Fantastic news for book sellers who are not Amazon.com: Belgian researchers have discovered a new and affordable way to entice consumers to remain in your store for longer periods of time and more than likely make a few impulse purchases on their way out the door. Published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, the study describes an experiment conducted in a general-interest bookstore over 10 days in Belgium.
For half of the store's business hours, the scent of chocolate was saturated throughout the store from two different dispersal areas. Although the aroma was subtle enough to not be noticed right away, customers immediately recognized the sweet smell of cacao when it was openly revealed. By following every fifth customer for a sample size of 201, their data led them to write that book shoppers were "2.22 times more likely to closely examine multiple books when the scent was present in the store, compared with the control condition." Shoppers were also less likely to search for one exact title and bring it to the register, giving credence to the idea that the store's atmosphere was compelling them to browse liberally. Total book sales saw a 40 percent increase when the chocolate smell was present, an optimistic result.
The four genres tracked by the research team had a variety of results. Customers were reported as more likely to investigate crime thrillers and history books without the smell of chocolate, while texts considered 'congruent' with the smell of chocolate like food/drink and romance books saw an increase in foot traffic. As a result, the researchers suggest that "retailers make use of pleasant ambient scents to improve the store environment" and that the smells be congruent with the merchandise. Put simply, don't buy bacon-scented candles for your Mom & Pop bookstore unless you have a new exhibition of titles on the history of pork.