Stepping into the spa is a tantalizing experience for the senses—soft music, a compatible colour scheme, and inviting smells are typical tactics used to create an enjoyable ambiance for guests.
These strategies are proven to attract a customer toward a brand when used correctly. When it comes to the senses, smell is considered the most powerful sensory branding tool.
“Seventy-five percent of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell. Next to sight, it is the most important sense we have,” writes Martin Lindstrom in his book Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound.
The science of the senses can impact a business’s bottom line and companies from across all industries are now using scent to increase retention and loyalty and to improve the customer experience.
With creams and candles in abundance, spa owners recognize the correlation between a pleasing scent and a happy customer.
“You associate the spa with beauty and smell is part of the beauty process. That’s why women buy perfumes and men are wearing aftershave,” says Alex Cosic, vice president of global sales at Air Aroma. “It’s all part of the beauty experience.”
Air Aroma has been in the business of smells for the last 15 years. The company helps businesses like Mercedez-Benz, Qantas airlines and Sofitel Hotels apply a scent marketing strategy to its business plan.
Smell is the most important of the five senses when it comes to purchase decisions because it can quickly affect the part of the brain that controls emotion and memory. For example, “If you’re looking for an increase in sales, you should use a scent like citrus,” says Cosic.
Citrus scent is great for retail spaces as research suggests it helps customers with decision-making. On the flipside, Cosic says lavender will give customers the perception of calmness and slow their ability to make decisions. This type of soothing scent is better off in a treatment or relaxation room.
Since smell is connected to emotion and memory, creating a scent experience for your spa is an innovative source of competitive advantage.
“Most spas pick the aroma for the guest, but here we want the guest to pick what they love and want to experience in the treatment,” says Dariela Roa, spa supervisor at Auriga Spa at Capella Pedregal Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Guests are given the opportunity to choose one therapeutic aroma or a mixture of two that are then used in conjunction with the treatment. Roa says guests choose the fragrance they need in that moment to help them heal and relax. The spa scents range from Earth, which is a mixture of sandalwood, Siberian fir and frankincense, to Oolong, a combination of lime, lavender, oolong tea, and green tea.
Auriga also carries a line of retail products in each of these fragrances allowing guests to extend the spa experience beyond their stay at the resort. “What is wonderful is that each time they smell that aroma they are brought back to Capella,” says Roa. Providing guests with a personalized scent experience is a marketing opportunity, however, in order to achieve optimal business benefit spa owners should be selective when choosing a space’s scent.
For those that believe in the power of scent, there are more extreme aroma options beyond simply scenting spa treatments.
Cosic says many businesses including retail stores, spas, cinemas, and casinos are using ambient scenting as a way to keep ahead of the competition.
“It’s all about the experience. Why would you go to one casino in Vegas rather than another, or one spa in Toronto over another,” questions Cosic.
Air Aroma works with clients to create a signature scent for their company or brand, paying close attention to the clientele and business environment. “We start by recommending a scent or aroma that is in conjunction with the business we’re talking to,” he says.
A men’s retail shop will differ in scent from a women’s, just as a medi location will have a different type of smell than an organic spa. Cosic says this type of scenting gives spas the competitive advantage needed to stay ahead in such a saturated business environment.
“Smell is a source of joy. Twenty years later you will remember a smell you discovered when you were five or six years old,” says Cosic. “It’s the most powerful of all the senses.”
Before you make your next big business decision, it’d be wise to stop and smell the roses. They might just offer you some inspiration.