Strategic Use of Scent Marketing

In the week following Valentine’s Day, I would like you to draw upon your experiences shopping for Valentine’s Day. If you went shopping at the mall, you may have been influenced by “scent marketing.”


In her article “The Science of Scent Marketing,” Leanna Serras discusses how retailers and organizations use scent marketing as a customer acquisition tool and to increase worker productivity.  However, to understand the pathway of scent marketing – Ms. Serras suggests, “Smell is the strongest of our senses and is directly linked to the parts of the brain that control memory and emotion. For this reason, scents can influence involuntary reactions and opinions.”


She quotes a Brown University study which indicated that smell could be more powerful in evoking memory and emotion than even sight. Drawing on consumer psychology literature, scents (in our environment) as marketing stimuli are processed incidentally and hence more potent in inducing the customer to perform the desired behavior as compared to other sensory stimuli. 


Companies use four types of scent marketing: aroma billboard, thematic, ambient smells, and signature scents. For more on why and how retailers use scent marketing and why scent marketing can also trigger negative memories, please read the article at


Thanks to Karli Jaineke at for drawing our attention to this article.


Posted in Part 3: Targeting Customers and Gathering Information, Part 7: Communicating with the Customer, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Retail in 2019: Observations from Knowledge @ Wharton

Despite the wave of store-based retail bankruptcies last year, 2018 was “one of the best years for the retail industry in a decade,”  according to the National Retail Federation. The booming economy and the lowest unemployment rate in a decade contributed to the highest holiday retail spending in the last six years. Store-based retailers are optimizing their omni-channel operations and online retailers are innovating to further enhance customer experience.  Wharton School of Business Professor Barbara Kahn and Columbia University’s Mark A. Cohen discuss their projections for retail in 2019 in their article, Knowledge@Wharton radio show on Sirius XM, and podcast, “Retail Resurrection: A Rosy Outlook for 2019?”


The predictions for retail in 2019 are equivocal. The National Retail Federation predicts another successful year for retail. In contrast, Deloitte, the retail consulting firm believes economic growth is slowing and digital disruption will weaken incumbent store-based retailers further.  Dr. Kahn and Mr. Cohen make the following observations:

  1. Retailers who are creative and agile in their response to opportunities and challenges in their external environment will succeed and those who do not will faiil. By opportunistically opening and closing locations, introducing innovative  store formats like Nordstrom’s showrooms with no inventory, Amazon Go stores and automobile technology that let consumers can make purchases during their commute is spurring retail sales.
  2. While sales in digital retail will grow, growth in subscription-based retail will  stagnate as the excitement associated with the new format wanes. Consumers will defect as the boredom sets in and increased customer acquisition costs will make it unsustainable.
  3. Super-regional malls will survive but smaller neighborhood malls will be challenged. Consumers prefer super-regional malls which are multi-use and experiential.
  4. Sears is facing imminent bankruptcy, a result of poor strategy and leadership. 
  5. Data privacy, especially using and monetizing consumer data without any direct benefit to consumers will attract new regulation and compliance costs. 
Posted in Online Retailing, Part 1: Overview/Planning, Part 2: Ownership, Strategy Mix, Online, Nontraditional, Part 4: Store Location Planning, Retail Executive Interviews, Uncategorized, Video Clips (non-career) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Elections and Retail: Turning Out the Vote

Politics and elections that determine political outcomes have significant repercussions on the retail industry at multiple levels. The most obvious and more predictable is the legislative agenda espoused by the winning party on costs of doing business including tax rates, wages and labor rights and retail operations, in general.  However, most retailers avoid making political statements, for fear of alienating any segment of their customer base.  


However, many retailers are communicating their civic-minded views to customers in a non-partisan way by addressing an important issue – low voter turnout in elections.  Stores like Levi’s and North Face are giving their workers time to vote,” reports that several retailers have signed a  “Make Time to Vote” campaign letter to support their employees right to vote during the 2018 midterms. 

Why Levi’s Gives Its Employees Time to Vote

Make Time to Vote


There is no federal law in the US mandating that businesses give their employees time off to vote and


Unlike office employees with flexible work schedules, service-based employees in retail have to deal with scheduling conflicts or miss pay, the primary reason why people don’t make it out to the polls on Election Day.  B



Posted in Part 5: Managing a Retail Business, Part 7: Communicating with the Customer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment