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How Scent Can Influence Your Shopping Habits

‘Your Brain on Shopping’ explores the power of smell.

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We may joke about the stench of Hollister stores or the overwhelming fruitiness of Bath & Body Works — but smell is truly a crucial part of the retail experience.

That’s because smell, more so than our other senses, has a pretty direct path to our brains. When we breathe in odor molecules from the air, they bind to receptors in the back of our noses, which send messages to our brains through the amygdala, thalamus, and neocortex. Those are the parts that control our emotions, memory, motor functions, attention, arousal, spacial reasoning... basically, all the important stuff that makes us us.

Thus scent can be a very powerful persuasion tool, whether it conjures up a positive memory or makes us feel a little out of control. Just one wild example: A study found that certain scents influenced shopping by affecting consumers’s spatial perceptions. Warm scents made shoppers feel like they were in a “socially dense environment” and therefore less in control; as a result, they were driven to regain “power” by buying luxury goods.

In short, Hollister may know what’s up.

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