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Olfaction and the retail environment: examining the influence of ambient scent

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Abstract

This article concerns the ability of smell to assist the development and communication of retail brand image. It presents a number of propositions regarding ambient smell and the retail environment derived from the literature—including the potential for novel ambient aromas to act as a distinctive element in a retailer’s marketing mix. Empirical testing is achieved through a ‘natural experiment’ in a large electrical store using fragranced and unfragranced conditions. An environmental psychology base was used to develop an in-store questionnaire, supported by direct measurement of customer dwell times and subsequent interviews. In total, 329 questionnaires were returned and 429 customer groups were timed in the two departments where the experiment occurred. Significant differences in consumer perceptions of the store’s environmental attributes were identified, despite the fact that less than 10% of respondents questioned were aware of the use of in-store fragrances. The qualitative interviews provided some initial confirmation for the more complex propositions concerning the memory of scents.

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Correspondence to Philippa Ward.

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Ward, P., Davies, B.J. & Kooijman, D. Olfaction and the retail environment: examining the influence of ambient scent. Service Business 1, 295–316 (2007) doi:10.1007/s11628-006-0018-3

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Keywords

  • Smell
  • Scent
  • Retail brand image
  • Retail environment
  • Human olfaction