Using Scent to Encourage Movement

Photo by Matheus Viana from Pexels

If you have a large space, there may be times when you want to attract customers or guests to one area. For example, a store may have a display for a special promotion or a product demonstration. A hotel might want to draw guests to a lounge for a live music act. Signage helps, but now you can use a new tool: scent. Researchers wondered if scent could be used to encourage people to move along a different path than they would normally take, and here’s what they found.

The Path Less Travelled Experiment

Researchers decided to test the concept in a museum setting with the idea that without the distraction of promotional material, the effect of the scent on people’s locomotion would be clearer. The normal path people take in the museum is to the main exhibits. But the researchers wanted to see if an ambient scent could lure museum-goers across a bridge to a temporary exhibit instead.

To test the idea, they tracked the normal walking patterns inside the museum without scent, then added scent to the area where the paths diverged and measured again. With the ambient scent, people were less likely to initially take the main path, but there was a key difference by gender.

There was an increase in both men and women exploring the temporary exhibit by following the smell. However, more men tended to slow down and linger in the scented in-between area and then go on to take the main path while women were more likely to follow their noses to the temporary exhibit. They theorized that men went off looking for the source of the scent and when they couldn’t identify it, some of them gave up and went back toward the main exhibit hall. Both men and women lingered longer in the scented areas, stopping to chat, exploring exhibit material and taking photos.

What This Means for You

You can use scent within a particular area to draw people to it. To encourage both men and women to continue on to the desired area, place compelling signage at the juncture where they might turn off. Contact your Air Esscentials rep today to find a small diffuser that is right for your needs.