In the last decade, we’ve seen fragrance launches increase year on year in the thousands, as niche brands emerged and Designer brands maintained their grip on the market. Fragrance manufacturing hadn’t changed all that much in the same period, despite the drastic change in shopper behavior across the world.

Millions of dollars, multiple teams, and months, if not years are spent to take a perfume to market, let alone make it a success. And yet, a lot of fragrance launches fail. Products get lost on shelves. IProduct teams find many reasons as to why the product did not garner the same love by the shopper as the love that went into making the fragrance. But in reality, it is because fragrance development remains product centric. The industry remains focused on the products that it brings to market rather than the customers that buy those products. And they are not to blame. As a matter of fact, brands, barring focus groups (that are susceptible to overgeneralization), have not been able to thoroughly understand the different palettes of their shoppers in the different geographies they serve them in. This is due to the lack of data influx about socio-economic, geographical and psychographic differences in scent preferences and buying habits in wherever area the product finds its way to. But that is about to change.

Retail today, especially brick & mortar, is undergoing radical change. In the first half of 2019, we’ve seen 19 retailer bankruptcies. Shopper needs and wants have changed. With that, their expectations from brands and retailers have changed also. The experience economy is set to bloom during this decade, and retail is expected to embody a hybrid model intertwining touch and feel with digital tools. Retailers will begin to tap into large amounts of data about shopper psychographics: preferences, behaviors, tastes and interests, using a cacophony of sensors that identify and track shopper behavior, to personal AI (Like that of Aura Labs) that curates products to the personal preferences of every shopper.

Relevant to brands, will be data relating to who their shoppers are. What their background is. What appeals to them. And what each shopper type is buying from their assortment. Should brands be privy to that data, their workflows will consequently change. Product development teams will have large amounts of data to work with. Brands will know the size of business for every persona they cater for, in every geography they ship products to. On one front, they will start understanding what works and what doesn’t from a communications perspective with every persona. On another front, they’ll further deconstruct, why each shopper persona buys what it buys. On an emotional level, on an ingredient level, and on a total smell level. This sort of data will allow brands to construct much more thorough briefs, as well as many more briefs. And perfumers being the artists that they are, will thrive on the constraints they’re presented with. The constraints will yield better perfumes, in shorter times. Not to forget that there will be much more perfumes released in the market globally, but the shopper will seldom feel that change. Because the perfumes she’ll see will be the ones made for her and shoppers like her, made available in stores where she shops and shoppers like her shop. Because with the better understanding of each shopper type comes quantifiable metrics like the size of business for every shopper type, in every region. Production batches will shrink. Resource management gets more efficient on the brand side. Communication becomes more targeted. The product launch success skyrockets.

Exciting times are ahead for the brands that will be able to adapt to the new realities of fragrance shopping. Those that will fail to adapt should expect an equally diametrical future. The skill set requirements at the account manager, marketing manager & R&D manager roles at companies like L’Oreal, PUIG, Shiseido, COTY, Estee Lauder & LVMH will change. Managers that hope to seize the opportunity that the future will present must be willing to unlearn the old, and learn the new.

Unlike the thinking of the old guard in the industry, that relishes the times when perfumery was more artistic during the belle epoque, I believe that the uniqueness, exclusivity, lure and quality of perfumes will improve when this change is set in motion.

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