Retail Atmospherics: Scent Marketing – What Success Really Smells Like

January 7, 2015 2:56 pm Published by Scent

The smell of success is no longer a figurative expression in the world of retail.

ScentScent marketing rivalry has always been associated with the food industry more so than any other sector. We’re all very much aware of the overwhelming aromas as we pass food retailers battling it out in department store food courts; it’s inevitable that these aromas effect customer’s eating decisions whether consciously or subconsciously.

More recently, however, it has become commonplace for fashion retailers, hotels and even casinos to strategically use scent to entice customers into the store, persuade them to linger a little longer and even spend a little more.

Why the sudden nose appeal?

As consumers, we wouldn’t think twice about how store fragrances make us feel, think or act. However studies conducted over the years have revealed that our sense of smell is considered to be our most emotional sense.

Aromas have the power to immediately trigger a feeling in a person; it can make us feel nostalgic, relaxed, energised and even transport us back to our childhood.

The average person is able to recognise over 10,000 scents alone, with research claiming that there is a 40% improvement in our mood when exposed to a pleasant fragrance. So why shouldn’t retailers rouse a little nasal satisfaction?

How is your scent affecting your customers shopping experience?

ScentWithout knowing it, right now your store’s aromas could subconsciously be making customers feel agitated, stressed, anxious or even claustrophobic.

Since no two people smell the same odour in the same way, it can be a difficult task to choose a scent that identifies with your brand as well as provides customers with a memorable and calming shopping experience.

For this reason, specialist consultancy firms have popped up all over the world over the last decade or so to focus on nothing more than helping businesses use scent to their advantage and devise unique, appealing aromas to suit their brand.

Choosing A Scent – The Good, The Bad and The Stenchy

ScentVanilla vs Rose Maroc

A study by Spangenberg found that in clothing stores, the sales of women’s clothes doubled when feminine scents like vanilla were used. Similarly, the sales of men’s clothes rose when scents like rose maroc were used.

He concluded – “”Men don’t like to stick around when it smells feminine, and women don’t linger in a store if it smells masculine.” So if your store is gender specific, ditching a generic scent in favour of a gender-targeted fragrance could have a significant effect on overall sales.

Seashore vs Firewood

A study by Concordia University investigated how scents can be used to counteract the claustrophobic atmosphere in small, jam-packed shopping spaces, as well as the anxiety caused by bare, open shopping spaces.

It was found that scents best combat anxiety when they create feelings of openness in crowded retail environments, and coziness in open retail spaces.

So using a scent that evokes open spaces, like a seashore fragrance, will create a relaxing shopping experience in small shopping spaces, and using a scent that evokes enclosed spaces, like firewood, simulates a calming atmosphere in open shopping spaces. If implemented accordingly, this space manipulation tactic can increase any customer’s browsing time.

ScentFlower Power

Nike conducted a study that concluded that the majority of people will buy more shoes, and are willing to pay a higher price for shoes, if exposed to a floral scent.

Likewise, the Las Vegas Hilton gambling casino found its patrons spent 50 percent more time playing slot machines when the air around them was doused with a floral scent, and the stronger the scent, the longer the patrons gambled.

Retailers, dig up your gardens!


A peppermint aroma has been proven to increase physical performance. Although this doesn’t necessarily result in increased sales per sae, gyms and fitness centres can incorporate a peppermint aroma to increase motivation and create a more energetic atmosphere for members.



Studies carried out in US department stores found that diffusing a citrus scent in a moderately busy shopping environment not only influenced customers to spend on average $20 more, but they also perceived the department store to be livelier, more pleasant and more stimulating.

So one whiff of a strategically sproused lemon, orange, bergamot or mandarin fragrance if you’re a large retailer or department store could have your customers running energetically to the tills, notes waving in the air!


Summing up Scent…

From Disney and Toys R Us to Victoria’s Secret and Nike, the most diverse brands are picking up on to the scent manipulation that’s sweeping the world of retail – it’s time your brand did too.

Store atmospherics have a significant influence on brand identity, so if you’re unsure what scent is right for your brand, seeking help from a specialist consultant could be the easiest, fastest and most effective way of brewing up your very own sweet smell of success.



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