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Many elements play part in business success. In the past we’ve discussed how color is an important aesthetic quality to your store, spa or restaurant. Today we’ll discuss another sense that makes an impact on customer perception: SMELL. And it can be more powerful than you may think.

Your sense of smell has the ability to create comfort and can connect customers to certain emotions. Before we get into how this relates to your business, let’s take a quick look at how smell works.

According to BBC Science & Nature, olfactory receptors are what help us detect the thousands of smells we come in contact with. These receptors exist in the nose and when they are stimulated, they send impulses directly to the limbic system – which is a part of the brain responsible for emotions.

Therefore, having memorable smells in your store can help build an emotional bond.

Of course, using smells to create well-being and positive effects is not new. Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years and involves using essential oils from plants, herbs and fruits to heal and relax. It wasn’t until more recently that smell started being used in marketing and brand building.

Smell relates to buying

Dr. Alan Hirsch, the director of neurology at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, has spent a lot of time studying smell and its influences on people.

One experiment he conducted involved volunteers, a pair of sneakers, and two rooms – one spray with a floral scent and the other odor-free. He then surveyed the volunteers and concluded that 84 percent of volunteers preferred the sneakers in the floral-scented room, even though they were identical to the ones in the odorless room. Additionally, the volunteers reported being willing to spend $10 more for the pair in the floral room.

Hirsch also conducted a different experiment in casinos. The results showed that when an area of the casino was odorized with a pleasant smell, more money was spent in that area than areas where no fragrance was used. The area with the scent experienced a 45 percent increase in spending.

Ultimately, store owners use pleasant scents to make guests feel comfortable, with the hopes of staying longer and spending more.

Scents you should consider

The brain will trigger different responses to different smells, so it’s important to use scents that work with the overall image of your store.

Here are some suggestions from the Scent Marketing Institute/SCENTtrends, which shares the scent and the activity associated with it. Of course, these are just suggestions – sometimes specific scents will trigger unfavorable memories in people.

  1. The smell of talcum powder is associated with safety, security and nostalgia.
  2. Peppermint and citrus elicits alertness.
  3. Lavender, vanilla and chamomile helps people feel relaxed.
  4. The smell of barbecue smoke makes a room feel smaller than it really is.
  5. Conversely, the smell of apple and cucumber creates the perception of the room being bigger than it is.
  6. The smell of leather or cedar has helped in selling expensive furniture.
  7. The scent of fresh baked goods has helped sell homes.
  8. Floral scents have been proven to keep people browsing and have resulted in guests spending more money.

Avoid unfavorable odors

Just as pleasant smells can lead to positive memories and experiences, unpleasant odors can lead to negativity and chase guests away.

For instance, rotting garbage and air pollution has been associated with a development in road rage. If a bad smell can lead to anger, imagine what will happen in your store. People will leave and be compelled to recall the experience, which won’t bode well for future visits.

Do you currently use fragrances in your store because they help retain guests? If so, what fragrances do you use and what has your experience been with them? Please share your story with us!

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As part of Upserve’s family of more than 10,000 restaurants, The Chef is Restaurant Insider’s secret weapon in the kitchen. As a restaurant expert in all things marketing, menu building, management, training and more, restaurateurs trust The Chef and the award-winning Restaurant Insider to dish out the ingredients needed to make your business a sweet success.