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Transforming The Customer Experience

The Psychology of Smell: How Scent Impacts Customers

Posted May 16, 2019, 8:00:00 AM

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Smell is one of the most underrated senses in our bodies, and scent is often overlooked in marketing as many people focus on creating visual and auditory cues and stimulation. We’re so often told that the “visuals matter” or “you need to make a good first impression” that we overlook the power of smell. It’s time for that to change.

The sense of smell has the power to impact how your customers engage with your brand and products.

Let’s explore the psychology of smell and what it means for your in-store marketing strategy.

Smells Is Strongly Linked to Memory

One of the key components of the psychology of smell is the tight-knit link between smell and memory.

Scents are processed in the olfactory bulb, which has direct connections to the amygdala and hippocampus. These are the parts of the brain that provide emotional reactions and memories. While it’s certainly possible (and common) to see an object or hear a song that elicits emotions and memories, you rarely have a reaction that is so immediate and strong as when you encounter a certain smell.

Studies have also found that people actually prefer smells that elicit strong memories. In an article for Psychology Today, Christopher Bergland cited a study of 271 people who were asked to rate scents in five categories: pleasantness, intensity, familiarity, uniqueness, and the degree of which they elicited memories. The researchers found that the top lotions smelled pleasant and elicited the strongest memories.

People Have Unique Scent Preferences

Because the sense of smell is linked closely to our memories, everyone has different preferences.

While there may be some common favorite smells (like hints of clean laundry or the smell fresh bread in the oven), most people have a few unique odors that they cling to because it reminds them of home, or their childhood, or their loved ones.

For example, a Japanese company developed a room spray that is meant to mimic the smell of a cat’s forehead. For many people, snuggling with their cats is a calming activity and a way to connect with their feline companions. This room spray is meant to pull on the memories to create the same comforting feel.

When you dig into the psychology of smell, you can see that there is no one way to connect with your audiences. A scent that means something to one person means nothing to another.

Keep this in mind as you develop a signature scent for your brand. Look for smells that will have the highest likelihood of resonating the most with your target audience.

So, What Does the Psychology of Smell Mean for Retail Businesses?

Retailers and brands with brick-and-mortar locations are starting to tap into the power of smell to build brand loyalty, improve customer experiences, and drive sales.

This is the process of scent marketing.

One example is Lowe’s. When you walk into the store, you’re greeted with the smell of freshly cut wood. When you walk into the gardening department, you smell flowers, lush dirt, and cool water. Within Lowe’s, you want to take steps to improve your home and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Home improvement becomes exciting and elicits positive feelings.

Plus, if you don’t think that scent marketing drives revenue, think again. Studies have found that scent marketing increased customer intent to purchase by 80%, turning lukewarm shoppers into actual buyers.

For another example, one gas station actually added the smell of fresh coffee to its store and increased coffee sales by 300%.

Once you start to notice scent branded scents in stores, you will find it everywhere. You will encounter scent marketing all across the mall, from the sweet desserts at the Cinnabon stand to the smell of new books and coffee at the bookstore.  

As a business owner, you have the power to use scent marketing to enhance and define the experiences customers have in your store.  

How Can You Utilize Scent Marketing In Your Business?

Not only is scent marketing an impactful way to connect with your customers, it’s also easy to set up.

First you'll go over your goals with a scent development team to create a scent profile for your business, taking your atmosphere, industry, and target audience into account. 

Once you have a scent that suits your brand, you can invest in diffusers that lightly spread your branded smell across your business. Our scents are hypoallergenic and oil-based, which means you won’t irritate sensitive customers with these odors.    

From there, it’s up to you to track how the sense of smell changes customer behavior.  You may notice that some customers spend more time in your store -- lingering over items because the scents make them calmer and more relaxed. You may notice an uptick in sales as more people convert or add different products to their baskets.

Using this information, you can decide whether your branded-scent needs to be adjusted or if you found the best match for your business.

To learn more about the science behind smells and how you can bring scent marketing to your business, contact us today. We have a team of experts who can guide your brand through the process from identifying and creating the perfect scent to setting up diffusers that spread your signature scents throughout your locations.

Request a Demo Today!