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Pleasant Ambient Scents: A Meta-Analysis of Customer Responses and Situational Contingencies

Pleasant Ambient Scents: A Meta-Analysis of Customer Responses and Situational Contingencies

Holger Roschk and Masoumeh Hosseinpour

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Teaching Insights

The idea of using pleasant ambient scents to connect to consumers is well founded. The exposure to pleasant ambient scents on average produces a substantial increase in the level of customer responses (3%–15%). However, it requires judiciously considering the various situational contingencies as they are eventually decisive for the increase in the level of customer responses due to ambient scent.

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Related Marketing Courses: ​
Consumer Behavior; Marketing Strategy; Retail Marketing; Services Marketing;​​​​ ​​​​

Full Citation: ​
Roschk, Holger, and Masoumeh Hosseinpour (2020), “Pleasant Ambient Scents: A Meta-Analysis of Customer Responses and Situational Contingencies,” Journal of Marketing, 84(1), 125–145

Article Abstract
To prevail in the fierce competition of in-store experiences, some firms have focused on providing pleasant ambient scents. However, equivocal results on scent effects make generalizations and managerial guidance uncertain. While efforts to consolidate research findings have been conducted, a comprehensive quantitative integration is notably lacking. In this meta-analysis, the authors integrate 671 available effects from ambient scent experiments and show that exposure to pleasant ambient scents on average produces a substantial increase in the level of customer responses (3%–15%). The effects of ambient scent depend on situational contingencies and are, for example, positively related to congruency, unidimensional aroma structure, ascribed familiarity of a scent, service exchange, proportion of female participants in the sample, and imagined (vs. fictitious) offering. Thus, the authors estimate expenditures would increase by 3% and 23% for an average and a most favorable condition, respectively. The authors also examine effect patterns, identifying, for example, ambient scent as more cognitive than affective and nonlinear effects of perceived concentration. Using the insights, they develop a research agenda and provide clear strategic guidance to leverage ambient scent effects.

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Special thanks to Kelley Gullo and Holly Howe, Ph.D. candidates at Duke University, for their support in working with authors on submissions to this program.

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Holger Roschk is Professor of Service Management, Department of Service Management, University of Klagenfurt, Austria.

Masoumeh Hosseinpour is a doctoral student in Marketing, Department of Marketing and International Management, University of Klagenfurt, Austria.