The number of people shopping during the festive season is staggering.  Shoppers spent $630.5 billion during the winter holiday season in 20151.  There is a lot of spend for retailers to share, regardless of where you are in the world. The National Retail reported that on average, each person will spend approximately $805 during the holidays, similar to the figure reported by the British Retail Consortium of £660 per household on gifts at Christmas. With holiday sales representing nearly 20 percent of total retail industry sales1, retailers need to ask themselves “Did I get my share of the wallet last year?” and “How can I make sure that I do?”

The experience of Christmas


It has never been truer that people “are more focused on seeking ‘experiences’ and consumers also seeking intimacy, stronger connections”2. Most consumers have all the “things” they need in this day and age.  Technology is abundant and influences our everyday life.  We have everything we need at our fingertips – if we don’t physically have what we want, we can easily get it on our cell phones, tablets, and laptops.

During the magical holiday season, where consumers are seeking ideas for gift purchases, retail experiences can entice shoppers into stores, inspire purchases, increase dwell time and engender brand affiliation.  The opportunity to enhance a retail environment is never more appropriate, available, accepted and even expected, than during the Golden Quarter.  Consumers are anticipating the experience of Christmas.  This is your opportunity to be nostalgic, exciting or decadent – whatever suits your brand style!  The right experience can be a hidden persuader to the consumer with gifts to buy.

Experiential marketing and the “multiplier effect”


Creating sensory signatures across multiple senses in an integrated way can multiply the effects of individual sensory elements to create a bigger impression.  This is known as the multiplier effect.  By incorporating a festive mix of music, visually appealing décor, and nostalgic scents you will give a ‘super additivity’ effect.  The holistic effect is a veritable feast for the senses that positively influences holiday shoppers.

Research has found that shoppers’ evaluations of stores tend to be highest at the time of year when festive music is being played, with this effect enhanced when the music played is paired with festive scent. The research found that when music and scent were congruent (Christmas music and Christmas scents). This led to higher evaluations of the retail environment3.

How scent can be a part of the marketing mix


The addition of the right scent to a retail space can have a much stronger impact than simply changing the paint color, or installing a new lighting system. Indeed these functions should work together simultaneously to engage with all of the human senses as part of a multiplier effect. Scent is an especially powerful part of that sensory toolbox because it is so evocative, always hedonic, either liked or disliked. It’s hard to remain neutral about smell.

Smell influences our moods and emotions and makes us feel nostalgic.  This is something referred to as Proustian memory effect. Smells are linked to early life experiences stored in deep in our memories – this can trigger powerful emotions related to the holidays – always a very evocative time of year.  The intensity of the memory that has been evoked by a certain fragrance will become a motivational factor in that individual’s behavior and in a retail environment that will affect the way in which they spend with your brand.

The benefits of scent marketing


Scent can help retailers in four ways this festive season:

  • INCREASE FOOTFALL by enticing customers into your store.  Ambius’ own research has found that 74% of consumers have been drawn into a store because of an inviting smell.
  • INCREASE DWELL TIME – encouraging more time spent in-store and a better likelihood of making a purchase.  During the 2015 Christmas period, when we asked consumers about their experience of nostalgic festive scents, 50% of people agreed that a familiar Christmas smell would encourage them to stay longer in a shop.
  • INFLUENCE IMPULSE PURCHASES – by creating an experience that inspires consumers to buy.  74% of people act impulsively due to smell4.
  • ENCOURAGE POSITIVE EVALUATIONS – Nurturing positive association with your brand, leading to loyalty and referrals.  According to the Scent Marketing Institute, it can increase positive product evaluations by 25%.

Ambius’ Top Festive Scents

  • Christmas Tree – Nothing evokes the holiday season like the invigorating smell of an authentic white pine and birch. 30% of people’s favorite scent of Christmas is the pine fragrance from Christmas trees – this is the top result for females5.
  • Woodlands – The scent of fresh evergreens and crisp pine needles. Pine notes are invigorating and stimulate the senses. Thyme notes clear the mind and sharpen one’s focus. Sage notes are uplifting and relieve depression.
  • Mulled Spices – Warm apple cider spiced with cinnamon, clove, and whole peppercorns. Topped off with a subtle hint of orange peel to create this cozy and nostalgic aroma.  27% of people think that cinnamon is the best scent of Christmas5.
  • Peppermint Latte – Cool peppermint is balanced with warm, frothy vanilla to create this comforting wintry aroma.
  • Soothing Vanilla – A warm sweet vanilla aroma to help calm the senses of frantic shoppers.

Understanding the unique challenges of your store to offer you a customized, seasonal scent solution is the main focus of our scent design experts.  Using our exclusive diagnostic tools combined with a thorough understanding of the needs of you, your employees and your patrons, they take the time to define the perfect festive solution for your retail environment. Contact us today to begin working with one of our experts on a holiday retail experience your customers won’t soon forget.



1 National Retail Federation

2 Human Spiral Towards Intimacy, BrandSense

3 Spangenberg, Grohmann and Sprott (2005)

4 The Business Impact of Scent, Rentokil Initial 2016

5 Ambius 2015