The Right Scent Speaks Volumes

Imagine this: it’s Monday morning. You are trying to arrive on time at your soliciting workplace, heart beating, eyes still craving for another hour of sleep, ears deafened by the horns of the usual traffic jam, the bitter taste of your morning, still way too hot coffee on your burnt tongue and a growling stomach, angry at you, again, because you skipped breakfast. Your senses are bombarded every second of your life without even realizing it.

But, suddenly, you stop. A weirdly familiar smell invades your nostrils, you start feeling warm and cozy inside, and a state of wellbeing surrounds your whole spirit. You do not know where it’s coming from but you definitely sense it, a combination of freshly baked cookies and sweet memories of your childhood. You turn your head, instinctually, to find the source of this heavenly nostalgic smell only to find out you are standing next to a “Barnes & Noble”. The chances to munch on a hot and crunchy chocolate biscuit are quite low but those leather covered books look undeniably gorgeous and you suddenly feel the urge to buy some.

Customers Respond to Scents

Maybe the upper-mentioned scenario looks like it’s ripped off a corny movie trailer but you have to admit that at least once in a lifetime the sense of smell contributed to a certain extent to your occasional binging shopping sessions. And it is not a common exaggeration of my way too dreamy self, but actual facts, demonstrated and tested out by scientists and marketing connoisseurs. According to “Global Retail Trends Report” from December 2013, customers respond way more powerfully to scents and sounds than to purely visual stimulus. So, although your shop window may be crowded with all sorts of extravagantly embedded nick-nacks it is not enough to catch a potential customer’s attention.

According to “Global Retail Trends Report” from December 2013, customers respond way more powerfully to scents and sounds than to purely visual stimulus. So, although your shop window may be crowded with all sorts of extravagantly embedded nick-nacks it is not enough to catch a potential customer’s attention.

The Nose is The Fastest Way to The Heart

You might also take into consideration the recently demonstrated benefits of using the so-called latest business craze, a form of sensory branding, known as “ambient scenting”. Brand identity is more critical today than ever before, as more and more businesses and well-known titans of the marketing fields and their products compete for consumer attention across an ever-increasing variety of channels.

“The part of your brain that senses scent can allow you to feel really bad about what you see in front of you – or really good – depending on what is it” researchers explain. The question is: How do you evoke a certain feeling or impulse without imposing it in any way? It might “smell a rat” in the beginning and you might mistake me for a lame salesman but bear with me as I present you the six scent families used in ambient scenting and how, if well combined, will transform you into a more successful brand:

#1. Citrus

Tangy effervescent zest, freshness and dynamism, these are just a few words to describe the ubiquitous citric smell. Lemons, oranges, mandarins, limes, grapefruits or even the fancier neroli or bergamot, they all offer us a state of well-being, optimism and positive energy.

A sniff of this invigorating scent it is, for some, the equivalent of a freshly ground coffee, or at least a walk along the sunny alleys of Sicily, it is all about your own imagination.

When it comes to using this crisp aroma in stores the best locations would be in the environments that are willing to stimulate or give the impression of clean and sterile, best for clearance areas, in order to give your customers the trust they need in the quality of your products.

#2. Fruits

We now pass on to a whole different category of smells, more delicate and subtle but no less effective when it comes to offering you a powerful tool to build emotional loyalty. Here, I am talking about the fruity notes that have become very popular in the recent years. Depending on the combination used, fruits have a nuanced and unique feel to them that make them irresistible for some people.

Ranging from the succulence of peaches and plums or apples to the musty and almost earthy vibes of blackberries and guarana. Another trick that companies started using is to combine the fruits with vegetables or nuts in order to create a fresher scent that you can’t quite put the finger on, but that makes you feel happy and youthful. Studies showed that fruity smells can reduce stress and anxiety levels and subconsciously induce a state of calmness. Fashion retailers should listen carefully as they are the ones who should use fruit-based perfumes for their stores. After smelling that sweet strawberry air-freshener trying on ten pairs of shoes doesn’t seem so challenging anymore, right?

