Eric Spangenberg, a pioneer in the field and dean of the Washington State University College of Business, has been homing in on just what makes the most commercially inspiring odor.
Spangenberg and colleagues at WSU and in Switzerland recently found that a simple scent works best.
Writing in the Journal of Retailing, the researchers describe exposing hundreds of Swiss shoppers to simple and complex scents. Cash register receipts and in-store interviews revealed a significant bump in sales when the uncomplicated scent was in the air.
“What we showed was that the simple scent was more effective,” says Spangenberg.
The researchers say the scent is more easily processed, freeing the customer’s mind to focus on shopping. But when that “bandwidth” is unavailable customers don’t perform cognitive tasks as effectively, says Spangenberg.
The researchers noticed that one group of about 100 people on average spent 20 percent more money, buying more items. They had shopped in the presence of the simple scent.
The research, says Spangenberg, underscores the need to understand how a scent is affecting customers. Just because pine boughs or baked cookies smell good doesn’t mean they will lead to sales.
“Most people are processing it at an unconscious level, but it is impacting them,” says Spangenberg. “The important thing from the retailer’s perspective and the marketer’s perspective is that a pleasant scent isn’t necessarily an effective scent.”
As Forest Gump says – “Life is just a box of chocolates….”