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The smell of retail



Branding is a multisensual exercise. What you see and hear in the retail space is carefully crafted, but the sense of smell is rarely utilised in quite the same way. Brands are having an increasingly difficult time differentiating themselves and winning consumer loyalty; can the right scent give a business the edge?

Academic and industry research shows that scent can attract consumers, generate more revenue, improve customer satisfaction and enhance the perception of the quality of a brand. Its powerful psychological effects can stimulate memories or even help create new ones through an approach that can be subtler than visual or aural branding.

Businesses are employing companies such as ScentAir and Aire-Master to pioneer this new trend known as ambient scentin”. The idea is to give the customer an experience that keeps them inside the store for as long as possible. “Smell can entice consumers to stay longer, shop longer and purchase more,” according to Elizabeth Musmanno, President of The Fragrance Foundation. Tech companies are even creating web-driven scent experiences, for example Mint Digital and its project Olly Factory, which begs the question what does the internet smell like?

Stores such as H&M and Calvin Klein already employ scent branding, while casinos and hotels offer ‘welcoming’, ‘calming’ and ‘peaceful’ scents for their guests. In some cases, workplaces have adopted scents that are thought to enhance productivity. The technique is being engineered to the same effect music was used in retail in mid-20th century America. We currently have muzak for the nostrils but what happens when we start composing symphonies or energetic pop hits?

Beyond creating experiences and altering consumer behavior, there’s another motive: scent memory. Unlike vision or hearing, the human sense of smell has the ability to stimulate parts of the human brain that we can’t filter out or ignore. It has the ability to trigger emotions and create lasting, meaningful memories.

In the future, the smell of your retail space could be as influential as the use of brand colours or materials, but realistically it will be how the senses work together that will create a truly influential brand experience.

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