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Why scent marketing in fashion stores leaves you wanting more

By FashionUnited


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The Power of Scent Marketing. Credits: Transduce

A subtle fresh scent that makes customers linger in a fashion store longer or strange food or even sweat odours in the store? A choice that’s quite easily made, you might say. The effect of scent, in general but also in retail, is often underestimated, yet it has a powerful impact. That's why FashionUnited speaks with Transduce about the opportunities of scent marketing in stores, which scents work well, and the unexpectedly positive effects a scent can have.

When we talk about scent marketing, we are not talking about the overwhelming scent that many people still remember from Abercrombie & Fitch. Moreover, that scent is not perceived as positive. With scent marketing, it's also not about a few scent sticks placed in the store. "That has only a local effect, and you really need to know the air currents in the store very well to make them effective." Now that some prejudices have been cleared away, the question arises: what is scent marketing really?

Scent marketing in stores: Transduce on the effects of a good and natural scent

Rebeca Barbulescu and Kimberlynn Chaves of Transduce came up with the idea to start working with scent marketing somewhat by coincidence. Chaves grew up with the use of essential oils, while Barbulescu did not. They met at a young age when they were among the few with dark hair in Zoetermeer. "It creates a bond," Chaves says during the interview. "We also realised more and more that we share the same norms and values."

As teenagers, the two joked about starting a company together, but they could not have foreseen that they would eventually found Transduce. Chaves wanted to become a diplomat and Barbulescu went to hospitality school. Eventually, the two reunited in their careers at the beginning of the pandemic when Chaves decided to pursue her love for essential oils and Barbulescu saw an opportunity for the hotel industry here. "This way, for example, we could create a scent for a hotel guest with jet lag, making them feel energetic again," Chaves told FashionUnited. This planted the seed for Transduce, but soon the two realised that with scent marketing they could tap into so many more industries, such as healthcare, retail, and even hospitality.

Natural scents have an effect on the limbic system of humans. This system regulates emotions and affects long-term memory. "That's where we can tap in with our scents," says Chaves. "Each oil has a different effect, so we can tailor our response to the needs of our customer. An oil can affect the nervous system by giving a refreshing feeling or creating more of a peaceful feeling."

Chaves emphasises that Transduce uses only natural and no synthetic scents. "It's like olive oil, the first press of the oil is the best. Essential oils that you often buy in natural stores smell lovely but are often the tenth or eleventh press in the distillation process. They don't have the same powerful effect. We focus on quality, making the effect of the oil stronger."

About Transduce:

Transduce works for both B2B and B2C clients. The company offers a range of ready-made scents but can also create custom scents for businesses. This process takes about five months. This scent can be used by the company in offices, business premises, and stores, but Transduce can also produce it as a white-label scent so it can be given to customers. Transduce only uses natural oils and no synthetics. The effect of these oils has been extensively researched on a scientific basis for over two and a half years. "The company and the concept must be right," say Chaves and Barbulescu. The two have also created a diffuser that guarantees optimal dispersal of the scent. The consumer version is successful for smaller spaces up to 30 square metres. The scent machines for businesses can be used in spaces up to 10,000 cubic metres. Transduce assesses with each client where these scent machines can best be placed in the space.

Transduce now has various clients, from hotels to retailers, such as optical group GrandVision. A custom scent was developed with the Transduce team for the optical group. The group mainly wanted to evoke brand recognition with the scent and ensure that customers stayed longer in the store. A scent was developed and tested in the stores.

"Surprising results emerged from that which we had not expected. For example, we had not considered what effect it would have on the employees," says Barbulescu. The employees found it much more pleasant to be in the store, started their day with fresh energy, and no longer had an afternoon dip. "The employees also indicated that they felt valued by their boss because more attention was paid to the working environment."

An additional benefit is that the perception of consumers about GrandVision's store changed, as shown by research from an external party. "Due to the pleasant scent, customers had the impression that GrandVision cares about the well-being of the employees and customers. In addition, consumers also look at how transparent a brand is and what they convey outwardly. Natural scents are more quickly associated with transparency, authenticity, and honesty."

Rebeca Barbulescu and Kimberlynn Chaves, founders of Transduce Credits: Transduce

Opting for an in-store scent? Choose these to keep your customers in the shop longer

Is there a one-stop solution for every retailer? "There are scents that are popular, but we find that many of our clients still want to create their own scent for brand recognition. We live in a world with a lot of competition, so brands want to differentiate themselves in a certain way," says Barbulescu. But if one scent had to be chosen, citrus scents are widely popular. "They are very invigorating," Chaves says.

"They are usually present as a base in every scent and are often used as a top note. A scent is composed of top notes, heart notes, and base notes." Top notes are the first to be smelled but also dissipate the fastest. "Citrus is truly an attention grabber and keeps you alert." Chaves explains that the symphony of different notes makes a scent rich and appealing to a large audience.

"We often add a warm undertone because our retail clients naturally want customers to stay in the store as long as possible to increase the chance of a purchase or to engage them," Chaves explains. "So, the warm undertone creates a feeling of calm and comfort, which is very important." A combination of citrus scents with a warm undertone is therefore often recommended for retail by Transduce.

The scent ultimately chosen depends entirely on the goal the retailer or company has in mind. Transduce prefers to be involved in an experiential concept as early as possible, "so that we can truly embody the brand." Usually, it is possible to predict in advance what scent will result, but sometimes there are still surprises.

"For example, we recently had a briefing from a company that wanted a fresh and especially non-floral scent. We came up with all sorts of fresh scents, but they said: 'This is just not it, but we can't put our finger on what it should be.'Eventually, we decided to be cheeky and presented them with a floral scent without saying what was in it, and that scent they ultimately chose." Floral scents are sometimes put in a corner because people quickly associate them with excessively sweet scents, while they can shine in a bouquet of scents.

Scent marketing in retail: It's already very normal in Southern Europe

For scent marketing in retail, there are still plenty of opportunities in Northern Europe. "At the moment, the concept is much more accepted in Southern Europe and the United States. In Southern Europe and the Middle East, they really play on the emotion, while here we think rather rationally about what colour the walls should be, what lights are used. In Italy and for example in the United Arab Emirates, the focus is on the experience," Barbulescu explains. There are plenty of opportunities because even in countries where scent marketing is already accepted, there are opportunities for Transduce. For example, they help brands and companies switch their scents from synthetic ingredients to natural ones.

Barbulescu and Chaves see the future of scent marketing as a future that moves away as much as possible from synthetic scents. "It also becomes more personalised and focused on the needs of the customer. A few years ago, it was more 'mass equals cash'," Barbulescu outlines. "As a third trend, we see that scent marketing is emerging in all industries. Not only retail and hospitality, but also fitness spaces, health clubs, healthcare institutions, even the hospitality industry. They all think together: 'We want to work on our well-being.'"

So, there are plenty of opportunities, and it is clear that scent marketing leaves people wanting more.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.NL. Translation and edit from Dutch into English: Veerle Versteeg.

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