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The effect of ambient scent on consumers' perception, emotions and behaviour: A critical review

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The effect of olfactory stimuli on consumer behaviour has received little attention in marketing and retailing literature compared to other atmospheric cues. Researchers report ambiguous findings and shortcomings of measurement approaches. Based on a critical literature review, a field experiment in a regional shopping mall investigates the effectiveness of ambient scent. Before-and-after surveys of randomly selected shoppers in experimental and control groups were conducted and different experimental designs simulated. Those designs not controlling either extraneous variables or attitudinal differences between the control and experimental group reveal a positive effect on factors operationalising mall perception and consumers' emotions. The design controlling both sources of bias indicates no impact of ambient scent on the dependent variables. None of the behavioural variables were affected in any case. This paper questions prior findings on the effectiveness of ambient scent in a shopping-mall environment and calls for more rigour in investigating the effectiveness of atmospheric stimuli in general.
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Keywords: ambient scent; atmosphere; consumer behaviour; experiment; shopping mall

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Stirling, UK 2: University of Lincoln, UK

Publication date: 01 February 2012

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