There are two attributes of experience in shopping. One is purely acquisitional — that is, merely on the notion of action and purchase; there’s no focus other than that, in acting and acquiring.

You are looking for something and you want it, you buy it — and then you are gone. There is another approach to shopping that’s more complexly mind full. That is, you’re not focused on that one thing but rather you are open, operating in a slightly slower framing, that will allow a more complete sentience in comprehending surroundings. There are two paths — one, focused and closed vision; another, open and exploratory. And you might say that there are surely layers in between these two models. The hope and proposition of shopping experience is that you are pulled out of that strict focus and you are drawn into the environment more holistically; it’s more of a sentient experience; it’s absorbing and feeling your surroundings. And that this process is happy and satisfying.

And it’s here that scent, or what I might call, scentience, comes into play. That the essential character of fragrance speaks to memory and connection in a way that another level of experience and mind fullness emerges. By embracing even the subtler expression of scent, there’s a journey that can begin; scent reaches instantly to memory — so the scent of coffee in the right place in the store experience design might lead to seeking that physical need; a scent of sun, sand and rubber might connect to another happier experience; and these lend themselves to taking your self out of one context (focused action) and into another (willingness to explore other purchases).

There are surely other components to this notion of holistic placement of the person in the shopping milieu (and mindset). Sound, for example. But the person will be far more likely to consider exploring impulse related items if the experience in being in the store speaks to memory in a deeper way. A quick holiday shopping foray might be lengthened — and impulse more potentially in play — if there’s a scent of cranberry and cinnamon; and I’m sure you can personally imagine other scents that might make you comfortably linger, in the context of taking more time, because you feel good — psychic memories are recalled.

To a query on online lingering.

I believe that the same premises apply.

There are two types of shopping connections to online — those which are solely about nailing the acquisition, and other that are more exploratory. How do you get there? How do you make that connection? Coalescence. I’d offer that because of the idea of the unification of you — your self — into the community space of that shopping experience. I’d reference the online experience of Amazon, for example, is a site that is so capable of reaching to you, in recognition — once it finds you online, the potential of creating diversionary tactics and connections for exploration are actualized. You went there for one thing, and you came away with more than you bargained for. What that really means, as a bargain, is that you’ve agreed beyond your fixed obligation. That is — you went there with one positioning, and came away with far more.

And the concept of scent in shopping and online relational tools do that, they’re aligned — they reach into the psyche of the mind setting of the shopper and evolve them to a new telling and experience. Either you are recognized — or you recognize; there’s a shift in cognizance.

Tim Girvin is the Principal of Girvin, a brand strategy and marketing communications design firm focusing on storytelling and emotional resonance in business development for its clients worldwide.


Kim, I’m hoping this is helpful — getting ready to head out for a round of meetings here momentarily…will reconnect later this morning online, to assure that you are good to go with what I’ve offered.

Warmest wishes — and thanks very much for thinking of me, working with me…

tsg | nyc
Tim Girvin

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