New Technology Increases Scent of Shopping

28/02/2011

No fewer than three industry spokespeople have recently issued puffs (pun intended) agreeing with the British queen of shopping Mary Portas about the value of scenting stores.

Ms. Portas is currently fronting a Secret Shopper series focused especially on customer experience and how it can (and should) be improved. She is cited by scent manufacturers, Ambius, as a proponent of the theory behind their products (although not endorsing the company). Their product is more about “sophistication,“ according to managing director, Jeanette Van Roy, who cited as evidence “retailers such as Abercrombie and Fitch using their own specially created scents within their shops to create a complete brand experience.“ By diffusing a chosen scent in specific areas of a store, it can be used to “highlight a special promotion.“

Canadian “scent technology pioneers“ Mood Media makes similar promises. Its chief executive, Lorne Abony, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph explaining, “If a shop smells bad, a customer will walk out. It’s as simple as that. The longer you can get a customer to stay in the store, the more likely they are to buy.“

Ms. Van Roy agrees. “Ambient scenting has been shown to make people stay longer in fragranced areas, and the longer they stay the more they are likely to purchase,“ she said in a company press release.

Meanwhile, Sue Phillips, president of Scenterprises, claims they are at the forefront of environmental scenting. Writing in Glow’s Spring issue, Ms. Phillips said, “The Journal of Marketing and Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services has shown that scent can make shoppers spend more time and money in a store and make them pay more attention to a brand.“

Ambius offers 25 aromas "off the shelf" from chocolate chip cookie to cucumber mint in addition to creating scents for specific brands. Mood Media's bestsellers are "Lotus Flower, a floral smell with hints of moss," and "Enchanted Apple, which has accents of musk." That said, Mr. Abony is targeting banks as future customers, admitting, "We haven't worked out the smell of money, but when we do, we know we'll be onto something."

[Author's commentary] I was recently at the Bellaggio Hotel in Las Vegas, used as an illustration by Ms. Phillips. Not only did I not notice the lavender scent but judging by the complete absence of customers in the hotel stores, no one else was seduced by it into making a purchase.

Discussion Questions:

What do you think of the potential for Scents as part of the shopping experience? Has technology changed and/ or improved the likelihood of consumers being influenced by scents in stores?

Alison Chaltas, Principal, Interscope: Scent is a very important part of our sensory experience in any environment. Just think about how you feel when you want by a custom coffee roaster or fabulous bread bakery. Olfactory glands set off the rest of our desire to buy and can be a powerful retail tool.

The challenge is scent is polarizing, even more so than any other sense. Food retailers have an easier time tapping into our sense of smell for enhanced retail perception (think oranges as you walk in the door. On the down side, grocers have to be the most careful about the curse of negative scents (think a less than perfectly clean dairy case). Beyond grocery, retailers have to be very choiceful about when, how and how much to use scents.

The first step in a retail scent-based effort is really understand your target shopper and her/his relationship with scents. Shopper research is the critical foundation to understand how your most valuable shoppers react to scents, overall and then specific executions. Think about the masters at Abercrombie and the scents wafting into the mall as parents walk by and snear and their tweens run in enthusiastically. Or the heavily made-up perfume sales clerks in Bloomingdale's going after more natural suburban moms who might even be allergic.

Bottom line: scents offer a great way to attract attention and differentiate your retail brand. But proceed with caution and lots of data!

Ben Ball, Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe: The fundamental power of good smells, particularly as associated with products that are expected to smell--like food--is undeniable. You can find few better expressions of that fact than the neon sign that offers "FREE SMELLS" in the window of Jimmy John's Sandwich Shops here in Chicago.

And I doubt many would argue that unpleasant smells encourage short dwell times and less frequent visits. But as to the power of certain smells to encourage purchases--ummm....candle shops maybe?

Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation: The more senses are engaged in an appealing and intelligent way the more the whole person is engaged. Scent is a form of energy after all. But this is child's play in comparison to understanding the full power of energetic alignment.

