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Why Is Smell So Important To Your Customer's Experience?

Why Is Smell So Important To Your Customer's Experience?, article by Dr Nadine Greiner PhD

Dan Carnegie once said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” So much of the customer experience is driven by emotion and subliminal influences. Companies can no longer survive by focusing on price and product. The customer experience must be the battlefield for differentiation. As a leader, it’s important that you and your company live and breathe your customer.

As consumers, most of us don't think twice about what a store smells like. It turns out, however, that smell can have a monumental impact on the customer experience. Here’s how you can use smell to optimize your customer experience.

1. Brainstorm potential avenues

Several customer-centric companies have benefited from incorporating smell into the customer experience. Cinnabon, for example, strategically places its ovens near the front of its stores so that the mouth-watering smell incentivizes customers to visit. A study conducted by Nike revealed that adding scents to their stores increased customers' intent to purchase by a staggering 80%.

Consider how you can use smell to enhance the customer experience. Even if you don’t operate physical storefronts, you can strategically use smells in meetings with customers or during customer events. Don’t underestimate the power of smell. Our sense of smell is widely believed by scholars to be our "most emotional" sense, according to research by Nobel Peace Prize winners Richard Axel and Linda Buck. Researchers from Rockefeller found that the average person is able to discriminate between one trillion different odors, by conservative estimates.

2. Remember, the devil is in the details

It’s important to be strategic about incorporating smell into your customer experiences. In selecting aromas, it's important to carefully consider your ideal target demographic. The devil is in the details. The smells you choose should align with your brand image. More masculine smells will appeal to men and more vibrant smells will likely appeal to younger demographics, for example. Do your stores pass the sniff test?

Why Is Smell So Important To Your Customer's Experience?, quote by Dr Nadine Greiner PhD

3. Make sure it is intentional

Unlike the smells emitted from our body, we (fortunately) have much more control over the smells we incorporate into our customer experience. Good smells, like the ones we are greeted to at Cinnabon, entice customers and keep them coming back. They make customers feel good. But some smells can increase anxiety levels and derail the customer experience. Apparel retailer Abercrombie was forced to limit the potency of the cologne-like scents in its stores because they made customers feel claustrophobic.

4. Don’t forget metrics

You can’t manage what don’t measure. Don’t incorporate smell into your customer experience haphazardly. Make sure you tie decisions to business metrics. Monitor how different smells impact various parts of the customer experience, including Net Promoter Score (NPS), purchases of specific items, foot traffic, and more. The more you understand how smell impacts the customer experience, the more you can use it to your advantage.

We’re living in the age of the customer. If you're like most companies, you rely on complex consumer or research reports to understand and improve the customer experience. But these data points only scratch the surface of what’s really happening. They don’t reveal how customers feel during the sales process. It's no surprise that customers consider 44% of their experiences to be bland and uneventful, as outlined by Colin Shaw and John Ivens in their book "Building Great Customer Experiences". Your organization’s success depends on how well customers are able to live your vision. Smell can offer a powerful window into your brand vision. Take a moment to stop and smell the roses of opportunity.


Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders and has dedicated her career to helping them.

As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’.

Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at or by phone at (415) 861-8383.


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