How the use of scents influences customers' shopping experiences

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team | 2024

If fragrance is coupled with other key factors within a store, it can impact how long people browse – and how much they spend.

In retail, fragrance cues are nothing to be sniffed at. Indeed, the scent of vanilla, baking bread, even fresh linen, can affect customer behaviour. 


This is again highlighted in a study recently published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Indian Culture and Business Management. 


A study by Shuvam Chatterjee and Pawel Bryla of the University of Lodz in Poland has looked at olfactory marketing – the strategic use of scents in the retail environments – to see how much influence they might have on the shopping experience and how much customers spend in those shops.  


The team focused on a shopping mall in the Indian city of Kolkata for their case study. 


In many ways, our sense of smell is often perceived as a lesser sense when compared with sight and hearing. However, smell is very deep-rooted in our evolution and connects to what we might think of as primitive responses and behaviour. 

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels


Recent research suggests it significantly affects our emotions and memories, and, in the shopping context, impacts our purchase behaviour. Fragrance cues, such as the smell of fresh bread in a retail setting, can evoke a strong emotional response and may influence product recognition, recall and purchase intent. 


Correlation between fragrance cues and customer behaviour 


The Journal of Indian Culture and Business Management study shows a direct correlation between the presence of fragrance cues in the shopping mall and customer behaviour.  


If fragrance is coupled with other environmental factors such as music, the layout of the shop, and the ambient temperature, there can be a strong effect on how long a customer browses in a given shop and, ultimately, how much money they spend.  


In addition, the team determined that, while age influenced purchasing decisions in this context, gender did not seem to affect how much time or money was spent. Retail store management and marketing teams will, therefore, benefit from working on olfactory marketing.  


By enhancing the shopping experience in this way, the researchers say that it is possible to boost the emotional connection with the brands on sale, and perhaps even improve long-term customer loyalty. 


However, fragrance selection should be done with care. There may well be odours that could negatively affect the perception, and behaviour of, some customers and counter the benefits achieved with shoppers who have responded positively. 


You can find out more about the study here. 

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.