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Retailers are developing their sense of smell

Whether to develop their brand’s identity or to boost sales, increasing numbers of retailers are creating specific ambient scenting.

The human brain can identify up to 10,000 smells. This offers an untapped source of potential, which retailers are now taking advantage of. Over the last few years, they have been working to develop signature scents for their retail areas. The number of specialized scent marketing companies that are being created testifies to the increasing importance retailers are placing on this aspect of the customer’s experience. Scentair, Mood Media and AireMaster are just a few. Retailers that choose to embrace scent marketing in their retail space have one objective in mind: create a lasting impression on consumers. Brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Starbucks have created their own scents for their stores, which consumers quickly come to associate with the brand. But the use of scents is not limited to strengthening the brand’s identity.

Scents promote sales

According to studies conducted by Nobel Prize Laureats Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck, of our five senses, we are most sensitive to our sense of smell. It directly affects the decisions we make. “If a store smells bad, the consumer won’t stay. It’s as simple as that. And the longer consumers stay in a store, the more likely they are to make a purchase”, explained Lorne Abory, manager of the Canadian brand Mood Media to The Telegraph.

Several studies in recent years have revealed the extent to which scents can significantly affect a brand’s sales. In 2006, a team of American researchers showed how scents affected the two sexes differently. A woman’s clothing store scented with vanilla sold double the amount that a same non-scented store sold. The same has been noticed in a men’s clothing store scented with rose. In another study, a bookstore used a chocolate scent to increase its sales by 40%.

Choosing the right scent

The key for retailers is to figure out their perfect signature fragrance. A number of researchers working on this subject are trying to determine whether the perception of smell is universal or cultural. According to an Israeli study in 2011, the five universally liked fragrances are lemon, grapefruit, bergamot, orange and mint. Retailers must now experiment with these fragrances while retaining their unique identity.

Nevertheless, they must be vigilant. The coffeehouse chain Starbucks had to stop selling sandwiches in 2008 because the smell of melted cheese conflicted with that of coffee. The problem was taken very seriously and its fragrance specifically calibrated to complement a change in its range of sandwiches. This is an example of how food stores are increasingly turning to artificial fragrances to mask persistent odors.

19 January 2016
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