WSU study reveals which smells increase retail sales



Posted on November 27, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 4:58 PM

PULLMAN, Wash. — There are certain scents that evoke the feeling of Christmas: freshly baked cookies, pine trees, peppermint.

But a research team at Washington State University is honing in on what scents can get customers into the shopping spirit, and it’s not necessarily pumpkin spice egg nog latte. 

The group found that simple smells, as opposed to a complex blends of scents, are powerful motivators when it comes to spending.

The thought is that simple smells don’t require much mental processing on the customer’s part and that frees up their mind to focus on shopping.

For example "Mmmmm, what is that smell?" is replaced with "Oooh, I need that!"

The WSU researchers teamed up with a research group from Switzerland’s University of St. Galen, Spangenberg. Together, the team developed two scents: simple orange and an orange-basil blended with green tea.

For two and a half weeks, researchers watched as more than 400 customers shopped in a Swiss home decorations store. At different times, the air held the simple scent, the complex scent or no particular scent at all.

The study revealed that the customers who shopped in the presence of the simple scent spent 20 percent more money and bought more things.
Simply put, 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,” said Eric Spangenberg, Dean of the WSU College of Business. "The important thing from the retailer’s perspective and the marketer’s perspective is that a pleasant scent isn’t necessarily an effective scent.”