Connecting with Customers Through the Power of Scent


Delivering an excellent in-store experience to customers is no easy task for retailers. In addition to ensuring your employees are offering exceptional customer service, you need to consider how shoppers will perceive every aspect of your store environment, including lighting, music, floor plans and merchandise display. But in determining how to create an optimum in-store environment, don’t forget one of the most important factors that can positively influence the customer experience—scent.

Scent is the most powerful of the five senses and the only sense directly connected to the brain's limbic system which is responsible for memories and emotions. As a result, scenting strategies offer an excellent vehicle for establishing and reinforcing a brand's identity with potential customers.

Of course retailers want to create a pleasing environment for shopping through careful consideration of details like music and merchandise placement, but adding the right scent can take your customers' experience from what they expect to what they consider truly exceptional.

For example, during the holiday season customers will expect seasonal décor, such as festive lights or snow scenes as well as seasonal music in your retail space. But what if they were also met with a whiff of gingerbread, peppermint, pumpkin latte or pine? Scents like these can create an unexpected and unmatched holiday mood.

Tapping into the power of scent

There are many opportunities to use scent to help reach customers and influence their behavior in unprecedented ways. Research has demonstrated that ambient scents increase positive product ratings by 25%. Moreover, customers will linger 40% longer in scented areas, and scenting can increase purchase intent by 80%.

There are several potential benefits to be gained by developing a scenting strategy for your retail environment, including:

  • Evoking pleasing emotions and memory to draw patrons into stores with a warm welcome

  • Increasing footfall and dwell time in a specific area or department

  • Promoting a scented product within an area or throughout a store

  • Eliminating malodors in a store

  • Enhancing a holiday feel with familiar scents

  • Reinforcing a retailer's image with a branded scent

Scenting systems are available that use nebulization to uniformly diffuse scent and provide consistency over the full life of a scent cartridge. The scent distributed is a millionth the weight of a typical aerosol drop and 1/100th the size in diameter. These systems allow for consistent, predictable and lasting distribution around the retail environment. Units can be located on tabletops, walls or track-mounted to HVAC systems. The scenting systems can also be customized to fit any environment.

Enhancing the customer connection

Consumers seek out brands they can connect with emotionally. Olfactory branding can help your retail chain interact with consumers in a whole new way, creating a multi-sensory brand experience that will make shoppers more relaxed, comfortable and confident in making purchase decisions. In fact, studies have shown that businesses can achieve a 70 percent increase in brand impression when three senses are triggered.

Recent survey results from management consulting services firm Accenture confirm that retail stores remain an important part of a seamless customer experience, with 28% of shoppers surveyed globally indicating they plan to shop more in-store in the future. With consumers gaining renewed interest in the in-store experience, scenting provides a forward-thinking way for retailers to reinforce brand values, enhance customer experiences and strengthen brand loyalty. Evoking scent memories holds great potential to elevate a retail brand in the new age of multi-sensory marketing.

Roel Ventura is an ambient designer with Ambius, which offers a full spectrum of services, including ambient scenting, interior landscaping, holiday décor, decorative wall art and fresh fruit and flower deliveries, to enhance the interior space for the retail, hospitality and other commercial industriesk (