The hospitality industry is in a time of transformation as digital technology evolves at breakneck speed and millennials influence change and force hotels to re-evaluate how they do business. At one time, hotels would look at functional ways to differentiate, such as the provision of en-suite bathrooms. Instead, industry metrics have shifted from measurable ‘mystery shopper’ factors – such as when the check-in opens, and the location of the bar – towards experience and emotional involvement.
Accounting for 27% of the global population, millennials are now the most powerful and authoritative consumer group – encouraging hotels to create a more emotional connection with their guests by fostering good experiences. A report from Expedia and consumer insight analysts Future Foundation revealed that millennials value experiences over possessions, while 52% consider suggestions and reviews left on review sites, blogs, and social media.
With social media shaping future generations and affecting the success of hospitality businesses all over the world, the customer experience – rightly or wrongly – now out-muscles functionality with considerable ease.
Embracing the experience economy
How guests feel about a hotel experience is becoming a key means of differentiation and driving loyalty. It follows the notion of the “experience economy” – a term coined in 1998 by B. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore – which has been particularly embraced in the hospitality industry. Guests expect more, and because it’s so easy to instantly share an experience with the rest of the world via social media, the hospitality industry is forever looking at ways to stand out from the crowd.
Pine and Gilmore cited several aspects of the experience economy:
- design memorable experiences;
- theme the experience;
- harmonize impressions with positive cues;
- eliminate negative cues;
- mixing in of memorabilia;
- engage all five senses.
“The sensory stimulants that accompany an experience should support and enhance its theme. The more senses an experience engages the more effective and memorable it can be.” Pine and Gilmore, 1998
Premium Scenting’s own findings support these arguments. Our Ultimate Hotel Experience study revealed that hotels are intent on finding ways to give guests unique, memorable and bespoke experiences. By offering experiential and multisensory inputs, hotels have the potential to reach unprecedented levels of personalisation.
How the power of scent influences the hotel experience
For our study, Premium Scenting worked with independent research house Walnut Unlimited and found that leveraging the sense of smell significantly increases consumer involvement in experiences by a margin of 38%. Sensory organs in the nose have direct nerve connections to areas in the brain related to emotions, memory and reward behaviour. A pleasant scent helps to amplify an experience, and has the ability to showcase its huge potential in sensory hotel design.
Across the hospitality industry, scent creates a vital, obvious and deep connection with guests. It can help to link a place with positive memories and emotions and offers hotels a way to establish a personal, human-centred relationship. For example, hotels can use scent to convey a sense of destination, connecting guests instantly with the area that they are staying in, whether it’s the scent of fig in Naples or a dry, crisp sweet breeze reminiscent of the Mediterranean.
The choice of scent depends on what the hotel hopes to convey, and follows in the footsteps of department stores attempting to lure customers into their businesses or entice them to stay longer. For example, a Yankee Candle store will exude smells of cinnamon, while Subway releases a delightful doughy scent inside its outlets. It’s a subtle marketing strategy that relies on the powers of smell to change somebody’s mood or behaviour quickly – essential in an age of social media travel bloggers who can share their thoughts just as rapidly.
As an immediate signal – and as the fastest-acting of the five senses – scent is a powerful way to give guests an indication that they’ve arrived at a high-value location.
Scent influences repeat hotel visits
In our Business Impact of Scent Report, 53% of hotel guests interviewed said that they would consider checking into a hotel with a strong smell in the lobby, while 48% said that it would make them more likely to return in future.
A scent can also help with the creation of comfortable environments – appealing to a guest’s senses to encourage engagement and familiarity. Frequent travellers often cite the smell of a hotel as being associated akin to ‘coming home’: the immediate impact of a familiar brand scent being a trigger for comforting emotions.
“One of the biggest ways is by connecting with your guests on an emotional level in an effort to become more familial and memorable. This is especially important when it comes to connecting with your all-important business travellers. Busy, weary worn guests want to step into a place that is immediately familiar – a place where they can stop, breathe, relax and instantly know they’re in the same welcoming place they’ve come to know and call their own.”
Our results also signpost how hotel brands can utilise scent to establish hotel brands – by delivering more immersive and unique guest experiences and establishing loyalty. Encouraging guests back is now done with the promise of a great experience, using all the sensorial touch-points.
Olfaction is tied to memory and emotion more than any other sense, meaning that sense marketing can directly appeal to your guests’ emotions. It can also drive traffic within a hotel: for example, to a hotel café, restaurant or bar.
Bespoke scent solutions can turn guests into advocates
The ultimate goal of the guest experience is to create memories that guests want to repeat and – more often than not – share. To succeed, you need to provide a multi-sensory experience that connects with your guests on an emotional level. Doing so will not only please your guests – it will turn them into lifelong brand advocates.