Exploring the tech, socials, and strategies making the future of fragrance sweet

by | Aug 14, 2023

According to consumer analytics company Circana, fragrance sales reached $7.3 billion last year – resulting in a 52% rise in its share of the total prestige beauty category. What’s the sector’s secret?

On top of off-the-scale sales, perfume brands have seen a boom in recent M&As – see Puig’s $1 billion buyout of Byredo and L’Oréal’s $25.5bn acquisition of Australian scent brand Aesop – proving the fragrance arena is the place to be. 

Here we explore some key contributors to the industry’s stellar trajectory and the brands that are making waves…

Fragrance has become a social media superhero 

The impact of social media in the growth of the fragrance market cannot be underestimated. #PerfumeTok has over 3.7 billion views thanks to users trawling the platform for scent discovery.

As a result, Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Baccarat Rouge 540 is still being hyped seven years on from its launch and new launches, like Phlur’s Missing Person, are becoming a cult product overnight, garnering a waitlist of 200,000 customers.

Small-batch fragrance house and TikTok favourite, Ffern has enjoyed almost 550 million views of its Summer collection and recently announced that its client list has surged 300% in 2023 alone. The success stems from a strong social media strategy that harnesses storytelling which beautifully illustrates Ffern’s sustainable brand values, country roots and olfactory inspirations.

With the power of scent and fragrance discovery being so sensorial, you’d be forgiven for questioning whether social media can stand the test of time for scent sales. However, #PerfumeTok offers consumers, content creators, and experts the opportunity to share in-depth know-how, valuable expertise, and encourage experimentation via close-knit communities.

In-store storytelling has become vital 

Whilst Ffern is smashing social records, it still recognises the importance of the bricks and mortar experience. In November 2022, the brand opened a multi-sensorial artisan salon in Soho, London where consumers can concoct their perfect perfume wardrobes. 

Whilst you browse, Ffern offers tea in handmade pottery and Somerset-inspired craft workshops such as flower pressing, natural fabric dyeing, and calligraphy.

Across the pond, New York’s Aedes de Venustas uses its retail destination to showcase its own collection and a portfolio of other luxury brands in its beautifully ornate atelier. In contrast, Luckyscent’s NYC, Hollywood and downtown LA stores offer a ‘wine bar’ perfume experience. Enabling visitors to sit and savour the scents for as long as they wish before leaving with their ideal pick.

Virtual enhancement has come on leaps and bounds

Just when you thought we’d formulated a report without mentioning AI, you’re wrong. The technology is providing brands with a unique opportunity to better understand the consumer profile and preferences.

Over the past five years, Givaudan has been harnessing ‘Carto’ which allows ‘perfumers to perform at the peak of their creativity, delivering on an idea almost as soon as they dream it’. They can simply combine any of the notes from their extensive library on screen and with a click of a button, Carto delivers a sample of their creation.

The brand is going one step further with ‘the first AI olfactive social listening tool’, DigiPulse™. It collects and categorises over 2.5 million audience comments across a spectrum of social media platforms to help its perfumers uncover more about consumer preferences and opinions.

The role of the metaverse in the fragrance arena also cannot be overlooked. The Value of Beauty report confirms that two thirds of online shoppers are more confident in their online purchases after being able to try with AR, with as many as 42% saying they would pay more for a product if visualised in this way.

Strategic beauty business consultancy, The Red Tree recently partnered with ONEWAYX, a plug-and-play Metaverse Operating System that is leading in the MetaCommerce channel, to hold a competition called ‘Get Versed in the Metaverse’. Developed to break down barriers to the metaverse, the competition is now granting the winning mind and body fragrance brand, Gabar, a virtual store for three months.

For a fragrance brand born during the pandemic, the metaverse is the perfect place to help Gabar achieve what it has set out to deliver to its audiences: ‘We stand for fluidity, self-freedom, and embracing every side of yourself — an ethos we carry throughout every touchpoint.

One thing is for certain, while the process of perfume discovery and experimentation is arguably a physical one, the virtual – be it AI, AR or social spaces – show no sign of slowing down.

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