Exploring the influence of scent marketing on consumers' buying behaviour in the high-end fashion industry
Van Niekerk, C.
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The high-end fashion industry faces increasing competition, rising debt, and consumers who are overwhelmed with marketing messages. The goal of a consumer is to obtain value from the product that they are buying, which is why a successful exchange transaction is vital. Based on the literature review, it was found that scent marketing, which is the focus of this study, can offer a great deal of benefits to consumers and the store in question. Scent marketing can de-stress consumers, making them feel calm and relaxed; furthermore, it was found that scent can improve recognition and recall of a brand; it can attract consumers to the store; recall a past emotion or memory; increase sales; increase browsing times; improve productivity; and it can enhance the overall shopping experience. The purpose of the present study is to explore the influence of scent marketing on consumers’ buying behaviour in the high-end fashion industry. Existing literature falls short in that it fails to directly recognise the potential that lies within scent marketing in high-end fashion stores and its influence on the emotional and behavioural responses of consumers. Hence, not much information or evidence could be found regarding the notion of scent marketing in South Africa and the influence that it has on consumers emotions or their buying behaviours. Primary research was conducted by collecting data for the empirical study. The study was qualitative in nature and followed an exploratory research design. A non-probability snowball sampling method was used to recruit participants. Data was collected by means of three focus group sessions. A total of 26 participants participated in the study. These participants resided in Sandton, in the Gauteng province as well as in Nelspruit, in the Mpumalanga province. The collected data was analysed by using the Morse and Field approach, and by making use of ATLAS.ti qualitative data analysis software. Consequently, five themes were identified, which comprised of 12 categories. The results indicate that scent marketing influences consumers’ buying behaviour and decision-making processes. Scent marketing’s main objective is to enhance consumers’ overall buying experience, making them feel welcome and relaxed in the store. The results further indicate that a chosen scent should match the theme and atmospheric elements (music, temperature, visuals) of the store, since these also have a bearing in terms of the store’s attractiveness and the duration of a consumer’s time spent in a store. The present study highlights that one should also be aware of the fact that a store/industry that wants to make use of scent marketing should do proper research regarding their target market. From the results obtained in this study, it was found that a number of pertinent factors play a role regarding scent marketing in terms of luring consumers into a store. Firstly, it was found that consumers have different tastes. Therefore, gender and age have an impact on whether consumers will find a scent pleasant or not. Secondly, the mood a consumer is in plays a prominent role. Thirdly, if a consumer is focused on a specific task or does not have time to browse around, scent will not influence the consumer to enter the store. Fourthly, a consumer’s personality type depends whether he/she will be influenced by scent in a store. The results indicate that some consumers are visually stimulated and are not triggered by scent, whereas others are more likely to be lured and influenced by scent. The results also indicate that different personality types enjoy different types of scents. Based on the results, it is recommended that high-end fashion retail stores should make use of scent marketing to create a pleasant atmosphere in the store, which will lure consumers into the store; keep them browsing for longer periods; making them feel comfortable and enhance their overall shopping experience. Recommendations for future research include the use of a wider geographic area; considering a larger sample size; that scent marketing should be tested in a physical high-end fashion store to observe scent marketing’s impact on consumers’ behaviour; a variety of scents that exhume differences in pleasantness and arousal should be tested on a variety of gender- and age groups; the interaction of scent should be investigated with other atmospheric elements in a high-end fashion store.