What Does Your Store Smell Like?

The right aroma can enhance the customer experience … and your bottom line 

By Lyn M. Falk, Retailworks, Inc.

The next time you walk into your store, take a whiff and pay attention to what you smell.

Is there a hint of mildew or stuffiness? Do you sense cardboard from shipping containers or someone’s microwaved leftovers? Or are there artificial aromas from chemical plug-ins?

None of these add to the customer experience. If you have a pleasant aroma wafting through the air, like the smell of lavender or fresh brewed coffee, then you’re enhancing the customer experience. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a pleasing scent. Why is it so powerful? Because our olfactory lobe is located within the limbic system of our brain, and that area controls our emotions and triggers memories.

See also: What Does Your Store Sound Like

Some call our sense of smell our “involuntary memory.” The direct connection to the limbic system means we initially bypass logical reasoning. Only after we respond emotionally does our intellect kick in. Our sense of smell was our first sense to develop, and whether we know it or not, it’s a huge part of how we process the environment around us. 

Always get rid of odors first before you disperse an aroma. If it’s a recurring odor and you can’t remove the source, best to place an ionic air purifier as close to the problem as possible and run it continuously. If it’s a chemical-based odor, use a machine with a charcoal filter. If it’s the employee lunchroom, create some tight seals around the door. For smaller problem areas, put out a bowl of Fresh Wave odor eliminating crystals. 

It’s also important to understand that we have biological reactions to certain scents. For instance, lavender has been shown to relax us, jasmine is known to stimulate, and peppermint can help sharpen one’s attention. Studies have also shown that men lingered longer in a jewelry store when there was a spicy fragrance in the air, and customers in a home décor shop infused with a simple orange scent spent 20% more than when the aroma was absent.

 Signature scents have been developed and dispersed through the HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) systems in hotels, department stores and casinos in a practice called “olfactory branding,” which has helped boost business at those locations. A word of caution though; if the wrong aroma is used and/or a scent is too strong, the technique will backfire, and customers will cut their shopping trips short. What’s more, going overboard with synthetic fragrances can also trigger asthma and migraine attacks. 

A great way to diffuse a pleasant aroma throughout a retail store is to buy a crock pot (they make mini ones for smaller spaces) and throw in some essential oils or herbs to create a natural scent. Turn it on just before you open and let it “brew” for an hour or so (without the cover). Do the same in the afternoon.

If you the air in your store is dry, find a small humidifier and place a few drops of essential oils in the water, which will disperse with the steam.

A lower-tech approach is to put out an old-fashioned bowl of potpourri. It’s easy to make and can be placed in nice dishes or vases around the store. Another option is to use one of your demo ranges to simmer the concoction or to bake cookies. These aromas will help create a branded ambience, and people will no doubt notice and comment.

In determining which aroma is right for you, think about your target market, the product lines you are selling and the time of year. Some basic scents to consider: Cinnamon and cloves for holiday; evergreen/pine oils for winter; light floral for spring; and citrus for summer. 

So start shopping with your nose. What would your customers like to smell? How can you enhance the perceived value of your products? Finding the right aroma and dispensing the right amount of it can boost your brand and increase your bottom line.  

BrandSource consultant and guest speaker Lyn M. Falk is owner/president of Retailworks, Inc., an award-winning design, branding and display firm. As a retail advisor, registered interior designer, consumer behavior specialist, experience curator, and contributor to BrandSource’s showroom Makeover Manual, Falk has devoted more than 39 years to helping retailers build healthy, purposeful and productive spaces that move hearts, minds and merchandise. Contact Lyn at lfalk@retailworksinc.com or visit www.retailworksinc.com.

Upcoming Events