As we’ve been learning throughout this series, the brick-and-mortar experience boils down to the five senses. Those are the only means your customers have to experience your business, so making sure each sense is catered to is vital.
Today, we’re looking at one of the more forgotten senses: Smell. The various scents and odors in your store (whether they’re intentional or not) will send a lot of subconscious signals to your customers.
Major retailers and casinos will actually intentionally disperse different scents to see which one leads to an increase in customer spending. These aren’t small investments either— big money goes into getting the right smell. I’ll bet if most Americans walked into a Target wearing a blindfold, they’d know exactly where they were.
So let’s dive into a few of the more common pitfalls and examine a few pro tips:
1. Stop and smell the rows(es)
Take a walk through your business and follow your nose. Better, yet, enlist a friend to join you who isn’t there every day. You stop registering smells after enough exposure. Is there a corner where something smells a bit off? Is there a different scent on one side of the store vs the other? Are there certain products whose smell bleeds through their packaging?
Doing a quick “smell check” is something many retailers neglect. Especially if operating in an older building (where musty, stale aromas are common), just take a walk through and see what you’re dealing with.
2. Eliminate any unintended aromas
Not just “stink” (which obviously should be eliminated), but any aroma that’s not intentional. This doesn’t mean you need to have the same scent throughout every area, but it does mean that every smell someone detects should (as much as is in your control) be a scent you chose.
This also means being aware of the smells created by your employees, especially at mealtimes. One man’s microwaved fish is another man’s uncontrollable nausea. Make sure there is a dedicated space for food prep/consumption that minimizes the customer’s experience.
3. Make a good first impression.
As soon as a customer walks in, they should be greeted with a proper olfactory virtual handshake. A refreshing, invigorating scent is a great way to say “Welcome!”. It’s also a great way to mask the uncontrolled odors coming in from outside.
This was actually pioneered in the early days of the department store at Selfridges in London. The streets of London were very unsanitary with all the horse-drawn transportation, so Harry Selfridge moved the perfume counters right up to the entrance. This way, the customers coming in from the dirty streets would be greeted with the floral, exotic mixtures of French parfums. You still see that today. It’s the reason most grocery stores also have fresh flowers or bread right by the entrance.
There is also a steakhouse in West Texas that actually installed a vent from the kitchen grill straight to the front door (with a smoke filter, of course) to get customers’ mouths watering. Jimmy John’s sandwich shops famously advertise “Free Smells”. Chik-fil-A has a familiar blast of maple. And, of course we’ve already mentioned that familiar experience of walking into a Target with its vague notes of buttered popcorn and coconut.
Just get creative about how your customers are greeted when they walk in.
4. “Clean” is the ideal scent.
Whichever smell you select, and whatever tools you use to disperse it, there is a big difference between adding some flavor to the air and masking a bad smell with a good one. Make sure your store (and everything it’s composed of) is clean before you go adding to the aroma.
Be aware of the chemicals you use. Some are scented and that could overpower or clash with your other aromas. Usually, it’s best to use cleaning products that are consistent with an aromatic theme. Just be aware of what chemicals are being used, when they’re being used, and in what quantities. Most people instinctively use too much, so make sure your employees with cleaning duties are properly trained on how to mix and dilute chemicals.
5. Be seasonal (within reason)
A tropical fruit scent for the summer, a bouquet of flowers for spring, some rainy trees for the fall and woody spices for the winter. Seasons bring new smells. This doesn’t mean you have to change your scent profile every quarter, but if your business is going to use smell heavily, just remember seasonality makes a difference.
If I were to smell Christmas cookies by the chimney in the middle of June, I’d be a little confused; (though most likely I wouldn’t be sure why). It may not be a bad thing if the store needs to clearance out the last of its winter merchandise, but I may not be as inclined to buy some swim trunks and a bottle of sunscreen.
6. Don’t overdo it!
Oftentimes, when businesses realize the importance of smells, they overcompensate and end up overwhelming people with strong odors. Just remember, a little bit goes a long way. If you’re vaguely aware of a smell when you walk through the door, that’s what you want.
Remember also that many people are sensitive to strong scents. So avoid anything spicy (like cinnamon-infused aromas) or anything too sweet (most vanilla or berry scents), or anything that smells like food unless you actually sell those foods. Wood-infused scents are usually a good neutral option, but can be a bit ‘masculine’.
Be sure to have a diverse range of input from other people. Be sure to select from options most everyone agrees upon.
Smell is the easiest way to communicate subconsciously with your customers. A well-scented store has a signature. It sticks in the memory in a unique way. Getting that signature right requires attention to detail and some effort, but it puts you above the competition in a meaningful, downright visceral way.
Your customers may not even be aware, but something inside will know your store is special and unique. Never underestimate the power of smell!
The more thought you put into your business, the more it shows. That’s what we’re trying to highlight in this series. Your customers only have a few ways to experience your business. Make sure you consider each of those ways and strategize accordingly.
Strategies require data and that just so happens to be our specialty here at Shopventory. Right now, Shopventory offers plans for as low as $1.30 per day, with e-commerce hybrid options including Shopify or WooCommerce starting at under $2.59 per day. Right now, you can sign up for a no-risk 30-day full-featured free trial of Shopventory with no credit card required. We also back Shopventory with a 30-day money back guarantee. That means a total of 60 days risk-free!
Stay tuned - as we’ll continue to your other senses in future posts!
Please take less than a minute to let us know what you think of the blog!
We've put together a brief 40-second survey.
Know a business owner who could use regular tips like these?
Why not share this post with them?