Published November 27, 2012
While holiday shopping this year, you might want to pay more attention to how things smell in the stores you're visiting. Those scents just might make your spend more. While lighting and music can play a big role in how much people spend, new research indicates that certain kinds of smells can also inspire shoppers to spend more.
Simple smells, as opposed to complex blends of scents, are powerful motivators when it comes to spending, researchers at Washington State University found.
That is because simple smells — such as citrus or pine — don’t require much mental processing on the shopper’s part and frees their brains to focus on shopping.
"What we showed was that the simple scent was more effective," said Eric Spangenberg, one of the study's authors and dean of the Washington State University College of Business.
For the study, researchers developed two scents: a simple orange scent and a more complicated orange-basil blended with green tea. For 18 days, the researchers watched more than 400 customers in a home decorations store as the air held the simple scent, the complex scent or no particular scent at all.
The study revealed that the 100 consumers who shopped in the presence of the simple scent spent on average 20 percent more money.
In a series of experiments, researchers had students solve word problems under the different scent conditions. They found that the students solved more problems, in less time, when the simple scent was in the air, compared to when the complicated one or no scent at all were used.
Spangenberg said the research underscores the need to understand how scents are affecting customers.
"Most people are processing it at an unconscious level, but it is impacting them," he said. "The important thing from the retailer's perspective and the marketer's perspective is that a pleasant scent isn't necessarily an effective scent."
Recently published in the Journal of Retailing, the study was co-authored by Andreas Herrmann from Switzerland's University of St. Gallen; David Sprott, a Washington State marketing professor; and Manja Zidansek, a marketing doctoral candidate.