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Title: Olfactory marketing: The role of ambient scents in a shopping experience
Authors: DOUCE, Lieve 
Advisors: JANSSENS, Wim
SWINNEN, Gilbert
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: Atmospheric elements such as lights, music, and scents make up the physical environment of a store and can have an impact on consumers’ shopping behavior. This doctoral dissertation aims to provide a better understanding of the effects of ambient scent in the store environment on consumer reactions. Specifically, the moderating role of individual differences (chapter 2 and 3), product congruency (chapter 4 and 5) and congruency with other atmospheric elements (chapter 6 and 7) on scent effects as well as the effect of scent on memory and assortment perceptions of a whole product category (chapter 8), are examined. In chapter 1, olfactory marketing is first positioned in a broader field of retailing, customer experience and retail design. Next, the academic literature on sensory marketing and olfactory marketing is discussed. Finally, an overview of the research objectives and the remainder of the dissertation is given. In chapter 2, the moderating role of individual differences on scent effects is examined. Not every consumer is influenced equally by the presence of a scent. We study whether affect intensity (i.e., the degree to which people respond to emotional stimuli) and hedonic shopping motivation (i.e., shopping because of the shopping experience) influence the relationship between ambient scent and consumer reactions. A field experiment shows that consumers who scored high on affect intensity and consumers who score low on hedonic shopping motivation are more sensitive to the presence of a scent in the shopping environment, which leads to enhanced positive affect, evaluations, and approach behaviors. Chapter 3 continues the research on the moderating role of individual differences on scent effects; in this chapter, scent expertise is studied. Previous research found that an ambient scent only leads to positive reactions when it is congruent with the product under evaluation. However, we demonstrate that this congruency effect may be influenced by the consumers’ ability to recognize a scent. Specifically, findings indicate that in the presence of an ambient scent, scent experts (i.e., people who have learned to identify scents) evaluate a product incongruent with the ambient scent less positively than laymen. The relationship between ambient scent and consumer responses can also be influenced by the congruency of the scent with the product sold in the store. In chapter 4, the effect of thematic congruency between a scent and products without direct scent properties is investigated. A field experiment in a bookstore shows that a pleasant ambient scent positively influences approach and buying behavior toward thematically congruent books and negatively influences approach and buying behavior toward incongruent books. However, chapter 5 demonstrates that, in certain well-defined cases, product-scent incongruity can have a positive effect on consumer reactions. This positive effect of product-scent incongruity was found in a men's and women's clothing store where a gender-(in)congruent ambient perfume was dispersed. The congruency between scent and other atmospheric elements in the store environment can also affect the impact of an ambient scent on consumer responses. Chapter 6 studies the combined effects of ambient scent and overall light. Scent and light are (mis)matched with each other based on semantic associations (i.e., warm/cold and dim/bright). Results indicate that matching scent and light leads to enhanced consumer reactions than mismatching these atmospheric cues. In chapter 7, the combined effects of ambient scent and store neatness are examined. In particular, we study the effect of pleasant scents (not) associated with neatness on consumer evaluations of a tidy versus a messy store and demonstrate that a pleasant ambient scent cannot overcome a negative store element like store messiness. In a messy store, the pleasant scent even has a negative effect on product evaluations, unless the scent is associated with the negative element the retailer is trying to cover up. Chapter 8 explores the effect of an ambient scent on consumers’ memory and assortment evaluations of scent-congruent and scent-incongruent products when exposed to a large assortment. Additionally, the moderating role of product category familiarity is examined. However, findings suggest that an ambient scent does not influence consumers’ memory and their assortment perceptions when they are exposed to a lot of products at the same time. In chapter 9, a summary of our findings and the managerial implications are presented. Moreover, the cost of scent marketing and some ethical reflections of diffusing scents in a store are discussed. Finally, an overview of interesting opportunities for future research is provided.
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ISBN: 9789089130419
Category: T1
Type: Theses and Dissertations
Appears in Collections:PhD theses
Research publications

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