly connected to your
limbic system, the part of your brain that deals with emotions. That’s why your reactions to smell are rarely neutral – you usually either like or dislike a smell. Smells also
leave long-lasting impressions and are strongly linked to your memories. The scent of mown grass, for example, might remind you of a childhood summer holiday, and the smell of
chocolate chip cookies may make you think of your grandmother.”

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12 Comments on "Stop and Smell the Greenbacks"


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Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
15 years 8 months ago

There’s a lot to this that makes sense. I adore the smell of Aveda, Illumination and Bath & Body stores and can’t resist coming in when I pass by. I avoid certain grocery stores and c-stores that smell like fried chicken grease that clings to my hair.

Retailing is multi-sensory and smell is a very important part of this. It can range from subconsciously pleasant to overtly powerful. Just like messaging, what scent should be used to create experiences should be rooted in who we are connecting with, what it’s linked to and what kind of emotion we seek to create.

My only concern is that the chemicals used to “create” scent aren’t harmful to people if we’re exposed to them on an ongoing basis.

Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
15 years 8 months ago
The sense of smell awakens the human spirit unlike the other four. Smell is usually linked to nostalgia. Pleasant smells remind you of pleasant memories from your youth. Unpleasant smells also are emotionally charged, warning the shopper to leave quickly and never come back. Retailers want competitive advantage from all five senses available: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. For every initiative it is imperative to develop empirical feedback. Put an in-store scent solution for a merchandise category. Measure the sales uplift against a control group with a complete set of metrics: sales over last year, number of units, average transaction, percent of shoppers buying the category being tested, and percent of high value customers buying the category. Your evaluation of the program should include business intelligence. And in-store scent solutions will give you a competitive advantage over your competitor, but only until the competitor gets one. A good business intelligence solution to test your in-store innovations will give you lasting advantage.
Ron Larson
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Most academic studies on scent do not find a significant impact. Many studies that claim to demonstrate positive effects had very small samples. However, the level of the scent in the air seems to be a key variable. If the scent is so faint that few people notice it, the behavior change will be small. Choosing a scent that complements the environment and having the right amount in the air can help stores improve their performance.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

I won’t name names but scent does impact the way I evaluate a supermarket. Typically stores that smell like a freshly cracked open orange versus dead fish will have noticeable differences in operations levels. If I were to name a store, Whole Foods seems to do a nice job with scent.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
15 years 8 months ago
Scent clearly is a very powerful agent driving all types of emotions. Baking chocolate cookies or bread in a home offered for sale, the perfume of flowers in a flower store, and even the smell of a new car can drive buying decisions. For food retailers, smell can also be a negative (rotting food can kill a shopping experience very quickly). Scent can add to or detract from the shopping experience just like any other stimulant. At the end of the day, it is the product that matters. So, ignoring a bad odor could hurt sales. But what happens when your customer is allergic to lilac, hates chocolate, or doesn’t like the smell of baby talc? If the scent is a by-product of the business, that won’t hurt and may help. I’m not sure artificially introducing a smell into an environment (especially a closed environment) is the best thing to do. Even an artificial scent (i.e., one that does not induce allergic reactions) may turn off folks who have the allergy (or just don’t like… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

To me, scent research is about as reliable as phrenology or the “science” of deducing character by readings bumps on the skull. What smells good is a cultural issue. Many people, (myself included,) have an allergy to certain perfuming agents so when we go into one of these “engineered olfactory environments” where somebody goes a little too heavy on the scent we start sneezing on our fellow shoppers and are forced to leave the store. Also scents tend to be a little bit like colors — they seem to come and go in and out of fashion. Finally, there seems to be some conflicting data on scents. I remember reading a study from he U.K. several years ago that suggested men could be driven to near sexual frenzy by exposing them to vanilla scent, but I rarely see orgies in mall candle shops. Can scents help? Maybe in certain retail environments when employed moderately. Are they the wave of the future? I think not.

David Zahn
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
Clearly, anyone who has ever sold a home knows…the scent of baking bread or other “home smells” are encouraged to put someone in the mood to make a purchase. Similarly, the scents that are department specific (as mentioned in the articles) are likely to “put someone in the mood” of that department’s merchandise. Most grocers don’t look at the positives as much as minimizing the negative (make sure the fresh fish does not start to turn and give off an odor, keep the beef under the see through wrap or it may become malodorous, etc.). In some instances the in-store bakery will work to waft the smells through the store, but otherwise it is the creation of an absence of scent that is more typically the goal. In the United States, even the sight of someone sniffing a melon and then putting it down is enough to ensure that anyone else who sees that action will avoid that melon. We view smelling something as a sign that it is “bad” (sour, turning, over-ripe, etc.).
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 8 months ago

“Smell technology” in stores is here to stay

It makes shoppers feel good and willing to pay.

Whole Foods does a good job of aromatizing

which gains acceptance for price supersizing.

Robert Leppan
Guest
Robert Leppan
15 years 8 months ago

I’m not aware of any major grocery chain stores that knowingly are using scent technology to improve shopping experience and stimulate sales. However, I think that retailers should take a look at this as another (merchandising ) tool that might help put shoppers in a more positive frame of mind. I know that when I walk a store and the in-store bakery has just finished a batch of fresh bread, my taste buds go into overdrive and I have a urge to buy…and in and near the floral area, the sweet scents help create a store environment that says natural and fresh….

Bill Bishop
Guest
Bill Bishop
15 years 8 months ago
Thanks for teeing up this subject. In my experience, scent is very low in terms of retail priorities for encouraging a customer to purchase. The only exceptions would typically be around the bakery, and they are truly exceptions. The most memorable positive retail experience I’ve had is with the Georgetown Tobacco Shop, i.e., where I used to buy pipe tobacco. As soon as you’d enter one of their stores, you’d grasp the quality of their product and be immediately enveloped in the idea of buying interesting new tobacco products. Another retailer that is doing a good job using scent is Caribou coffee. When you go into our local Caribou stores, you’re impressed with both the aroma of coffee and baked goods, which provide an immediate motivation to purchase and consume. Coming closer to the retail food business, the DeKalb Farmer’s Market outside Atlanta provides a fresh fruit and vegetable scent that is overwhelmingly positive and clearly projects the quality and availability of a broad range of attractive produce items. There’s a similar effect when you… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

For 21 years, Cinnabon stores have used their scents expertly to create sales. They have 600 stores in 43 states and 30 countries. Without the cinnamon and sugar aroma, how many bakeries would they have today?

Jonas Neilson
Guest
3 years 3 months ago
An old song once spoke of love as the “tender trap,” but in reality it’s today’s marketers using scents to lure customers into retail stores and other facilities that has become the “tender trap” of modern industry. Like a string of musical notes blended to a perfect harmony, a delicately crafted and properly diffused fragrance with its top, middle and finishing notes also has the power to emotionally affect the senses of those it comes in contact with. Whether it’s a beautiful perfume that entices a loved one or an appropriately chosen aroma diffused throughout a commercial environment, fragrance has the undeniable ability to inspire moods, conjure past memories and touch limbic nerves that other forms of visual advertising can’t. More and more statistical proof continues to underscore the effectiveness of scent to direct emotional responses and stimuli of consumers with further and further precision. The trick is choosing the right scent, with the perfect blended top, middle and base notes, for the right brand or retail environment. So much goes into using a fragrance… Read more »
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