How shops use scent to encourage big spending
New Scientist has just made a popular article freely available online that focuses on how shops use scent to alter our buying behaviour.
The article looks at 'scent marketing' – the practice of selecting an in-shop scent to encourage spending on a particular product line.
In one recent study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Business Research, Eric Spangenberg, a consumer psychologist and dean of the College of Business and Economics at Washington State University in Pullman, and his colleagues carried out an experiment in a local clothing store. They discovered that when "feminine scents", like vanilla, were used, sales of women's clothes doubled; as did men's clothes when scents like rose maroc were diffused.
"Men don't like to stick around when it smells feminine, and women don't linger in a store if it smells masculine," says Spangenberg, who led the research and has been studying the impact of ambient scents on consumers for more than a decade. Spangenberg says this most recent study underscores the importance of matching gender-preferred scents to the product. Both men and women browsed for longer and spent more money when a fragrance specific to their gender was used to scent the store atmosphere. "Scent marketing is a viable strategy that retailers should consider," says Spangenberg. "But they really need to tailor the scent to the consumer."
It's not clear exactly how this works, but we know that smell has a particularly strong effect on emotional memory.
In fact, the olfactory bulb, the part of the brain's olfactory system that takes information directly from the nose, is linked directly to the amygdala, a key emotion processing area.