Smells like teen spirit: How retailers can utilize sensory stimuli to create an appealing customer environment

November 3, 2016, New York University

Anybody who's taken a teen to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister is well aware of the scents and songs piped in to create an environment conducive to consumption and to help define their brands. Now researchers have teamed up to provide guidance to retailers contemplating similar strategies, via a meta-analysis of research related to the impact of music, scents, and colors on shoppers.

In "Calibrating 30 Years of Experimental Research: A Meta-Analysis of the Atmospheric Effects of Music, Scent, and Color," Professors Holger Roschk of Alpen-Adria-Universität, in Austria, Professor Sandra Maria Correia Loureiro, of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, and Jan Breitsoh, lecturer at the UK's Aberystwyth University, analyzed 66 studies of 15,621 shoppers - mostly women - conducted between 1982 and 2016. They found that all three sensory agents affect shoppers, but in different ways and to different extents.

The underlying studies had explored the impact of atmospheric stimuli on shoppers' arousal, pleasure, satisfaction, and behavioral intentions. For instance, Roschk and his co-authors found that music was significantly and positively related to pleasure and satisfaction as well as behavioral intentions, but not particularly related to arousal. In contrast, scent affected all the variables, whereas color - warm versus cool tones - had more of an effect on arousal and satisfaction. Music and scent had stronger effects in service settings than in retail.

The authors suggest that retailers, in considering implementing a sensory environment, be attentive to the subtle effects of the stimuli and not expect immediate returns. Music offers the greatest potential for being tailored to the purchase setting, while scent has the advantage in that pleasant scents may occur naturally (e.g., roasted coffee beans) and can be vented to adjacent store areas. Warm colors are recommended for new product aisles, leveraging their arousal property, while cool colors might work well around complaint-handling areas.

Explore further: Heightened scents: Do ambient fragrances make consumers purchase more?

More information: Holger Roschk et al, Calibrating 30 Years of Experimental Research: A Meta-Analysis of the Atmospheric Effects of Music, Scent, and Color, Journal of Retailing (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.jretai.2016.10.001

Related Stories

Clubbers can smell a good nightspot

May 17, 2011

Since the smoking ban in restaurants, bars and nightclubs, customers are more aware of unpleasant smells, such as body odors and the smell of old beer, that used to be masked by cigarette smoke. Now science is looking at ...

Orchid's scent stronger in Swiss lowlands than mountains

February 17, 2016

Pollinators select orchids with stronger scents in the Swiss lowlands, than in the mountains, according to a study published Feb. 17, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Karin Gross at the University of Zurich, Switzerland ...

How do mood and emotional arousal affect consumer choices?

March 15, 2012

When they're in a positive mood, people tend to choose products that match their mood and their level of emotional arousal, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. But crabby, low-energy people will ...

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.