Very real and sophisticated research is being done on "conditioning" space with frequency(ies) and intentions that people find conducive to THEIR well being and THEIR greater good. In the same way a healthy body organ has a certain frequency and a deviance from that frequency leads to 'un-health', our environments have healthy and unhealthy frequencies.

A retail employee waking up to go to work immediately begins to condition his/her workspace in a healthy (positive) or unhealthy (negative) way. When they actually get onto the shop floor that 'conditioning' intensifies. Everything about that store operates in the same way.

This reality will be rejected by many, of course. And rather than deal with the real soul of the problem, they prefer to shoot sprays of lavender into the air turning the location into one giant port-a-potty. Mmmmm--I can't wait to go there!

Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC: There is no question scents can trigger memories--pleasant or otherwise. There is also no question regarding the ability of certain scents to influence purchases as it relates to food. That can be demonstrated by watch the purchases of freshly brewed coffee, freshly baked cinnamon rolls, or when a fresh batch of popcorn has just been made. We learned long ago that you can create the same impact by just using scents. For example, heating cinnamon oil in the oven in a store increased the sales of cinnamon buns.

The impact of scents on a non-food environment is a little trickier. Certainly we would all agree that anything that smells bad would have a negative impact, but I am not so sure about the opposite. One issue would be how to you keep the "manly" scent in the men's department from drifting across the aisle to the lady's department. I think the concept is interesting, but would wait to advise to sign up until such time as their has some research on the impact by someone other than one of the companies selling a scent program.

Gene Hoffman, President, Corporate Strategies International:
Good scents can make sense
As a recompense ...
But not all smells
Ring global bells.
Nonetheless, I say,
To make hay today
Smell sweet in your 'hood' Cause you know you should.

Dan Berthiaume, Editor, Retailer Daily: As mentioned above, scent is strongly linked to memory. Retailers marketing to a nostalgic audience can especially benefit from using scent, and advanced scent dispersal technologies have not eliminated problems associated with scents drifting out of range but have certainly lessened them.

Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions: Each time I go by a coffee shop the aroma makes me wish I drank coffee. Each time I walk by a bakery, the aroma makes me wish I had a waist line that would afford me the pleasure of indulging. Sigh, it is true, aroma is a magnetic attraction.

Larry Negrich, Retail Business Development Consultant, Avnet Technology Solutions: A bit of ambient scenting seems like a reasonable addition for a retailer to take to create some lasting store brand association. The precise targeting of scent is intriguing: cedar in men's, bubble gum in boys, etc. This would add another challenge for store personnel requiring them to adhere to each new season's plannogram and associate it with the proper scentogram (?).

Perhaps the retailer could convince their manufacturers to sponsor the monthly store scent. (An end cap for the consumer nose.) I look forward to passively sensing more on this subject in the future.

Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates: Scent has been a valuable marketing tool for years. There must be a reason why more retailers aren't using it...cost?

Sue Phillips, President, Scenteprises.com: Thank you for this article on Ambient Fragrancing in the retail industry. It has been well documented that a pleasant-smelling retail environment generates a positive guest experience and that the longer the consumer stays in the store the more likely it is that he or she will make purchases. The reference regarding the Bellagio hotel in my recent article in GLOW magazine pertained more to the environmental scenting in the main areas such as the Conservatory and the Main lobby rather than a particular retail boutique. There are many different retail boutiques in the Bellagio and while many of them incorporate scent-branding into their 'mix', some might not.

I would be delighted to welcome more comments about the positive attributes of scent-branding in the retail sector, and if there are any boutiques who would like information about it, please feel free to contact me.

'Ron': Scents are another market tool for retailers. Besides choosing the right scent for each area of a store (one scent may not be best for all departments), the right level of scent must also be considered. Unless enough scent is in the air, the effect is likely to be insignificant. With too much scent, . . . bye bye customers.

Odonna Mathews, President, Odonna Mathews Consulting: If the aroma in a store increases the shopping experience (and perhaps sales), adds a little "entertainment" and something different, then why not experiment with scents? Retailers might be well advised to use fresh scents in their public restrooms. It wouldn't take the place of a clean restroom, but there are so many interesting aromas and diffusers around, it would be worth it.

This article first appeared in Retailwire Online.

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