Scent in Business

I have talked about home scents and the positive ways it can affect you, but it’s not only in your home that this happen’s, shops, restaurants, hotels even banks are catching on to the fact that the importance of scents does not only apply to the home interior market. Scent makes it easier to build authentic, emotional connections with customers, as humans are most receptive when all 5 senses are active. Most businesses only use sight and sound to communicate with customers. Ambient scent uses fragrance to enhance the experience of consumers. Scent branding is unique to each company’s identity. Researchers around the globe have conducted field studies on the effects of ambient scent and there is much research on emotion and scent marketing. The research clearly shows scent has the power to affect our emotional state. But what does that mean in the context of a business?

In the wake of the Ecommerce boom, customer expectations have changed and customers seek unique (emotional) experiences. The Harvard Business Review found that emotionally connected customers are 52% more valuable to a brand than those who are just satisfied. According to branding expert and author Martin Lindstrom, of all the senses, smell is the most persuasive.

When it comes to the retail sector, scents can play a major role in affecting consumers’ purchasing habits and determining whether their in-store experience is one that will be repeated or not. Although some retail store owners will argue that they like to concentrate on visual elements, ambient scenting offers a number of proven benefits to retailers. Customers browse longer in stores where pleasant fragrances are diffused, increasing the chances of a purchase. Also, when offering an inviting environment the shopping experience becomes memorable and the shopper’s perspective of the store is affected positively.

In more recent years, companies have begun to recognize the power of scent. Fashion companies have learned to capitalize on how a particular scent can help customers form an emotional attachment to their brand. And it’s become a common strategy for big companies to take full advantage of sensory design by scenting their spaces with aromas that represent their brand and appeal directly to their target market. Abercrombie & Fitch has their own men’s fragrances, Fierce, which is scented throughout the stores as a way to support the company’s character, giving off what they would describe as a confidence, bold and masculine lifestyle.

Eric Spangenberg, a consumer psychologist and academic found that once feminine scents like vanilla were released, women’s sales doubled. Similar were the effects on men when more masculine smells were released. According to Spangenberg, “Men don’t like to stick around when it smells feminine, and women don’t linger in a store if it smells masculine.”

Switching the scents during the day can also change the mood, in the morning using invigorating scents like citrus and peppermint scents give a different energy to a space. By changing to a calming scent, later in the day or evening the energy will alter too. The company, At-Aroma, which specializes in scent, uses the elements of essential oils to develop its fragrances, in particular its Supplement Air series. Blends like For Wake Up (with peppermint and lemon) and For Meditation (with cypress and eucalyptus) are intended to aid the mind and body in particular activities.

Certain essential oils like eucalyptus and tea tree are also valued for their antiviral properties. However, while some manufacturers have noted growing demand for essential oils amidst the coronavirus pandemic, industry experts warn that it’s impossible to make any claims about essential oils’ efficacy against COVID-19.  However, when I worked for a company selling essential oils, we always sprayed a blend of eucalyptus and tea tree during the flu scents in our shops and it did appear to stop the staff members getting colds and flu as frequently. With global attention on health and sanitation, many businesses are enhancing their cleaning practices with fresh room fragrances to meet higher customer expectations of cleanliness. I feel this will be an area of major growth in the coming years. People don’t always look for the signs of clean, they often smell for them, I know I do.

Scents are such an important part of a consumer’s experience that there are firms which specialize specifically in scent marketing. Scent Air has helped industry worldwide to create powerful customer experiences using fragrance for 20 years, by offering a science-backed approach to custom fragrances (scent branding) and to scenting spaces.  They use a wide selection of scent machines and systems to diffuse non-toxic fragrance that has proofed to be successful.

Consumers are craving rich experiences and emotional connections from the businesses they use. In fact, businesses that deliver exceptional experiences can grow twice as fast.  It’s not just shops, restaurants and hotels can create a feel of cosiness, luxury and even exhilaration through scent. Researchers tested the ability of ambient scent to create a positive first impression in a hotel. The results found that a fragrance matching a hotel’s brand identity generates a more favourable view from guests including higher perceptions of comfort cleanliness and even food tasting better.

So, I feel that we will be finding more and more businesses in particular post-covid looking to ambient scent to offer their customers that little extra. Particularly when people get their sense of smell back!

Kindness in Business Today

I wrote about kindness a short while ago, now kindness is not widely regarded as a matter for serious, corporate businesses. I found an interesting article on the Forbes website which discussed this matter at length. The media has often shown business leaders as cold, domineering and ultra-competitive. This makes me think of an image of Wall Street meets the Apprentice. Winning at all costs and knocking down others on the way is seen as the best way to succeed in the business arena. This seems a very out-of- touch way to run a business in 2020, but alas the “tough guy” archetype is still alive and strong. Corporate language is indeed still fighting talk. All around us there are examples of businesses that behave in ways that might reasonably be classed as unkind and unacceptable in any other place.

