The Scent of Chocolate Causes Shoppers to Spend More

Will the scent of chocolate make you purchase more?
Will the scent of chocolate make you purchase more?


Could the scent of chocolate compel shoppers to purchase more? Reports out of Belgium recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology seem to think so.

Researchers from Hasselt University tested the theory that a pleasant scent in the air of a bookstore could motivate consumers to spend more money. This latest incarnation of “smell-vertising” showed that shoppers in a Belgian bookstore were twice as likely to look at more than one book when the scent of chocolate was present than when it wasn’t. The study was done over ten days at a local bookshop where the scent of chocolate was present in the air for half of the store’s business hours. Every fifth customer was observed, for a total of 201.

The key finding was that overall sales increased with a 40% increase in the romance, food, and drink subjects. Sales of mystery, crime, and history books increased 22%. The interaction between shoppers and staff was also increased with the chocolate scent.

The sense of smell is often overlooked as a means of target marketing but awareness of its importance has increased over the last several years. One of the biggest proponents of a pleasant-smelling environment is Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn. When entering a Wynn property, the scent is wonderfully indescribable. Gone is the stank aroma of cigarettes, bourbon, and hard luck. Other casinos followed Wynn’s lead which is why your favorite casino may smell more like a Parisian parfumerie than an old-west gambling hall.

Even fashion retailers have gotten into the smell-driven marketing game. A study by the Journal of Consumer Research revealed that when stores filled their aisles with the scent of chocolate chip cookies, women were more likely to impulse-purchase expensive items than their counterparts who were not exposed to the delightful aroma.

It makes sense – or “scents” – to fill a retail shop with a delicious aroma to increase sales but would it work across-the-board? Would you stick around an antique store longer if it smelled like rotted wood? Or a surf shop if it smelled like the beach? What about the smell of freshly stomped grapes in a wine shop? A bookstore scented with chocolate may compel one group of shoppers to buy more books but it may also do nothing more than drive other consumers to the bakery across the street.

Tell us: Would you shop at a certain place because it smells better than its competitor? What store/scent combination would compel you to shop longer? Sound off on our Facebook page or in the comments below.

Nicole Patel

Nicole Patel is the proprietor of and chocolatier for Delysia Chocolatier. In 2006 while pregnant with her first son, Nicole made a batch of chocolate truffles as holiday gifts. To the delight of friends and family, she continued to create chocolates as a way to relieve stress from her corporate engineering job. In 2008, a chance trip to Becker Vineyards led to Nicole being the first in Texas to make truffles using local wines. Within five years, what started as a hobby turned Delysia into one of the Top Ten Chocolatiers in the Americas, as selected by the International Chocolate Salon.