Retail is in a state of flux. The rise in online shopping continues to disrupt more traditional bricks and mortar stores, with 51 per cent of retail purchases taking place online in the last year. This shift has forced a change in approach and proposition for a new generation of shoppers. Rather than simply being a place for functional transactions, forward thinking retailers are starting to create an ‘experience’ in store, where customers can interact more intensely with the products and their brand. One of the ways in which this can be achieved is through scent.
The ‘Experience Economy’
In 1998, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore coined the term ‘The Experience Economy’, describing a future where, in order to stand out, businesses should create memorable events for their customers. Almost 20 years on, this theory is more relevant than ever, as retail stores must adapt to digital challenges and raised customer expectations.
The new generation of physical store needs to create a journey, an experience for the visitor where every sense is activated, otherwise they may as well just purchase online. From colour to scent, to tactility and taste, a more sensory experience can make a positive impact on customers and a reason for them to step through the doors in the first place.
Why is scent so powerful?
Humans are able to distinguish one trillion different scent combinations. Even if we can’t pin point what the smell is, we have the ability to differentiate. This means we are highly adept at recognising a smell’s association, which is often deeply rooted in memory and emotion. Incredibly, it is believed that 75 per cent of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell and no two people experience an odour in the same way – making this sense a very personal one.
Adding scent to the retail experience makes good financial sense. According to a study by Nike, a scent in-store can increase intent to purchase by 80 per cent. Similarly, a brand-appropriate smell can encourage shoppers to spend up to 20 per cent more time in-store and almost three quarters of people have been drawn into a store by an inviting smell.
The challenge for stores then becomes how they can leverage the impact of scent to help create a service-orientated, experiential and personalised in-store experience.
In a recent study undertaken to uncover the power of scent in retail experiences, Ambius Premium Scenting revealed that scent significantly increases consumer involvement in experiences by a margin of 38 per cent. The study, which was conducted using virtual reality, also looked at the impact of scent within multi-sensory experiences. The results showed that an initial impact of scent was experienced within the first five seconds across the various tests, and before the visual sense was fully established.
Moreover, the effect of scent on involvement in the experience deepened with dwell time. However, in ‘high excitement’ scenarios, the effect of scent was rapid, but then became lost in the ‘noise’ of high excitement visual and audio stimuli. This highlighted the need for a sensory balance to create the perfect experience in-store.
The store as a destination
A modern store is less about being a place to just sell products, and more a destination to experience products or showcase brand essence. Shoppers like personalisation and creating a tailored experience will drive future retail success. Retailers are designing dynamic spaces that become a destination and give people a reason to enter.
Experiences are starting to be tailored to lifestyle choices and can respond to different shopper moods, from high energy experiences to relaxing zones. In all these different areas, scent can pay a large part in connecting with the customer,
With hundreds of scents available, you should be able to find the perfect one to suit your brand. If you’d like a bespoke, signature scent, it can take weeks of consultation, design and testing to get right, but can be a very worthwhile investment.
The jewellery brand Pandora, decided to introduce ambient scenting in its stores, chosen from the Premium Scenting collection, with the objective being to enhance the customer shopping experience and create an unforgettable atmosphere.
The team has noticed that since introducing the scent, the perception of the brand has been enhanced and customers have shared their positive opinions of the scent – demonstrating the power of choosing the right scent for your brand.
Retailers need to work hard to attract and retain customers. The traditional, physical store has to adapt to our changing shopping habits and find new methods of engaging with their customers. Scent should be seen as an extremely powerful asset in the marketing tool-box for shop owners and can be exploited positively in creating the ultimate retail experience.
Gareth Cowmeadow is scenting specialist at Ambius.
Further reading on scent and the customer experience
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