However, there may now be a move towards change. According to a recent Guardian article, a poll carried out for the strategy consultancy Britain Thinks revealed that just one person in eight wants life in the U.K. to return to “exactly as it was before” when the coronavirus pandemic is finally over. The article explains that there is a widespread appetite for a kinder society that “allows workers more time off with family and friends, cares about the environment, and ensures high levels of employment.”

The act of being considerate, supportive and responsive to the needs of others is of huge importance. Kindness should never be mistaken for weakness, in fact, it is a strength.

Personally, I have always tried to work for companies that place a high value on treating their staff in a fair manner and who realize the importance of both the physical and mental health of their workers and their families and loved ones. My first role in my career was with an upmarket department store chain, my younger self (and my older self too) was very impressed that one of the company directors when visiting the store took time to talk to every member of staff, about their families, studies, interests or even holidays. The fact that an upper management member took the time to do this, despite having a challenging role, made everyone feel valued.

Kindness begins (or ends) with these everyday interactions. Regardless of our seniority, each of us makes moment-by-moment choices about how kind to be to those around us. For better or worse, these choices affect how the business community functions. Bad behaviour, like bullying, rudeness or aggression, can filter from the top of a business, right down to the bottom of the chain. Not making for a productive or very pleasant work place. The effects of work place bullying should not be underestimated and surely companies do owe their workforce a duty of care. Which should include now having to deal with the additional stress caused my work colleagues who feel that they have no reason to consider others. Team work can make a business so much stronger.

What exactly does kindness at work involve? Phil Lewis from Corporate Punk, talks about embracing the five ‘C’s, which his practice uses as a foundation for consulting, coaching and training leaders in kindness as a pillar of effective leadership. These are:

Clarity. In many places of work, people are unclear about what leaders need from them in terms of responsibilities, objectives, targets and boundaries etc.

Candour. Human beings are not wired to thrive in conditions of ambiguity. This means communicating with openness, directness and honesty, particularly during periods of change.

Compassion. Many of us have complex lives, with any number of personal and professional problems to manage, both large and small. Failing to acknowledge this is not only unkind at a human level, it is also bad for business.

Courage. This is the difficult business of offering support to others and giving them what they need, especially when what they need is not what they want.

Consistency. “Do as I say, not as I do” is still the implicit mantra of too many leaders. Acting in ways that are consistent with what you expect of others and doing so all day, every day is kind to you and to them.

What is an unkind company? I would consider it to be one where people are in the everyday habit of prioritising their own needs over others in a way that undermines the team. People will not commit to workplaces that make no effort to understand and accommodate their individual circumstances and needs. And a lack of commitment tends to effect productivity and innovation, as well as causing a higher staff turnover.

So, by making a contribution to building a kinder work environment it helps both the staff and the company, to be more successful on many levels, including happiness and well-being. 

Kindness has a true value and the small things matter, a card on someone’s birthday, a genuine thank-you, is all it can take. To care about others and in turn for others to care about you is such a wonderful thing.

The New Normal- Working from Home

Working from home was seen as a temporary fix for an unusual situation. However, this has become a longer necessity than was originally thought. Many people had hoped to return to their offices and initially this was been encouraged by our government, but there appears to have been several U-turns on this policy. Most of the people I know who have been working from home, started doing so in March and in October are still working from home. (And they all really enjoy doing so) Localized lock-downs and Track and Trace, are keeping many of us in our homes.

The majority of office workers believe they will still be working from home until at least 2021 even with the government’s best efforts to get people back into the workplace. More than four out of 10 office workers are still working from their homes. This is despite around half of the respondents, 49 % stating their employer had requested that they return to the office. It shows businesses and the Government still have their work cut out to convince employees that it is safe to return to the workplace. A major obstacle for people going back to work is public transport, with the survey revealing that 57% believing it is unsafe to take the bus or train to work.

Many major companies continue working remotely and plenty have no immediate plans to return to the office. Indeed, and Google have extended their work-from-home policies by an entire year. Employees don’t have to return to their offices until summer 2021, and both companies plan to accommodate remote-working indefinitely in some capacity. Uber, American Express and Airbnb have also extended their remote- working policies.

The Understanding Society Covid-19 Study has stated that nine out of 10 those who had worked from home during lockdown would like to continue in some form. The increasing costs of public transport and overcrowded roads and trains have made getting to work, expensive and stressful. If you spend your working life at a computer or using a telephone, in therapy, could you do this anywhere? Are people much happier and engaged without the stress of commuting? We had even started to see a dramatic reduction in traffic, congestion, and pollution. The benefits to the environmental impacts us all.

Industry insiders estimate that we will see 25-30% of the workforce working at home on a multiple-days-a-week basis by the end of 2021, in both the UK and USA. In the last few decades, the demand for flexibility in where and how people work has been building. Before the crisis, surveys repeated showed 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time. Over a third would take a pay cut in exchange for the option.

Its not just workers who can see the benefits of remote- working.  Businesses desperate to shed costs could save money, occupancy studies have shown just how inefficiently office space was being used. Employees around the globe are not at their desk 50% to 60% of the time!

