Retail in Asia

In Shops

Singapore dollars and scents

Malls, shops and hotels are developing quite a nose for attracting customers, using appealing scents to make a lasting impression.

Walk into Singapore’s Ion Orchard, for example, and you might catch a subtle but sweet fragrance wafting through. The glitzy mall is said to be the first in Singapore to have developed its own signature fragrance, diffused via its air-conditioning units. The scent incorporates 20 individual notes from natural herbs, fruit and flowers – including white tea, mandarin, ginger and peony – yet the smell is only slightly noticeable to most shoppers.

At least four hotels and stores across Singapore, including the InterContinental and Shanghai Tang, now have an in-house scent. Bette Nah, head of Service Skills at 1TE College West, notes, "Businesses in Europe and the US have been using scents for over 10 years, and Singapore is starting to catch on." But why use scent in marketing?

US-based Scent Marketing Institute (SMI), an independent resource for scent-related marketing, says that smell prompts the strongest memory recall. The subtle use of scents that appeal to customers can be effective in building brand loyalty, the institute adds.

According to SMI’s website, "The smell of lavender tends to make us more relaxed, and talcum powder makes us feel safe", while "the smell of tailored floral and citrus makes us want to browse longer and spend more".

The Singapore Marriott Hotel is also taking a leaf out of the scent book. A spokesperson says the brand is developing a signature scent from green tea essence. "Green tea refreshes the environment and is ideal for our lobby, where guests are returning after a long day," she says.

For a 2,000-sq.-ft store, Equal Strategy, a multi-sensory branding company in Singapore, charges SGD20-30 (USD14-21) a day to lease specially developed fragrances and scent-delivery equipment. Other stores such as Shanghai Tang spray perfumes and home sprays from their own brands. Not only does this make the store smell nice, it also boosts sales of the spray itself.

A spokesperson for Shanghai Tang says it has been scenting its Takashimaya Shopping Centre store in Singapore with its signature Ginger Flower home spray since opening in 2000. A sales assistant notes that many customers ask about the fragrance, and Ginger Flower is now one of its bestsellers. An average of 2,000 bottles are sold a month.

As Ion Orchard and other master scent marketers know, subtlety is everything. As with a person’s perfume, just the right amount of scent creates a great impression, while too much will have the exact opposite effect!