It’s hard to get people to buy perfume online when they can’t smell it. So fragrance maker Phlur is tapping into people’s other senses instead.
The startup is using short video clips portraying scenes like a walk in Central Park or a girls’ night out and customized Spotify playlists that are meant to evoke feelings and moods associated with the scents.
“Other companies haven’t reimagined what a buying experience should be and haven’t solved how to buy it online,” said Eric Korman, Phlur’s CEO. “Most online discovery elements relies on a quiz upfront, and you can’t predict what fragrance someone will like based on a personality quiz.”
The company will offer two samples that people can try at home, a crucial element in the fragrance buying process. But the former head of e-commerce at Ralph Lauren wantes recreate how people shop for their signature scent. “If you like the songs, the visuals, and you see what you like written, you’ll like the scent,” he said.
Brands and retailers have had to get creative when selling perfume, a product that’s traditionally bought in store. Sephora and Yves Saint Laurent, for example, are turning to user-generated content such as product reviews, recommendations and visuals from consumers and influencers.
“We continue to see fragrance brands struggling in the digital space because of the highly sensory nature of their product, making it a challenge to convert a consumer online,” said Giulia Prati, associate director of beauty at L2. “Phlur has taken a smart approach to a problem we haven’t seen solved successfully before by this industry — drawing upon every sense they can access digitally.”
The U.S. fragrance market is forecast to reach $7.9 million by the end of this year, up from $7.7 million in 2015, according to Euromonitor. The growth is being lead by premium fragrances — up 4 percent in 2015 — while demand for celebrity fragrances is falling, according to L2’s Beauty Insight Report: Fragrance Product Merchandising. It also showed department stores remain the main way to buy fragrance. Prati called Phlur’s move bold, while adding that other categories have been surprisingly adaptable to e-commerce, such as eyewear, as evidenced by the success of Warby Parker.
Like all online-only businesses, with a lack of a physical store for people to visit, the brand needs to take itself to consumers. So the company tapped influencers — out of 255, five were paid — across platforms including blogs and Instagram to reach its main target, young Gen Xers and older millennials. With Phlur perfume priced at $85 for a 50-milliliter bottle, Korman said the idea is to target those who won’t buy higher-priced products.
“Ultimately, we need to re-engage a new group and generation of consumers with fragrance to drive demand back up, not prices.”