The Future of Fragrance Shopping – How Can the Industry Survive in the Age of COVID?

With COVID-19 looking like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future, what does this mean for the fragrance industry? The perfume and cologne industry has long relied on customers being able to sample their products in-store before buying, but with the current restrictions and mandatory face-covering rules in many parts of the country and indeed the world at large, how can the industry adapt? Customers are understandably reluctant to blindly purchase costly fragrances online without being able to test them in person, particularly when many are struggling financially in the current climate, and as such need to be cautious in their purchases. Here are a few of the ways retailers are attempting to assuage these concerns and encourage customers to continue to engage with the industry.

Virtual consultations

One method many retailers are adopting is virtual consultations. This involves customers having one-on-one online consultations with experts to find their ideal scent. This method aims to replicate the attentive in-store customer service many fragrance shoppers are used to. By exploring which notes and fragrances customers enjoy, and what they wish to convey with their choice of scent, consultants can recommend perfumes and colognes to their clients virtually. However, this, of course, lacks the vital element of being able actually to sample a fragrance before buying.

Specialized online quizzes

Fragrance retailers are also making use of specialized online quizzes to help their customers figure out their scent profile. These tools guide customers towards their perfect scent by asking them questions about themselves and their scent preferences. These ‘perfume finder’ tools ask customers questions such as what emotion they’d like their chosen scent to invoke, or what their favorite season is, to present a selection of relevant fragrances and help the customer find their signature scent. Again, while a useful guide, many customers may still find themselves reluctant to spring for a potentially costly fragrance without actually being able to smell it before committing to a purchase.

Online subscription boxes

Another possible solution for the industry and its customers are online subscription boxes, such as Scent Magic. These boxes allow consumers to purchase miniature bottles of fragrances of their choosing online for a monthly fee. This allows customers to sample potentially pricey designer perfumes at a relatively low cost, removing some of the anxiety of purchasing a full-size bottle online without having sampled it in-store.

The resurgence of nostalgic and classic fragrances

Interestingly, there has been something of a return to older, classic scents throughout this year. In times of uncertainty, customers have been turning to old favorites rather than exploring new fragrances. Indeed, various top perfumes from the 1990s and the 2000s have had recent resurgences in popularity. This is likely due to both the practical restrictions of customers not being able to try new scents in person, as well as something more poignant: people may be turning to familiar fragrances simply because they remind them of easier, less overwhelming times.