Scent is a primitive, powerful sense that can influence our behavior in surprising ways. By making us feel safe, calm, energized or trusting—among many other emotions and sensations—fragrances can even entice us to buy. This "sensory marketing" is part of the sales package, a way of enticing customers and putting them in the shopping mood.
Not every scent works, though. So what aroma causes consumers to open their wallets wider? Researchers found that a plain orange scent worked best, stimulating sales by 20 percent over an unscented store or one with a green tea-orange-basil aroma blend. (Essential oils were dispersed by a commercial scent diffusion system.)
But why would we be mesmerized by the simpler odor? Writing in the March Journal of Retailing, scientists, commenting about "aromatic complexity," say complex scents distract shoppers from filling their carts as they try to decipher the fragrance. It's possible that the faster we recognize a smell, the more we'll like it and the store it's in—and the more money we'll be handing over to that retailer. Moral of the story, the fewer elements in a fragrance, the better—keep it simple, and keep it orange. And smell memory can't hurt either; marketing with scent could be a way to attract customers to and make them remember certain brands as something pleasant.