But along came 2020—and the very places and sales methodologies used to sell fragrances shut down. According to a report from McKinsey & Company, online savvy US Millennial and Gen Z consumers made nearly 60% of their beauty purchases in stores prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Beauty counters went dark across the country—no more sniffing a spritz on a blotter or seeing a beautiful bottle in-person before making a perfume purchase.
Of course, online beauty shopping had already been growing, but there’s been an uptick during the pandemic. Many consumers opted to reduce their risk of exposure by not going into any store where beauty products were sold, like Target, which remained operational in many states because it sells essentials like food and cleaning products. According to McKinsey & Company, Sephora’s US online sales are reportedly up 30% versus 2019 as were Amazon’s beauty product sales for the four-week period ending April 11, 2020.
Exactly how brick ’n mortar rebounds as more stores re-open remains to be seen. But as more money continues to be exchanged online, retailers are removing hurdles so they can close the sale wherever a consumer may come in contact with their brand.
In late June, for example, Sephora unveiled a digital collaboration with Instagram that it said would bring “beauty inspiration and shopping together for one seamless client experience—in other words, a digital storefront that allows users to purchase a product, complete with checkout, in the feed or Instagram stories. There are 80 brands in this program including several fragrance players—Marc Jacobs Fragrances, Maison Margiela, Acqua Di Parma, Atelier Cologne, Innisfree, Viktor&Rolf and Phlur to name just a few.
“Our clients engage with social media in so many ways, like drawing inspiration from the community, getting tips from experts or learning about new beauty trends so we’re always looking for new ways to enhance that beauty journey. We’re excited to deliver Instagram checkout, a new, seamless, direct, and secure way to shop across our brands’ accounts, while still getting the perks of being a Sephora client,” Carolyn Bojanowski, SVP and general manager of ecommerce for Sephora, said in a statement when the program was rolled out.
Scents and Sustainability
As the beauty industry rapidly expands online, digital-first and digital-only brands are rising in popularity. One’s even made the short list in this year’s Fragrance Foundation’s awards: Esscentials, a brand that launched exclusively on Amazon in November 2019.
Esscentials Good Morning! Scent Mist has a base made from 100% natural alcohol from cane sugar, and it comes in packaging that is biodegradable and recyclable. The glass bottle is made from recycled glass and the brand encourages consumers to repurpose the bottle since they can unscrew and remove the actuator. The outer carton is made with 50% recycled paperboard, too.
Good Morning! will compete for Packaging of the Year (Universal) against the likes of Carine Roitfeld’s Seven Lovers Lawrence, Gucci’s The Alchemist’s Garden The Eyes Of The Tiger, Paco Rabanne Pacollection: Strong Me, and Tom Ford Lavender Extreme. Also named finalists in the Fragrance Foundation awards are: Packaging Of The Year (Women’s)—Eau De Juice Pure Sugar, Floral Street Neon Rose Eau De Parfum, Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy Bowdacious, Kylie Jenner By KKW Fragrance (Nude) and Moschino Toy 2; Packaging Of The Year (Men’s)—Ignacio Figueras Buenos Aires, John Varvatos JVxNJ Silver Edition, K By Dolce&Gabbana, Tiffany & Love For Him and Viktor&Rolf Spicebomb Night Vision. Winners will be announced next month.
Clean beauty is influencing NPD in every category, even in the fine fragrance sector. Fragrance brands are incorporating more sustainable components in their bottles and secondary packaging. In April, Calvin Klein fragrances, part of Coty, achieved a Material Health Certificate at the Silver level from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute for CK Everyone. The certification indicates that 100% of the chemical substances in CK Everyone eau de toilette have been assessed and are compliant with the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard material health requirements at the Silver level. The citrus fragrance, which is vegan and uses 77% of naturally-derived ingredients, has packaging that takes a similar tack. The transparent glass bottle contains 10% post-consumer recycled materials and is recyclable (with the removal of the pump).
Actress Michelle Pfeiffer is a new player in the scent category, having launched Henry Rose as the first fine fragrance line to earn the EWG Verified designation. The Henry Rose line discloses 100% of its ingredients found in scents like Dark is Night, Fog, Last Night, Torn, Jake’s House, Queens & Monsters, and the newest, a fruity scent called Smyth which launched last month. Henry Rose scents are also certified Cradle To Cradle Gold, and the brand is committed to sourcing its packaging materials from sustainable or renewable resources wherever possible. Each full-size bottle is made from NEO-Infinite glass (90% recycled, 100% recyclable), the caps are made from soy, and the secondary packaging is a bio-based, biodegradable and compostable paper alternative.
Whether a brand’s position is clean or luxury, the bottle and packaging work to reinforce the story behind the juice and forge a connection with like-minded end users.
“Packaging indeed plays a critical role in the success and storytelling of fragrance in the consumer experience. The artistry, craftsmanship and beauty of the bottle, as well as the outside/secondary packaging may be what captures their attention initially and sets the stage for the scent within it. It has the power to communicate the brand’s story, showcase the designer’s creativity, and even provide functional features to enhance the user’s experience,” Linda G. Levy, president, The Fragrance Foundation, told Happi.
After the scent is selected, the bottle comes home where it often takes on greater meaning, according to Levy.
“Once a fragrance consumer gifts or takes the fragrance home, the artistry of the bottle or container becomes an accessory or extension of the person’s personal style or home,” she said.
Fashion designer Philipp Plein launched his second scent, No Limit$. The juice, described as an invitation to step into Plein’s “hedonistic, unlimited high-voltage life,” is housed in a replica of a $1 trillion black credit card. It is made of black-lacquered glass, embossed with Plein’s name and stamped with his brand’s skull symbol. The card’s chip has been transformed into the spray cap. The outer packaging has a lenticular print that alternately reveals the skull and the dollar symbol.
Also in the men’s sector, Cremo launched two scents at Walmart. New Bourbon Vanilla and Iced Citron & Driftwood variants, which are exclusive to the retailer, can be found at select locations in addition to Cremo’s existing scents of Blue Cedar & Cypress and Spice & Black Vanilla. Cremo created a flacon that is simple and sophisticated with a clear glass, stamped bottle and silver cap; it conveys a sense of luxury at a price point that’s budget friendly.
“Our mission is to make men’s grooming products that are best in class but also accessible,” said Matthew Biggins, CEO and president of Cremo Company.
For Sofia’s Vergara’s Lost in Paradise, a floriental fruity blend, the packaging was designed to reflect the female form. The bottle, which was inspired by the cut of Colombian emeralds, is tinted rose gold. The packaging features a vibrant tropical print, channeling Bird of Paradise, a favorite of the actress.
The longer the COVID-19 pandemic grips the US, the worse for wear the fine fragrance category will be. Some experts say increased sampling and discovery sets will help sway consumers to buy more scents. But bottles and secondary packaging will remain critical components in the process of winning a consumer’s fragrance dollar, too.
In 2020 and beyond, it’s likely that a fragrance fan’s first interaction with a new perfume could very well be on their smartphone or tablet, not in a store.