This also means that most e-commerce sales are product reorders (i.e. repeat purchases), rather than consumers buying perfume for the first time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced brands to think digital. While perfume sales have shown signs of recovery since lockdown began – UK sales of luxury eau de parfum and eau de toilette have fallen from a 67% loss to a down only 13% since the reopening of non-essential retail stores, according to NPD – this highlights the reliance on offline retail channels, that the new lockdown measures are again likely to have an impact.
Now more than ever, brands are being forced to adapt and find new ways to engage customers through digital channels, as well as integrating technology into stores.
Virtual consultations to replicate in-store customer service
Throughout 2020, fragrance brands have focused on promoting classic scents or beloved heroes to drive repeat purchases. Talk to Business in vogue, Laura Azaria, SVP of Marketing for Designer Fragrance at L’Oréal USA, commented on the increased consumer interest in classic fragrances: “It speaks to the fact that when shopping online, consumers are looking for something that ‘they know and trust.’ she said.
At the same time, however, brands also recognized that this reliance was not enough to counter the losses associated with bricks-and-mortar closures. As a result, many have found new ways to drive engagement online, such as virtual consultations or “scent discovery consultations,” as luxury brand Sana Jardin calls them. As the brand puts it: “one-on-one discovery sessions are designed to help you explore our scents, find the one(s) that’s right for you, and learn more about our socially responsible brand.” Customers are asked about their scent preferences and given a breakdown of different scent profiles on Zoom, essentially replacing the type of service they would usually receive in-store.
In addition to scheduled consultations, some retailers are investing in technology to allow consumers to connect with staff on demand. An example One of them is The Fragrance Shop, which recently partnered with tech app Hero, a tool that allows in-store staff to connect with consumers online via chat or video. The idea is to replicate the in-store experience (virtually), enabling personalized customer service and allowing consumers to rely on the expert knowledge and advice of staff. At the same time, the technology allows staff to see what consumers are browsing online, while offering them the ability to book appointments and consult offline.
A similar Perfumery company, this time using GoInstore technology, would have contributed to a 45% growth in monthly sales of new fragrance launches in August. As the perfume store launched the technology in 2019, the lockdown restrictions led to a spike in interest from consumers who have no choice but to buy perfumes online.
E-commerce samples and contactless technology to drive sales
Elsewhere, brands are using online quizzes and personalization profiles to guide customers to their ideal scent. Cologne workshop “Fragrance search” tool, for example, asks about personal preferences related to nature and emotions.
Atelier Cologne’s “Perfume Finder” tool asks consumers about their preferences when looking for a fragrance, such as the emotions the fragrance should embody. (Picture: Cologne workshop)
These tools are useful for engaging customers in the online journey, but they don’t solve the main barrier for customers, which is the ability to smell a scent before purchase. Other strategies in beauty e-commerce, such as reviews or AI-powered apps, do not have the same impact or apply to fragrance products. It’s not impossible to drive sales this way, of course, and there are examples that prove that consumers are willing to buy perfumes online. Back in 2017, Glossier launches a perfume, Glossier You, which was only available for purchase on its website. Importantly, in the lead up to the release, he sent samples with every order placed on Glossier.com and placed “scratch ‘n’ sniff” stickers in the magazines. Word of mouth was also key, with Glossier generating buzz from influencers and user-generated reviews.
It looks like brands are heeding Glossier’s approach, with Covid stimulating new ways to promote and monetize sampling. Amanda Morgan, UK Managing Director of perfume brand Diptyque, said recently cosmetics company“I see a trend towards a lot more samples, paid samples, where consumers can spend a small amount of money to purchase samples from many launches that will be redeemed for future purchases.”
Indeed, we have already seen this type of strategy being deployed by brands such as The Perfume Shop, which offers customers a gift voucher for 10% off purchases over £30 when they buy three samples. Similarly, Sana Jardin allows customers to exchange what they spend on samples for a full-price bottle.
While e-commerce is an emerging channel for fragrances, technology is also helping fragrance retailers align with in-store safety regulations. In June, the Hong Kong company Meiyume launched a prototype for a contactless sampling solution. According to the brand, “the solution is motion activated and can dispense any type of perfume or skincare product. The mechanism uses existing ‘ready to use’ products, so there is no need to design new ones. packaging from testers or changing the current supply chain. Essentially, this means that customers can taste a fragrance without having to touch anything.
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Expansion into new categories and multifunctional fragrances
Due to “stay at home” restrictions, interest in home fragrances has increased significantly this year. According to data from the NPD Group, UK sales of premium air fresheners increased by 37% in March, while sales of prestige candles increased by 6% and prestige diffusers by 3% compared to the same period in 2019.
Retailers and cosmetics brands are certainly seeing increased demand for less traditional fragrance categories. In August, The temperature reported candle sales at Selfridges were up 54% since March, while candle sales at Diptyque were up 100% from March last year.
Diptyque is also an example of a brand that has adapted well to Covid, in particular to align with the new demand for multifunctional perfumes (and find new reasons to wear perfume). This summer, she launched the multi-use perfume ‘Fleur De Peau’, which can be sprayed on the skin as well as in the air or on fabrics close to the skin such as clothing or linen. Diptyque saw huge demand for the multi-purpose product, and it sold out almost immediately after its launch. The brand has also launched a number of scented “wearables”, including wristbands, pins and stickers.
diptyque is proud to announce that our Ready-to-Perfumer Perfumed Bracelet has been voted Best Perfume Accessory in the Perfume category by #AllureBestOfBeauty https://t.co/mD6n1R4WxQ@Allure_magazine pic.twitter.com/f2VZ8oHEne
— diptyque Paris (@diptyqueparis) September 17, 2020
Elsewhere, brands are finding new demand for fragrances designed to calm, relieve stress and aid sleep, as well as promote hygiene or cleanse the skin. The New York Times reported in May that sales of Shen Beauty’s “Functional Fragrance,” said to have “stress-busting” benefits, had tripled since February. Eurofragrance CEO Laurent Mercier stressed the need for brands to expand into areas outside of traditional perfumery, story Personal care: “Today, consumers want everything: products that are good for their health and the environment, which offer well-being and safety.” He continued, “We have also been working on products that significantly reduce unpleasant odors as it is important for consumers to live in increasingly hygienic and sterilized spaces.
It’s no surprise that many fragrance brands have launched their own hand sanitizers this year. Product innovation could be a big priority in 2021, with brands designing products outside of traditional fragrance, specifically to address pandemic-related issues (like dry hands).
Jo Loves is the latest brand to find a foothold in the market with its “Hand Sanitiser and Hand Lotion Duo”, which dispenses hand moisturizer and hand sanitizer at the same time. The brand is probably hoping this will be the perfect gift for many people this Christmas.
Digital Shift Q4 2020 Chapter 1 – The continued impact of Covid-19