The Emotion of Perfume Buying

I am always happy to see data support a widely-held belief. The scientist is always skeptical of the anecdotal over the analytical. Which Is why I am always interested in the reports the consumer research company The NPD Group release on fragrance buying habits. The one from June 2017 was titled “Women are More Emotionally Connected to Fragrance than Men”.  The article takes data from their recent “Scentiments” program where they did a deep-dive on fragrance buying habits.

What they found was, “one-third of women see fragrance as a personal treat, or a pick-me-up to enhance their mood. They tend to choose a new scent based on how well it fits with their personality.” This translates to new purchases on the average of once a month from women. When it comes to men they buy, “typically for the purpose of replenishment” and 1-2 times a year.

These findings lead to some recommendations on how to sell fragrance to the genders. It posits women are more willing to try new things and grouping perfumes in categories based on their style offers opportunity for discovery of other brands. On the men’s counter the uber-focused replenishers just want to be able to find their brand therefore keep them grouped together in that way. A couple of other insights were smaller sizes and/or rollerballs have seen an upsurge in sales. Also, women are more likely to gravitate towards fragrance sellers who give out samples.

I have no doubt this applies to the general public. It reflects much of what I see when I take my weekend field trips to the local malls to make my own observation on buying habits. When it comes to the group of people who have become perfume lovers I think all the gender divisions are removed. We are better grouped by our passion for fragrance than our sex. Within this subset we are more like the women described in The NPD Group article.

How many of us, “see fragrance as a personal treat, or a pick-me-up to enhance their mood. They tend to choose a new scent based on how well it fits with their personality.” I would make a wager it is much higher than one-third. I know that sentence has described my personal experience.

Even now when I am buried under hundreds of new perfumes a year; when one connects it is my emotions which are engaged. I almost involuntarily smile. When it’s really good I make noise and roll my eyes upward. Love of perfume is entwined with emotion and I think that is genderless.

Shelves at Scent Bar/Luckyscent in Los Angeles

I also want to mention the suggestion about selling fragrance by grouping them in similar styles as opposed to collecting them into brands. There are two stores I know of which do this and I think it is a more useful way of guiding any consumer to find something new. It gives them the opportunity to find that emotional connection in a style which has had a similar effect previously.

There is probably a more general maxim that all buying is emotional but I believe fragrance is something which has a more primal connection to those who add it to their day. When it is great it makes your mood brighter which is why we keep going back.

Mark Behnke

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