Regular readers will know that we do not choose between experiences, but we choose between memories of experiences and therefore how your memory is formed becomes important when designing a great Customer Experience. I talked about the difference between experience and memory in my post, “Why Your Memory Matters More Than Your Experience.” In this post we will build off this premise and examine the connection between the memory of smells and the memory of customer experience. Specifically, how smells connect a certain aroma to a customer’s memory of their experience and how that affects customer loyalty with your product or service. In my view this is all about designing an effective subconscious experience and should be thought through and planned as we discussed at a recent webinar of designing experiences.
There is no question that smell is an important aspect of one’s memory. It has the ability to convey us to a moment in time, connecting us in an olfactory sense directly to the experience.
For example, every time I smell the sweet, tropical scent of coconut, I am transported to a sunny beach in the Caribbean sipping daiquiris and listening to the wave’s crash on the sandy shore. Or how the smell of fresh cut grass recalls the long, lazy days of summer in my childhood when responsibility meant being home before the streetlights came on and time was spent looking for things to do with my friends of which my mother may or may not have approved.
Marketing companies have tuned in to the power of scent to enhance the customer experience. Companies like ScentAir charge $99 a month for retail businesses to use machines that pipe in the aromas that the customer will associate pleasantly with their shopping experience The most successful businesses can do this imperceptibly to their clientele who unwittingly are associating the scent with the store, the product, or the service they are buying.
One example where this practice is succeeding is a supermarket NetCost Grocery store in Brooklyn, NY, that uses piped in scents for the products they sell. Pleasant smells of chocolate near the candy aisle and fruit near the produce section accompany shoppers as they fill their carts. The store has seen an increase of 7% in their produce sales since they started piping in the scents
Other businesses use scents to keep customers around longer, increasing the opportunity for them to make a purchase. Nike did a study that reported an 80% increase in intent to purchase after piping in a scent to their stores. (Sharrock, pars. 6).
But scent marketing isn’t just for the biggest companies. A small petrol station tried using the scent of coffee in their attached mini-mart and saw an increase in sales of 300 %
Smell can do more than increase sales and shoppers intentions to buy, however smells can also help save lives – particularly unpleasant ones. The department of defense has joined the trend of using scents in their day to day activities, adding the smells of gasoline, burning bodies, gunpowder and exhaust to improve the authenticity of engagement training exercises for ground troops.
Exposure to the negative aromas of the experience prepares the inexperienced soldiers for the ugly reality of battle, helping them focus on the task at hand. This supports the military’s philosophy of “improvise, adapt, and overcome” by giving the trainees a chance to process the unpleasant experience so that it doesn’t overwhelm them during actual operations
Even with all the attention on using scents in retail locations these days, companies could do more using the customer’s olfactory sense to augment the customer experience. This is all part of the subconscious experience that we discuss at our live webinar Customer Experience Certification events. According to Rachel Herz, professor of psychiatry and human behavior and author of the book, The Scent of Desire, a smell is just a scent until a person associates it with a specific experience. After the association, the smell becomes a representation of that experience in the mind of the person. Businesses should consider the power of this link and choose a ‘smell logo’ to use that associates their experience with its customers every time they encounter it.
As a leader in your industry I ask you to consider how you can use smells to transport, transcend and tweak your customer’s experience. What does your experience smell like? I challenge you to improve customer loyalty using scents that in turn will create more dollars and cents for your bottom line.
|Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: @ColinShaw_CX