#3. Florals

A category so complex in its own simplicity of fragrance notes, so rich and dense yet so ethereal: from the sweetness, honey-like top notes of hibiscus, the delicate nuances in freshly picked roses, to the innocent side of untouched daisies, all the way through the buttery gold scent of sunflowers, the lemony touches of magnolia and the caramelized facets of lavender, flowers can present surprising sides which never cease to lure not just insects, but humans as well.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to manufacturing a floral smell and you can never go wrong when choosing this Garden of Eden scenario for your clients.

I mean, this is the closest you can get to heaven when you are strolling in a furniture shop searching for the best sofa that could fit your living room. A good adding to this type of stores are those who imitate grass or wood aromas, but we will get to those later. The florals are popular among jewelry or fashion retailers as well, being associated with femininity and delicacy. No gender discrimination intended.

#4. Greens, Herbs and Fougères or “Outdoorsy”

Not once we heard people describing their favorite odors as being that “you know, outdoorsy smell”. We all know what they allude to, but what is in the composition of this vaguely named scents? Well, a whole lot of elements I have to say. From pungent, snapped plant leaves to freshly-cut grass or even spices we use to our daily life cooking dishes. Yes, you read correctly.

Rosemary, thyme, mint, fennel, basil, they all contribute to the aromatic effect of the outdoorsy smell. But sometimes our adventurous self-wants to feel closer to nature, to the mystery and untamed beauty of the forests or roughness of the mountainous fields. And here is the moment when the fougères enter the game. Although it may sound pretentious, fougère is actually the French term of the well-known fern, which is not exactly a natural derivation, as ferns are not so strongly-scented on their own.

This smell is a mélange of lavender, oak moss and coumarin which makes us think of the mystical notes of green, damp forests. This is another proof of how smell is like the Superman of the senses, making us establishing connections with places we visited and loved. This is dedicated to the eco-friendly shops, or outdoor activities promoters or even furniture retailers as I mentioned before.

#5. Ozonic

Another nature-inspired category that defines the smells that tickle our senses. “The earth after the rain” “the ocean after the storm” are a few of the preferences of the more nonconformist customers that big companies deal with. It is that je ne sais quoi you cannot describe in words but you adore with all your heart. These types of odors are used in small environments to create the impression of larger spaces, and to induce the illusion of a calm and open atmosphere. Perfect for clothing and gift shops these classic smells will make your business a breath of fresh air.

#6. Gourmand

A personal favorite, with this category you might think it is very unlikely to go wrong. I mean, what freak doesn’t like food, right? Well, kind of. You must be careful what you choose as while some people go mad at a whiff of a vanilla Yankee others wouldn’t be so pleased.

Ranging from simple notes such as coffee, creamy milk chocolate, or caramel to the more extravagant crème brulée, sorbet and cupcakes or even candy and bubble gum. It is like Christmas morning with your family, sipping hot chocolate fudge and eating pie.

But you do this with hundred other people in the store. Still cozy, though, right? Usually, this type of smells are associated with a feeling of nostalgia and playfulness, challenging not only our nostrils but our taste buds as well. For example, according to Hunkermoller (2012) customer purchases increased by 20 % when a Netherland-based lingerie retailer infused its store with the scent of chocolate. The same can do the showroom areas with dining room or kitchen items on display. Scents that feel “homey” work wonders.

It is all science. And maybe a little bit of magic. But scents really do create unforgettable experiences, no matter the context. How a place smells is the most recalled feature of a past experience. The aspect that sticks to our brain the longest is not the sounds, visuals or textures but the smells. Fully developed at birth and the only sense directly connected to the amygdala and hippocampus, the areas of your brain linked to emotion and memory, smell is definitely the most powerful sense of all. But enough with the fancy words. Next time you think about how you can improve the experience of your customers, you should think about how you want them to remember the smell of your shop.