Choosing a new fragrance can be a daunting task as consumers are confronted with a wide and overwhelming variety of scents, but customisation (such as designing one’s own scent) cannot be approached in a hands on way. Fragrance brands are therefore turning to personalised services that assess individual preferences to help consumers to find their perfect scent.

Mature fragrance markets are waning as consumers are spoiled with too many choices. What’s more, they tend to purchase fragrances out of habit and can often feel disengaged with the category. Reviving consumer interest is key to generating growth. Customisation should be a central element in this category, where purchases are driven by personal aspirations and scent preferences.

Consumers, particularly Millennials, are coming to expect personalisation as part of the experience as they look for products that reflect their sense of individuality. As a result we have seen a number of premium services offer consumers the opportunity to work on their own bespoke fragrance formulae. Layering is one effective strategy in helping to create bespoke fragrances at a mainstream level, with collections such as The Library of Fragrance by Demeter, which works by mixing fragrances together directly on the skin to obtain a unique, personal result.

However, Mintel finds that the appeal of hands-on customisation in fragrance remains extremely niche, with as little as 3-7% of European fragrance users saying that they often like to customise their own scents.

Buying a fragrance is a very personal experience, indeed Mintel research reveals that the majority of UK fragrance users buy for themselves. And while personal diagnostics – assessing people’s lifestyle and skin type through DNA analysis – has been growing in popularity across the beauty industry, it remains a relatively untapped opportunity in the fragrance category. Combining the personal aspect of fragrances with this concept reveals opportunities to develop services and software to guide consumers through the maze of fragrances, helping them to choose based on their individuality and personal preference. By increasing education and spreading knowledge on this topic, brands can help users to better engage with the category and further drive interest.

Paris-based retailer Nose offers a good example of the effective use of fragrance diagnostic tools with its unique recommendation service. The multi-brand retailer of niche fragrances has designed an app capable of analysing someone’s favourite fragance notes using just three of the user’s favourite fragrances. A similar experience is available with The Perfume Shop Fragrance Finder which uses software to recommend the best scents based on what consumers usually wear.

Guerlain’s new store in Paris also offers a personalised fragrance experience. Customers are encouraged to sample different ‘accords’ at a perfume station and are given the opportunity to rank their favourite ones. The software then recommends three matching fragrances out of the 105 available in the store.

Retailers and brands need to explore online diagnostics and technology as a way of driving online fragrance sales. Finding alternative ways to sell fragrances outside of traditional bricks-and-mortar is essential, but tricky in an area where purchases are based on sensory drivers. Diagnostics would certainly streamline the decision making process and guide consumers through their choice of fragrances when they can’t physically smell them.

Emmanuelle is a Global Fragrance and Colour Cosmetics Analyst at Mintel, working across several beauty categories, with clients around the world providing trends, markets and innovation insights and analysis. She is frequently a key speaker at leading beauty tradeshows and is regularly called to contribute to international, national and trade publications.

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