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The Case for Fragrance Family Loyalty

By: Laura Donna, Consumer Fragrance Education, LLC
Posted: May 23, 2012, from the June 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Computer-based kiosk applications are available in some stores to promote fragrance sales. Functionality includes attractive content about fine fragrances and supports predictive modeling: “If you like perfume A, you may also enjoy perfumes B and C.” Very well-designed, this type of system even allows for searches based on fragrances of interest to a client, but not necessarily carried by a given store. A robust database supports suggestions for immediately available options sharing an olfactory profile with any scent a user might identify. It is not even necessary for sales associates or clients to understand the concept of fragrance families to perform these searches; options are simply based on the families of scents of interest.

Unfortunately, in the author’s personal experience, in-store training offered to sales staff to encourage use of such an interactive display focuses on branding and personality-based content and system features. This training included no mention of the functionality that allows searching for scents based on fragrance family—what the system calls “type.” While a touch screen option to “find other scents of this type” exists, live training did not mention that option or provide an opportunity for hands-on time to practice searching for scents by family. In the absence of such training, sales staff remain oblivious to the powerful search function, and are unlikely to encourage its use by clients or to use it on their behalf.

Shoppers who want help from a human rather than a touch screen when shopping for fragrance may not get guidance based on their true taste in scent, even when local sales staff has had company-sponsored training. Computer application designers and marketers have overestimated the interest of shoppers in going online with kiosks. Regardless of how attractive kiosk content may be, in-store shoppers prefer to interact directly with beauty products. After all, a rich sensory experience is what motivates consumers to go to the store rather than sitting at home in front of a computer. In-store kiosk use is very low. If the tools are to catch on, enthusiastic handholding for computer-based programs is required. Sales clerks must be more familiar than they are at present with automated tools if they are expected to use these tools and promote their use to clients.

Why the Resistance to Olfactory Marketing?

Though fragrance marketers have spent money on books, databases, in-store displays and computer applications based on fragrance families, they display a lack of conviction that better sales training and consistent use of these tools will cause women and men to buy more fragrance. Why?

The question is especially interesting in the case of stores like Ulta and Sephora, whose merchandising and sales practices are generally brand-agnostic. In these settings, a vast fine fragrance selection creates great opportunities to produce a win for buyer and seller alike. Despite the parent-child relationship between global fragrance giant LVMH and Sephora, for example, the store benefits from any fragrance sale to a client, regardless of the brand.