Stores Use the Smell of Chocolate to Boost Sales

Staff Writer
A new study reveals that a chocolate aroma increases the likelihood that customers will make a purchase

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Recent studies show that customers are more likely to make a purchase if a store smells like chocolate.

You may already know the long list of health benefits associated with eating chocolate, but did you know that its aroma could also convince you to spend more?

New research published by the Hasselt University in Belgium suggests that the having the smell of chocolate in the air at bookstores encourages customers to spend more time browsing for books, thus making them more likely to make a purchase.

In the study, the researchers spent 10 days in a local bookstore near the university and infused a chocolate aroma into the shop’s air for half of its business hours. The researchers then analyzed the behavior of customers, finding they were, on average, twice as likely to look at more than one book when the chocolate smell was present.

Beyond merely causing people to linger, the smell of chocolate actually boosted overall book sales by 40 percent, especially for certain genres, like romance and food-related books. Additionally, the study found that women were seemingly more affected by the chocolate smell than were the men.

This is great news for independent book retailers looking to get an edge on major online booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Retail booksellers have experienced somewhat stagnant or even declining sales in the past several years, as ecommerce and e-book sellers have increased in popularity.

This new concept of “scent marketing,” however, could really turn those numbers around.

And these findings don’t only apply to selling books. A similar 2008 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that the smell of chocolate chip cookies in clothing stores made women more likely to make an impulsive clothing purchase than women who were not exposed to the scent.

On the other side of the equation, this study reveals one more form of marketing that we as consumers need to be aware of. Next time you go shopping, be aware of your surroundings, because they may be convincing you to buy something you might not otherwise want. 

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