Just think about the last time you took a wander around your local mall – what did you smell? A beautiful scent when you walked into a department store or a lovely little boutique, a diffuser mounted on the counter… or a very specific type of candle wafting out of a pyjama shop? We all know the stores that try to give us that extra experience to encourage our purchases. But, as more of us shop online – particularly through Covid-19 restrictions – could what we smell at home influence our purchases on the Internet?
Dr Mei Peng, a senior lecturer at the University of Otago, tells Capsule how the scents we surround ourselves with could actually influence our buying behaviour online – and how 2degrees is raising awareness about the sense of smell, and how it could affect our emotions and behaviour online, in its quirky new broadband campaign.
- How can scent influence our buying behaviour online?
The sense of smell is closely related to emotions and memories. We all have numerous associations between smells and events/person/objects, and such associations influence our decision-making processes all the time. The smell around us during online shopping would change our responses to different products, and therefore affects our decisions.
- How do physical retail outlets use scent to entice us to purchase?
We are naturally attracted to pleasant smells, although the definition of “pleasant” can be very different across people. Pleasant smells can lift our moods and increases our desire to make purchases. Smells associated with fruits or sweets are always a good bet.
- What are some of the things we smell at home that can influence our purchasing?
Many pleasant or comforting scents at home can influence our shopping or decision-making behaviours. Some psychological research has shown that fruity, especially citrus smells, can effectively reduce people’s anxiety level and change people’s affective responses. On the other hand, unfamiliar smells can increase people’s stress levels and may put people off buying.
- If you’re trying your best to keep the purse strings tight, what should we either avoid smelling or actively sniff?
It is difficult to avoid smelling or sniffing – that’s why the sense of smell can influence our behaviour at all time without our conscious awareness!
- Why do you think smell is ‘underrated’?
The sense of smell enriches our daily sensory experiences without many people realising its importance. A world without smell (olfaction) would be dull – we would lose the enjoyment of food, scents of our homes, and even vivid memories from childhood. Research has shown that loss of the sense of smell can reduce the quality of life more than losses of some other senses.