The New Paper, Esther Au Yong
DO YOU care how good your favourite shopping centre smells?
How nice the piped-in music sounds? Supposedly, patrons in Singapore do. And that explains why a number of establishments here, including hotels, banks and department stores, are paying more attention to multi-sensory marketing. This means they craft an entire experience for their customers, right down to what the patrons see, smell or hear when they enter the premises.
At M Hotel, soothing music greets hotel guests in its main lobby areas, cafe and buffet restaurant. Even the air smells wonderful – floral and fruity at the same time, a scent specially picked by the hotel called ‘Ginger Lily’. General manager Melvin Lim said: ‘While any hotel can appeal to a guest’s sense of sight, taste and feel, we have gone two steps further and included the important senses of hearing and smell through the effective use of programmed music and fragrance.’
The same goes for the newly-launched Naumi boutique hotel at Seah Street, where the lobby’s music and fragrance has been specially customised.
Its general manager, Mr Philip Raj, pointed out that ‘branding wise, it helps guests to remember us and the memories they’ve had with us. ‘Certain smells immediately evoke certain memories. It’s like the scent of an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend,’ Mr Raj added.
Both Naumi and M Hotel declined to reveal how much they spent on the service but, according to their consultant Mr Simon Faure-Field, it costs about ‘$10 to $15 per day to fragrance a typical hotel lobby’ on average.
The 36-year-old, who is UK-born, is the founder and chief executive officer of Equal Strategy, what he calls a ‘customer experience consultancy’. It started in 1998 by providing companies with recorded answering services to build customer interaction. It moved on to providing scents and specially-designed music playlists in early 2006.
Mr Faure-Field said: ‘I remember walking into a pharmacy here once and expecting a calming atmosphere, but they were playing hip-hop music. I found out later that the boss allowed employees to play whatever they liked.’
While employees should be kept happy, Mr Faure-Field added that ‘customers should be a priority’ and the music that each business plays should be in tune with what they are trying to sell.
‘High-energy music like hip-hop should be placed in, maybe, a sports shop. For somewhere like the bedding area of a furniture store, a soothing fragrance like lavender should be placed,’ he advised.
For these music and aroma services, business owners almost need not lift a finger. The music that’s played is provided by a ‘black box’ containing playlists that Equal Strategy can change remotely, using an Internet connection. Likewise, fragrances are connected to the air-conditioning system ‘for consistency’, and topped up regularly by his company employees.
Mr Faure-Field’s other clients include furniture store Courts, and several banks that require specific music and fragrances in their lobby areas.
Another company providing fragrances for hotels and businesses is Essential Lifestyle, which charges $750 a month for a large hotel lobby. Its marketing manager, Ms Gladys Wong, 28, declined to provide details on her clients but said they would match the fragrance to the type of hotel. For example, if it’s a family hotel, they would recommend a homely, floral fragrance, but if it’s a boutique hotel, a more sensual fragrance would be appropriate. She said: ‘In other countries, (this sensory marketing technique) has been around, but it’s only recently that it’s catching on in Singapore.’
Mr Faure-Field said: ‘It’s a business after all so, of course, companies would want to do all they can to ensure that their customers are happy.’
Ms Reene Ho-Phang, managing director of brand public relations consultancy BrandStory, said customers these days are very discerning. ‘They expect a certain brand promise and will leave if the brand does not deliver,’ she said.
Shoppers who spoke to The New Paper said they are just happy that some retailers are making the extra effort.
Marketing manager Amanda Ng, 25, feels that in some cases, customised scents are essential. ‘Like at spas, it’s important to create a suitable ambience,’ she said.
Ms Marina Mathews, a public relations manager in her 30s, said: ‘It’s the little things that count. As a consumer, I would take it as a compliment that the store has tried to make my shopping experience more pleasurable… even if it means I end up spending more.’