Covid-19 will also likely cause executives to rethink the need for travelling to meetings. Whilst virtual meetings may not have all the same benefits of being face-to-face, the savings may outweigh the costs much of the time. Zoom meetings are now very much part of so everyday life.

In Wales, their Governments polices differ from the English Government. Nearly a third of people should still be working from homes, even when coronavirus restrictions have eased, says the Welsh Ministers. Who aim to see about 30% of the workforce in Wales staying at or near to their homes in the long term, adopting a culture that supports remote-working. This move is seen as a way of reducing congestion and pollution and improving the work-life balance of the Welsh population.

I can see the good points and bad points of this move, and it will be interesting to see what happens in Scotland, as the UK is divided in its thinking of the best way forward. I think many things will not go back to the old way of doing things, the work-life balance has been lacking for many of us and having had the time to reflect on this people don’t want, in many cases, to return to the old ways. Not going out and seeing other people could potentially cause mental problems for workers isolated from their colleagues. There are social aspects to working with other people. Seeing and talking to others is vital to our well-being.

Other businesses in the high street, in particular coffee shops, are been badly affected by people not going out to work and not consuming as much. So, I guess this has to be addressed too. Its very sad that many businesses are having to close. In a changing culture, there will always be winners and losers.

Working from home permanently, would also require some re-organisation and adjustments in having an actual work space and not allowing your kitchen, living room or bedroom to become an office 24/7. A work environment which is over-cluttered can drain your energy and one which is well- planned can boost energy levels. An environment is the invisible hand which shapes human behaviour, according to author James Clear. Our homes are now our offices, meeting rooms, school rooms even our gyms. (Vital to our fitness, if we are moving less) As we live, eat, sleep and work from one place and life becomes more virtual. I hope that as our life’s change this is with positively moving onwards to better times.


Post- Coronavirus Consumerism

Now as a retailer, consumerism keeps me in work. Whilst, I think that quite a lot has been wrong on the high street for some time its important to still have a high street, for numerous reasons.

It has been estimated the country will have a £337 billion deceit this year. Which is 6 times more than the chancellor predicted in March. The majority of our economy is created by people spending money. Which is something until recently we have all been doing a lot, myself included. Children had to have the latest trainers, we all had to update our phones for the newer version. I had been having difficulties with my phone when I returned to the large phone company, I had purchased it from they told me my four-month-old Samsung phone was old, so it was not surprising it didn’t work. When did items still under guarantee become old? Years ago, you bought when you needed to replace an item that no longer worked not because you had to have the latest version.

We have been spending more for lots of reasons, but rarely because we actually needed something. Often, we buy clothing or goods that are “just okay” for no reason at all. Instant gratification and items buying for the sake of was the normal. Our ancestors saved up to buy and valued for many years the items they bought. I am sure they would be amazed by modern consumerism.

However, times are changing: job uncertainly, lose of earning, fear and caution have changed the high street. Some shops on opening, post-lock down had a flood of returning customers but many didn’t and the rush didn’t last long. A recent Instagram poll suggests that 67% of consumers are shopping less on the high street. On-line business had increased, but many companies had problems delivering and fulfilling the larger quantity of orders. So, buying online is not proving to be a 100% successful.

Now our spending was curtailed for several months, when shops, restaurants and pubs closed their doors temporarily. We couldn’t go out to shop, now shops have re-opened with restrictions in place, its not quite the same. Garments can’t be tried on; browsing is unfair when there is a queue outside waiting to come in. Prices in some cases have been slashed but in some sectors of the high street prices have risen. I think people have fallen out of love with shopping a little, having realised they didn’t actually miss shopping on the high street. Retailers will have to be inventive to coax shoppers back.

The larger high-street stores have been selling goods for less and less, usually by using 3rd world labour. But we are becoming aware of the human costs of having cheap clothes and the huge problem of land- fill with all our unwanted goods. Its been too easy to buy three items rather than just one. We have become a throw-away society. How we still consume but consider these factors is an important question.

In the 1950’s when we consumed less people were happier, so spending more didn’t make us happy. The lock-down was a wake- up call for us. Many big names are disappearing from the high street, although I would say that most of these were no surprise as problems had existed pre-lock down. Its awful that many people are losing their jobs and many more will most likely follow as businesses come out of furlough. The High street stopped listening to its customers a long time ago. Companies like Marks and Spencer’s have stopped making popular items to try to appeal to trendy, young customers disregarding the needs of their actual customers and wonder why profits are down! I hope than common -sense will out and they start making the right decisions.

I have always been a fan of smaller independent businesses; trade has been challenging for them. The constant price cuts and permanent sales have made it difficult to compete on a level playing field, with the high street. But customer service, passion, commitment and giving extra to their customers is what retail in the 2020’s should be about. These businesses implement customer- led changes quickly and are aware of packaging and the issues of sustainability. They may just be able to save the high street for us all.