Monday, July 9, 2012

Coffee beans and perfume selection, a potent combination

I had recently visited a standalone apparel store in Chennai and as most male shoppers do, was prowling around waiting for my family members to finish their browsing. When I neared the perfume counter, I saw an interesting and curious thing. There was a small container with lots of coffee beans kept there. Coffee, as you know has a string aroma and my first thought was that some new perfume with a coffee fragrance (Like the chocolate deodorant!!! Ugh) had been launched.

As a Retailer at heart, I was curious to know about this and asked the counter salesman. He explained that the coffee beans had been kept there to help shoppers make the right choice when purchasing perfumes. Frankly, this was something new and I asked him the logic. He went on to explain that the aroma of coffee beans were supposed to cleanse our olfactory sense (sense of smell).

While it did sound very interesting and innovative, I dismissed the explanation as a sales gimmick as I have not seen this in any of the large lifestyle stores which have far bigger perfume counters offering a wider range.

When I returned home, this was nagging me and I checked i out on the internet and realised that the salesman had been correct.

One site says “Our sense of smell is really powerful but it tires really quickly. We call this tiring “olfactory fatigue.” So, when you smell perfumes/fragrances, smell no more that 3 at a time before you “reset” your nose by smelling coffee beans. If you were to smell 4 perfumes in a row, you are not smelling the 4th one.  Smell 1, 2, 3 “reset” then 4, 5, and 6, etc. So the next time you are at a fragrance counter that has coffee beans, try it.”

Now the larger question is that why the large chain stores do not implement such a simple and customer enabling idea?

My earlier posts and articles about customer orientation and ownership of the customer experience highlight the lack of such a simple step. Retailers need to step into the stores more often, think like the customers and implement simple but effective customer enabling ideas. This is possible only when any retailer thinks from a customer perspective which is in turn possible on when they walk the store often enough and interact with customers. Sitting in conference rooms and devising grand strategies without the feet being firmly on the ground or rather walking around in the store is a sure fire recipe for failure.