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How has the pandemic impacted consumers' use and relationship with fragrances?

Beauty, Personal Care, Fragrances

The impact scent can have on a mood and overall sense of wellbeing is nearly impossible to overstate. One fragrance can elicit feelings of coziness and comfort, while another can give a person a sense of luxury and distinction. Given the seemingly endless variations of fragrances and personal uses, it’s no surprise the fragrance market has seen such steady profitability in recent years – at least, prior to COVID-19.

While sales figures certainly have been impacted for much of the fragrance industry, that’s not to say consumers have abandoned fragrances, quite the contrary. Fragrances have remained a core aspect of many consumers’ day-to-day lives, according to research from Swiss fragrance company, Firmenich. And in many cases, fragrances also have become a necessary resource to navigate the stressors of these global events.

Fragrances Continue to Be a Part of Consumers’ Daily Lives

Traditionally, fragrances have been marketed for a variety of purposes – to complement an ensemble, set a comforting mood for a home or retail store, elicit feelings of hunger in a restaurant. Many of these functions, though, are commonly associated with social gatherings, which have become taboo for much of the past year.

It’s clear however that fragrances have continued to play an important daily role for many consumers. For example, in Italy and Spain, half of adults believe fragrances are necessary even when alone, based on data from market intelligence firm, Mintel.

All of this poses several interesting considerations for brands, especially around how they should develop and market their fragrance products to consumers.

Fragrance Boost Wellness and Calm

It’s an understatement to suggest the pandemic has been an unnerving experience for most of the world. A joint study from UNC-Chapel Hill and Harvard shows 55% of people are more stressed as a result of the pandemic. Amidst the often-overwhelming news cycle and public health measures, people have sought new ways to both escape and reclaim a sense of calm in their own home. For many, fragrances have helped achieve both – emerging as an effective way to boost feelings of tranquility.

In the last 12 months, 85% of those who regularly wear a fragrance also have used other scented items in their home, according to NPD’s 2020 Fragrance Consumer report. Whether it be lighting a candle or using a home fragrance on things like a couch, bedding or blanket, scents can help transform a space, which is immensely beneficial for those who have felt isolated the past few months.

Nighttime Fragrances Playing an Important Role

An unfortunate, but common byproduct of stress is difficulty sleeping, particularly calming one’s mind to initially fall asleep. Ways to cope with this include a range of behaviors like journaling, turning off devices or meditating. For some consumers, beauty rituals have become an effective way to relax, and fragrances can play an integral part in these rituals.

It’s long been established that certain scents like lavender or jasmine help with relaxation and sleep. Nighttime beauty products and fragrances are not new, but again, they can play – and already have played – an important role for many people throughout the pandemic, helping them relax and find a deepened sense of calm and intimacy in their homes.

What Are Consumers Looking for from Fragrance Brands?

Undoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic has shifted the buying experience for fragrances. As something primarily for a person’s olfaction, no number of online reviews or descriptions can replace the act of smelling it for themselves. Yet, many remain apprehensive about venturing to a store to handle and breath in a variety of test fragrances. One strategy for brands to consider are sample bottles, which offer several benefits.

More variety: With sample bottles being cheaper than their larger counterparts, it’s easier for consumers to purchase several at a time. This could be to see which they like and which they don’t – or to have a variety of scents for different occasions or moods.

Lower commitment
: Fragrances like perfume, particularly from higher-end brands, are an investment for many consumers. This is a large reason why the in-store experience has been so vital. They want to be sure they enjoy it before purchasing a large volume bottle they’d have for months. Smaller sample-sized bottles reduce the fear that they may be stuck with a fragrance they won’t ever or rarely will use.

Complementary scents
: Scent is highly emotive, and often, something consumers feature in multiple aspects of their everyday life. For example, a third of younger U.S. air-care shoppers (aged 18-24) seek out air fresheners and other scented items that complement their personal fragrance. It’s no surprise then that fragrance has played such an important role for consumers everywhere this year. In turn, it’s also had an impact on their buying behavior – something brands should acknowledge in how they market and size fragrance products in the near future.

What Does This Mean for Packaging?

The delivery of the experience is almost as important as experience itself, especially when it comes to fragrance. Beauty fragrances largely have been designed and packaged to evoke a certain degree of prestige and luxury, which shouldn’t be lost on smaller sample sizes. The same attention to detail and quality should be paid toward the bottle, cap and other dispensing parts, which are inherent to the consumer’s experience.

Higher-end packaging and dispensing also helps a person’s home feel more spa-like, a trend that’s been on the rise for some time, but all the more important now as people seek ways to escape at home. Cheap and ineffective plastic or cardboard doesn’t do much to make someone feel as though they’ve been transported to a luxurious resort.

Understandably, consumers have found different ways to cope with the stressors caused by the pandemic, unique to their own needs and interests. For a number of them, fragrances have played an important role, particularly in eliciting feelings of intimacy and overall wellness. As their relationship with fragrances shifts, so should brands’ strategies concerning how their market and package fragrance products.

Pictured: Olga Bates — Manager, Beauty and Personal Care Insights

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  • Company News
  • English
  • Modified 07 Apr 2021
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