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Consumer evaluation of ambient scent: The impact of pre-information, environment, and persuasion knowledge

Ingrid Gottschalk (Institute for Health Care and Public Management, Universität Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 6 June 2018

Issue publication date: 11 July 2018




The purpose of this paper is to broaden the list of boundary factors which impact consumer evaluation of ambient scenting. More specifically, this study aims at demonstrating that pre-informing about the scenting measure, the particular environment in which the scenting takes place and the disposition of persuasion knowledge are necessary variables to be considered for achieving positive evaluations.


A field experiment was carried out in a local grocery store (a “pay-now” environment) and in a medical therapy centre (a “pre-paid” environment, n=200). The paper draws on the theoretical concept of spreading activation, the consumer decision process and the persuasion knowledge model. Data were analysed by using ANOVA and moderated regression analysis.


Consumers evaluated the scenting as more favourable when having been pre-informed about the marketing measure. Consumers were also more in favour of ambient scents in the usage-oriented, pre-paid service environment than in the purchase-oriented, pay-now store environment. Persuasion knowledge moderated the relationship between environment and evaluation of ambient scenting.

Research limitations/implications

As important research implication, the role of customers’ pre-information, environment and persuasion knowledge as boundary factors for scent marketing interventions is supported. These results can inform retailers how best to proceed in scent marketing. Future research could extend the present results with various informational measures and in different pre-paid and pay-now environments and experiment with different scents.

Practical implications

The results speak for pre-informing customers and using scents particularly in pre-paid environments, such as medical therapy centres. For customers with a higher level of persuasion knowledge, pre-information and a fitting environment are particularly advisable.


This paper adds important insight to scent marketing literature by addressing additional boundary factors which so far have been neglected. Methodologically, it differentiates itself by employing a field experiment, which offers higher external validity than laboratory experiments which are frequently used in scent research.



Gottschalk, I. (2018), "Consumer evaluation of ambient scent: The impact of pre-information, environment, and persuasion knowledge", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 46 No. 6, pp. 530-544.



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