Imagine this scenario: after a hearty lunch, you head to the mall to finish up back-to-school shopping. With a full belly and a shopping list in hand, you meander through the stores in search of supplies like backpacks, gym clothing, and kids’ basics such as socks and lunch pails. What happens next is part of the mysterious power of scent: you find yourself purchasing items that you never intended to buy that were not on your list.
The purchased items may include food even though you were completely satiated before you hit the mall, as well as a whole host of items that weren’t originally on your radar. How? It’s possible for scent to entice shoppers to loiter, browse, and buy.
Marketers have figured out how to use scent to tempt shoppers to stay in stores longer and spend more. Psychology Today points to a study funded by the shoe retailer Nike that concluded that shoppers are more willing to buy higher-priced shoes if the air smells floral.
Real estate professionals have admitted to using the aroma of freshly baked goodies to seduce would-be homebuyers. It’s been said that the smell of cookies in the air can give people the feeling of “home,” eliciting sweet memories of childhood and the notion that living in that cookie-smelling space will be a positive experience.
With retailers becoming savvy about how scent impacts brand loyalty, some of the bigger players are making sure their original product scents retain their unique appeal. For some, there is an odor-related conflict, particularly since businesses focus on how scents can increase sales. According to a former CEO, Starbucks quit selling a certain breakfast sandwich when the food’s odor overtook the money-making smell of ground coffee.
Another company that relies heavily on the power of scent is the sweet treat giant Cinnabon, known for strategically leasing out storefront space on a lower level near the stairwells to capitalize on the idea that scent travels upward into the air through vents and vestibules.
When used appropriately, a particular scent can influence purchasing decisions and the buyer’s overall perception of the item’s quality. A particular smell can tie back to the concept behind a product, such as a resort that smells of odors that people relate to vacation (think suntan oils or decadent lotions for a spa locale). Guests are more likely to have a positive association with their experience at the location, thus creating brand loyalty or a destination preference.
The next time you make a shopping trip, don’t be surprised if you find yourself staying a bit longer and buying more. Instead of blaming your inclination to buy something you didn’t anticipate on the lack of willpower, find some peace knowing that your nose knows the way to your wallet–and so do marketers.