A New Standard: Deep Submersion into Digitization

How to generate excitement for fragrance online, learn from AI, and fix the biggest loser. Immediate, actionable strategies to digitize an industry historically reliant on in-person experiences.

A New Standard: Deep Submersion into Digitization

Any digitally native Gen Z’er will tell you that there is nothing that can’t be achieved virtually. We have been bitten by a new standard of remote work, e-learning, app spending, Zoom parties and on-demand services. While the pause on global retail has had interconnected effects permeating fashion, consumables, restaurants, and innumerable small businesses, the adoption of digital platforms (and their conveniences) will not revert.

A simple marketing budget reallocation which skews more heavily toward digital ads coupled with a “Shopify-me” plea won’t be enough. Bringing the excitement of in-person discovery to our fingertips while creating a frictionless path to purchase can accelerate any brand’s ability to lap their competition. But many fragrance-first companies have lagged behind other beauty counterparts, given the heavy reliance on smell to trigger purchase decisions. With a greater willingness to buy online what was once considered too ambiguous, there are a few lifesavers that will allow you both the ability to continue exciting the senses and the agility to adapt to these consumer trends.

Generating excitement online

Everything starts with great content. Unfortunately, much of perfume jargon is ill-suited for the masses. ‘An aquatic fougère that dries to ozonic aldehydes,’ while descriptive, is much less inviting than ‘being greeted by an open window to the woods after stepping out of a refreshing shower.’ Of course, we want to know the ingredients for reference so that this olfactive vocabulary can build. But consider revisiting your product pages so that it speaks to a person’s lived experiences. Spark joy and ‘marie-kondo’ your copy.

As the cosmetics industry moves to single-use samples and virtual makeup tools, we are left wondering how the primary, in-store browsing experience for fragrance will translate digitally. Despite the saturation of social media activity, micro-influencers are standing in as trustworthy referrals. When done right, these paid partnerships can hasten the virality of new launches and the legitimization of indie brands.

FOMO-inducing impulse behavior readily seen with physical pop-up store concepts is achievable online with channel exclusivity. Chanel opened an e-comm pop-up site for Hong Kong featuring limited makeup, skincare and fragrance and complimentary gift wrapping for Mother’s Day; and Dior virtually launched an exclusive Rose Gold capsule collection dedicated to the Middle East during Ramadan. Offering select or preview SKUs can generate tremendous buzz for newcomers to your brand and loyal followers alike.

Since the unboxing experience will substitute interaction with bottles on shelf, packaging, GWPs and messaging should delight, whether a gift or self-purchase. The Merchant of Venice, Floraïku and The House of Oud have made the flacon itself the object of desire, with artwork designed for each variant as uniquely as the scent within. Confidently relying on superior fragrance quality as the driver for repurchase, the visually striking showpieces bait attraction and ignite anticipation of the reveal.

Murano Exclusive
Murano Exclusive
The Merchant of Venice
Secret Teas & Spices O Cha
Secret Teas & Spices O Cha
The CROP Collection
The CROP Collection
The House of Oud

Learning from AI

How can we leverage data to generate actionable insights?

  1. Connect retail and online customer data to provide seamless customer service and remote clienteling. If you do not yet have a way for associates to marry what someone buys in-person with what they’re now researching online, it is much harder to tailor targeted outreach that feels personal and relevant to each customer.
  2. Provide an easily navigable browsing experience. Nearly 90% of product education and research starts online, and if your site is difficult to peruse, customers will just go elsewhere. Heatmapping allows you to understand visitor interest via scroll, clicks and content engagement. Results stemming from these studies are extremely useful for UX redesign, as ultimately, every customer should see a different set of products aligned to their probable preferences.
  3. Once a significant set of data is aggregated, inputs can be used predictively. This is especially useful for multi-brand indices and e-tailors to become an expert resource for future recommendations. The Perfume Society Find A Fragrance generator is an amazing example. Given an available perfume, the ‘virtual fragrance advisor’ (AKA computer-generated algorithm) spits out six recommendations based on character descriptions of strength, feel, and of course, key ingredients. Brands with a large offering can do something similar within fragrance- or even cross-product categories.

Fixing the biggest loser

The reduced opportunity to smell through a wide swath of fragrances at once has hit our industry hard, hindering the leap of faith consumers are willing to take on an untested, indulgent purchase. Barilliance estimates that 3 out of 4 shoppers abandon their carts at online checkout. This huge conversion dent leaves a lot of potential revenue on the table, a large portion of which can be both preempted and recovered.

In our previous post on the importance of Storyselling in a New Era, we explored the need to spark imaginative interest by energizing the other senses. For the perfume obsessed, however, the most amazingly executed storyline may not be enough to move a selection from ATB to OTW. Samples, discovery kits, and free shipping & returns are successful offers proven to lower the barrier to trial.

An early entrant to the fragrance subscription model, Scentbird offers a free refillable case with initial orders on a monthly, affordable box of newness. Additional D2C ‘date before you marry’ players such as Olfactif, Commodity and Phlur incentivize by applying the cost of sampling vials toward a future purchase of full-size bottles. Founder of ph fragrances, Camille Le Feuvre, found increased conversion with hers over the last few months, noting that “98% of consumers who smell our 8 perfumes from our kit, then buy one of our perfumes.”

Even a simple change in vernacular from ‘travel size’ to ‘mini’ can help the mind shift during this time. “For a small cost, a set of minis will allow you to sit with a number of scents and experience them over time and in your own comfort. You can get a better sense of how they work for you than actually going to a store and making a decision after a few minutes of trying things on,” perfumer Roja Dove explained in British GQ.

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Outside of trial sampling solutions, we know that having guest checkout and multiple payment options are key to cinching a purchase. Remember that the goal is to ease the transactional experience and reduce any friction in the way. The same way customers may not be ready to commit to a full bottle before smelling, they may not want to create an account with you for a single purchase. A new email subscription is not more important that an initial sale.

Fashion companies have started to partner with payment plan providers such as Klarna, Sezzle and AfterPay to provide a well sought after ‘buy now, pay later’ option. While beauty cart totals may be significantly less on average, the additional flexibility will be a welcome one, at very little cost to integrate.

With all that in place, how do we recover those who still chose to step away from their bag in the end? Email fatigue is real, but automated messaging addressing abandoned product with additional, personalized suggestions should already be in place. And at least 10% of ad spending should be put toward Facebook remarketing and Google AdWords retargeting, which can be triggered to send ads to those who have only browsed a product or added to cart on your site. Creepy, yet highly effective.

If you do nothing else…

Create content resonant to your customer’s current behavior and circumstance proactively, and drive your commercial strategies forward defensively. As we move into the deep end of digitization, only the strong swimmers will survive. How healthy is your online presence and how responsive are you to real-time feedback? Are you able to action on your customer traffic and purchasing data to increase retention and satisfaction? Do you personalize virtual interactions given observed engagement and behavior?

Brands preparing today for the onslaught of social and fiscal revitalization will be poised for the dive into new territories, instead of picking up the pieces of a broken business model tomorrow. A holistic approach will help protect a troubled margin against nimble entrants and steal market share from aging competitors unable (or unwilling) to reacclimate.

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