Building a Better Shopping Experience Through Sense of Smell


Today, retailers are racing to stay relevant as the global retail landscapes continue to transform. The rise of e-commerce is a concern to the retail sales and retailers have to work harder than ever to attract and retain customers. In a recent survey done by PwC, 24% of respondents from China said that they now shop less often at retail stores because of - a subsidiary of Alibaba.

Consumers have come to expect a premium, seamless, always-on customer experience wherever they come into contact with a brand. More and more of the global population isn’t attracted to traditional advertising— they want authentic information they can find at their fingertips: what are their friends doing, which brands are hot on social media, what is trending with their favorite influencers. Retailers must find new and innovative ways of telling their story and connecting with customers. For example, many Western retailers are using Facebook to digitize their catalogues with carousel ads, while Chinese retailers similarly use Tencent’s QQ or WeChat.

Despite the importance of a brand’s online presence, its physical store is just as important to keep customers engaged and happy. For brands, it has never been more important to strengthen their physical presence and the experience they give to their customers. The industry has adopted an overall in-store experience concept that challenges retailers to think beyond channels and communicate a unified brand story which is consistent across every point of customer interaction. But how do retailers successfully create a brand that offers the consumer a better shopping experience?


Cultivating a Unique and Memorable Shopping Experience that Matches the Brand

When Uniqlo collaborated with Discovery Channel to produce a line-up of t-shirts with prints featuring animals, wildlife and space, they brought the designs to life through a Discovery virtual reality event in One Utama shopping mall, Malaysia. Children and adults were transported and immersed themselves in time, space and story – from the thrill of a spacewalk, diving underwater with a shiver of sharks, to swimming alongside the manta rays. This has generated curiosity that appeals to the kids as well as their parents.


Appealing Sense of Style through Sense of Smell

Retailers are also turning to multi-sensory marketing and olfactive branding – appealing to our sense of smell – to help make an impact as soon as they enter a physical store. For example, Rolls Royce captures the brand’s history by diffusing a blend of mahogany wood, soft leather and oil. This smell alone acts as a sensory cue to remind potential customers of their iconic, signature models and the high quality the brand is renowned for. In fact, our own study clearly showed 73% of consumers admitting to having a feeling or a memory instantaneously triggered by a smell. Savvy retailers say that their own signature scents increase the emotional association between customer and brand, and this sensory marketing directly translates to higher prices consumers are willing to pay. 

Other than that, our independent research also found that 74% of consumers have been drawn into a store because of an inviting smell. For example, in every Four Seasons hotel, a signature scent is chosen for in-room amenities based on the geographical location of the particular hotel. The Four Seasons in Maui disperses a lime-based fragrance with notes of tropical flowers and exotic wood which is representative of the natural surroundings and invites the consumer to enjoy a sensory holiday experience. Considering your brand’s geographical location, including the temperature, humidity and cultural preferences can help to develop the most appropriate signature scent for your brand and not only reinforce the overall customer experience approach but also strengthen brand association through the evocative nature of scent.



No matter the sector, all premium retailers should think how to build an unforgettable shopping experience for consumers to successfully respond to and keep abreast of the exponential change in today’s retail landscape. Those that structure their business with the customer at the centre will be better equipped to meet the needs of consumers. Whether in-store or online, retailers need to provide a multi-sensory experience that delivers a compelling brand story across all channels. Premium brands need to appeal to all our senses, not just our sense of style.

We can help you with the right scent marketing strategy for your retail space. For more information on our scent marketing solutions, do visit our Premium Scenting page or you may also contact us at (852) 5803 0053  to find out how scenting can help make a real difference to your business.