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The smell of success


At a time when well known companies and products have already fine-tuned key aspects of their brand, from celebrity spokespeople, music, packaging and marketing materials, product giveaways and customer service, scent is the remaining sense to engage. Impressively, humans recall smells with 65% accuracy a year after smelling them, in contrast to 50% of visuals after just three months, which makes it all the more important to utilise this additional sensory tool when trying to engage your customers.

From gel cartridges and cards which emit smells from the TV while you’re watching a cookery programme, to KFC creating candles that smell like fried chicken and even a scent cartridge which plugs into an iPhone and releases smells while you use certain apps, smell is becoming an increasing focus for marketers. Estate agents commonly capitalise on the use of smell by encouraging vendors to fill their home with the scent of freshly baked bread or coffee, in creating a homely feel for potential buyers.

Smell can have a number of uses in stores by creating a positive ambience and an added connection with the customer. In a world where visual and aural stimuli have been exploited to the max, businesses should be aware of how to capture the power of smell to influence customer behaviour and create an enhanced experience.

‘Smell memory’ is the most powerful part of our memory, with humans able to recognise 10,000 different odours. When you first perceive a scent, you connect it to an event, person or object. When you smell the scent again, it often triggers a memory in the form of a conditioned response. Incredibly it is believed that 75% of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell1 and no two people experience an odour in the same way, making this sense a very personal one. Research has shown that 40% of customers stay longer in pleasantly scented environments2 – and the longer people stay, the more likely they are to make a purchase or form a connection with a brand.

Scenting makes good financial sense. According to research by Eric Spangenberg, Dean of the Washington State University College of Business, an experiment within a retail environment showed that out of a group of approximately 100 people who had shopped in the presence of a simple scent, typically they spent 20% more money, and bought more items. Fifteen seconds is all it takes for a customer to decide whether they stay in a store or not. In a separate piece of research, 100%3 of people estimated the value of a pair of shoes to be over £6 higher than their actual value, in an environment scented with a relevant fragrance.

Scenting is still relatively new in the UK, whereas it is used more widely in Europe and the US. Previous scenting techniques and products have used heavy air droplets which produce over-powering smells but advancements have been made which use micro particles to distribute fragrance evenly, to create a subtle and sophisticated aroma that’s lighter and lasts longer.

Although there are myriad scents available, having a bespoke scent for your brand is recommended. A signature scent can take weeks of consultation, design and testing to get right, and specialists work hard to create the right smell for the brand. But the benefit of creating something new, is that the association with the brand will be even more unique and therefore, more distinct.

In today’s tough economic climate, the retail and hospitality sectors need to work even harder to drive customer satisfaction and encourage spending. Scenting is another tool to help retailers do this and should be considered as seriously as visual marketing as an effective and subtle way of making positive changes to the perception of a brand. Scent and sensory marketing has the potential to increase sales, boost brand loyalty, spur brand advocacy and create a strong lasting emotional connection with customers. Customer experience goes far beyond what simply meets the eye, or the ear, so try and create a lasting impression for your customers which appeals to all senses.

Published on Tuesday 28 October by Editorial Assistant

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