Scent Memories Affect Business Revenue

A human’s sense of smell is one of the most powerful in the animal kingdom and because of this, it can affect how visitors perceive your business. As we mentioned in a previous post, “What is Fragrance Fatigue and How Do You Fight It?”, the human brain is capable of adapting to odors quickly in order to prepare itself for future scents. The phenomenon of olfactory fatigue has given rise to the assumption that humans have a terrible sense of smell compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. in 2006 however, Jess Porter and Noam Sobel published a study suggesting that humans and dogs have similar smelling capabilities. This also means humans are just as sensitive to smells as animals, and will tie smells to memory.

Woman with pony-tail smelling coffee

What is The Impact of Scent on a Business?

The reality is that scents have an effect on perception, and very often, that perception becomes reality. We touched on the effects of odor in gas stations in our previous article titled, “Fresh Products is Used in the Cleanest Gas Stations in the US“, but what we didn’t mention was how perceived uncleanliness can affect sales. 79% of restaurant users say they would not revisit a restaurant with a dirty facility, and around 80% of consumers say odor is their leading indicator of uncleanliness. This means that there is a learned association between odors and cleanliness that are producing reactions from your patrons. While smells that are bad will hurt sales, this also means that good smells can boost sales. A study in Las Vegas showed that customers spent 45% more when in a pleasantly scented environment than in an environment with no scent at all.

So, how does this come together?

Smells, Memories, and Emotions

Like anything else relating to the brain, much of the interaction between smells and emotions are complex. It is currently known that smells have a habit of triggering emotions that are both positive and negative. Vermetten and Bremner conducted 3 clinical studies of 30 year vietnam vets reactions to diesel fuel. Many of the veterans would get nausea, report feeling extreme helplessness, and recall disturbing memories when exposed to the scent of diesel fuel. While PTSD is certainly an extreme example, other research show that memories triggered by odor often resulted in a more extreme response than other forms of stimulus. In fact, studies have suggested smells are 100 times more effective at triggering emotional responses than any other stimulus, and that 75% of all emotions are caused by smell.

Woman with pony-tail smelling coffee
Olfactory Nerves Illustration Diagram

What is Olfactory Memory?

Olfactory memory is memory recall relating to odors. Commonly, when studying olfactory memories, scientists focus on explicit memory, or memories that you perceive occurring. Studies have shown that memories relating to smells tend not only stay in your mind longer, but are easier for you to recall. This is partly due to smell being directly linked to your brain through olfactory receptors, but also due to the nearly universal perceptions that smells can elicit. There’s also been studies that suggest smells are not just good at helping recall memories, but will trigger emotional responses relating to the memory of that smell. Even smokers, when exposed to pleasant smells from memory, showed a decrease in smoking urges.

Elevate the Perception of your Business

Now that you are armed with all this great knowledge, what are going to do to elevate the perception of your business from the moment someone walks through to door? Take a little time to put yourself behind the nose of your customers by exploring every part of your business that they would experience. Do the scent experiences you encounter project cleanliness? A sense of trust, value, and pride in what your business does or service it provides?

People at a restaurant enjoying a great scent experience