The scent of roses takes me back to my childhood garden, while frying bacon transports me to my grandmother’s kitchen.

Of the five senses, smell is our sense most closely tied to memory. More perfumiers are catering to that, with personalized fragrances and a new generation of perfumes targeted at today’s shoppers.

Scents remain popular with consumers. According to a 2021 Mintel report, Fragrance Trends in Beauty, 51% of American respondents wear perfume even when they’re not leaving the house, and 62% use fragrance to boost their mood.

Personalized perfume

Some perfumiers are offering quizzes to help customers select scents. Most of Pinrose’s customers opt to take the company’s online quiz, says Nancy Shalek, CEO. It was developed with scientists and the company regularly analyzes quiz results to ensure customers like what it predicts for them and often updates the quiz to keep it relevant based on consumer feedback.

Katrina Sellers launched Jules & Vetiver because she was tired of seeing mass-market perfumes “marketed the same way they have been for decades: with fancy, expensive-to-produce custom bottles, celebrity endorsements, flashy ads. It’s focused on selling an image, and almost no attention is paid to what’s in the bottle.”

Jules & Vetiver

But customer behavior is changing, she points out. “We’re getting more curious, more inquisitive, more drawn by the quality of products. So although the overall fragrance market is large, the fastest-growing segment, for years, has been niche fragrance. Customers are looking for scents that are unique, more transparent, more interesting, and a better reflection of them.”

Best-selling products from Jules and Vetiver are the Fragrance Bar Kits and Limited Edition Samplers. The former ($59) is a kit with all of the company’s customized top, middle, and base notes that customers can sample and personalize to find what really resonates. They share this information to receive a freshly mixed, 0.25-fl.-oz, travel-friendly sprayer. Sellers record the scents for customers’ future purchases.

“Our customers love coming up with their own personal formulas and then seeing how beautifully their selections come together when blended,” she says.

The samplers feature five scents, selected by the customer, which consumers can experience and then choose their favorite for a full-bottle version.

Personalization is critical, Seller says. “It’s something customers value because it enhances the experience of owning something … unique.”

Triangle Fragrance launched in 2020 and due in large part to launching during the pandemic, most sales are online, says founder Magda Khalifa, though in-store sales are growing, she adds. 

Rather than a quiz, Khalifa uses a strong story to sell her fragrances. She has used her experiences as a soldier in Iraq to create scents that, “help people get from where they are now in life to where they want to be,” she says. 

Customer base

Triangle’s customers are ages 25 to 55 and the fragrances sell more to men than to women.

Pinrose attracts customers mostly over 35 and Shalek says they’re interested in something personal. “A person’s scent preferences are most strongly linked to their unique memories. A particular fragrance can instantly revive long-forgotten memories,” she says.

Jules and Vetiver scents are all unisex, though the majority of customers are female, between 30 and 55. “Our customers are typically not ‘new’ to wearing fragrance. They’ve worn fragrances for years but have gotten bored with them, or haven’t felt they were personal enough,” says Sellers.

And while sales are mostly from the company’s website, she hopes to be featured in more brick-and-mortar stores in the next year.

Important attributes

What’s important to customers today isn’t just scent, Shalek points out. Pinrose products are clean, vegan, cruelty-free, and hypoallergenic, aimed at not hurting either the environment or the person wearing the perfume. Pinrose is working to make its packaging more sustainable, and to offer a refill option. The company’s petals (single-use towelettes) are biodegradable.

Most Jules and Vetiver customers cite the company’s efforts to source sustainable ingredients as most important, but the company is also Leaping Bunny (cruelty-free) certified, which is important.

Khalifa wanted to sell clean products that are free of parabens, have no animal testing, and are vegan. But it’s not just Triangle Fragrance’s clean label that appeals to consumers, she says. Made in USA is the attribute that most resonates with customers, followed by Veteran Owned.

Jules & Vetiver customers most value the company’s transparency and the ability to be creatively involved, says Sellers, because that’s so different to the experience with large fragrance brands. 

“We make it clear that the feedback we get from customers goes directly to me, as head perfumer, and our formulas are developed based on what we’re hearing,” she says. “We love having that collaborative relationship behind our creations.”

Fragrance” was one of the trending high-growth keywords featured in our Retail Roundup: Q3 2022 report. Want to know what else was trending? Click the button below to download the full report.

Buyers and sellers of fragrance products can connect in person this January at ECRM’s The Everyday and Holiday Cosmetics, Skin, Fragrance & Bath Session. Click here for more information, and to register!

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