Malls, shops and hotels are developing quite a nose for attracting customers. Attractive wares and hot deals aside, more are using appealing scents to make a lasting impression.

Walk into Ion Orchard, for example, and you might catch a subtle but sweet fragrance wafting through. The glitzy mall is said to be the first in Singapore to develop its own signature fragrance, which is diffused via its air-conditioning units. The scent incorporates 20 individual notes from natural herbs, fruit and flowers – including white tea, mandarin, ginger and peony – yet its smell is barely noticeable to most shoppers.

An Ion spokesman says: “The scent is designed to reflect the mall’s brand personality, that it offers a holistic, multi-sensory lifestyle and shopping experience.” Together with ScentAir, an international provider of scent marketing solutions, the mall took nearly a year to develop its signature fragrance.

At least four hotels and stores here, including Intercontinental Hotel and Shanghai Tang, now have an in-house scent. Bette Nah, section head of service skills at 1TE College West, notes: “Businesses in Europe and the United States have been using scents for more than 10 years. Singapore is slowly starting to catch on. There is no evidence that having a scent strategy boosts sales, but Nah says it is “all part of marketing”.

US-based Scent Marketing Institute, an independent resource for scent-related marketing, says that smell prompts the strongest memory recall. So the subtle use of scents that appeal to customers can be effective in building brand loyalty.

According to the institute’s website, “the smell of lavender tends to make us more relaxed and talcum powder makes us feel safe”, while “the smell of tailored floral and citrus makes us want to browse longer and spend more”.

Indeed, the Singapore Marriott Hotel is taking a leaf out of the scent book. A spokesman says it is developing a signature scent from green tea essence. “Green tea refreshes the environment and is ideal for our lobby, where guests are returning after a long day,” she says.

For a 2,000 sq ft store, Equal Strategy, a multi-sensory branding company here in Singapore, charges between $20 and $30 a day to lease specially developed fragrances and scent marketing delivery equipment.

Other stores such as Shanghai Tang spray perfumes and home sprays from their own brands. Not only does this make the store smell nice, but it also boosts sales of the spray. A spokesman for Shanghai Tang says it has been scenting its Takashimaya Shopping Centre store here with its signature Ginger Flower home spray since it opened in 2000.

A sales assistant notes that many customers ask about the fragrance and Ginger Flower is now one of its bestsellers. An average of 2,000 bottles are sold a month. The scent has made an impression on shoppers such as assistant documentary producer Karishma Chanrai, 23. She says: “Shanghai Tang always smells really nice. It’s a noticeable scent but it’s still quite light and fresh.

“But some shops, such as those that sell soap and shower gels, have a strong aroma with different scents mixing in a small space. I can’t stay too long in those shops.”

LAURA TAN reports from The Straits Times, Urban