Using Simple Scents to Trick Shoppers into Buying

Allison Guy
November 28th 2012

Retailers have long known that certain smells get us into the buying mood – cinnamon or warm cookies around the holidays, for instance – even if we're shopping for completely unrelated items. Now, scientists are beginning to zoom in on the exact smells that get consumers reaching for their wallets. Working with colleagues in Switzerland, researchers in Washington State University tested three different scents on unsuspecting Swiss shoppers to figure how smells might be tied to sales.

While the idea of an orange-basil-green tea mixture may sound alluring, a plain orange scent outperformed both the complex scent and no scent at all. The orange scent was so powerful, in fact, that customers exposed to it spent an average of 20% more. This effect is likely due to the brain's limited bandwidth for sensory input. Any effort spent teasing apart subtle aromas, no matter how enticing, is less effort that a shopper can devote to picking out the perfect necktie. A simple scent provides the ideal level of stimulation – not too much, but not too little.

Science is enabling us to fine-tune our retail environments to make them the ideal habitats for buying. Next time you're at the mall and get a whiff of orange, just follow your nose to the check-out line.

Story via Boing Boing. Image via Flickr user OrangeSmell.

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