The Art of Selling Fragrance

Those of us who watched Friends (that’s all of us, right?) remember the one where Joey gets a job as a fragrance demonstrator. Things look bleak for Joey and his ‘Bijan for Men’ when he finds himself outclassed by Todd, ‘the hombre guy’...

Their hilarious standoff reaches its peak when a shopper gets an eyeful of perfume as soon as he steps inside the store.

All the best comedy contains a grain of truth. It’s certainly a little too familiar to department store customers, running the gauntlet of trigger-happy fragrance consultants. Cluttered fragrance departments often have up to 20 staff poised to demonstrate their product. In response customers scurry past with their eyes on the ground, whipping out their mobiles or momentarily fascinated by something in the next aisle. They’re tactical masterminds when it comes to avoiding eye contact and when it’s your job to establish that contact, it’s no laughing matter.

With fragrance brands beyond saturation point, standing out is crucial. It follows that in order to go far in fragrance, you need to be different.

How will you get noticed?

At iD, our in-store training techniques focus on precisely this question. By emphasising real engagement, we focus on techniques that allow demonstrators to communicate with and educate customers, rather than simply approaching them. We train Brand Ambassadors to traffic-stop in a creative way – the opposite of ‘blending in’ with the department.

We’re happy to share a few tips for our winning approach:

Don’t make ‘no’ a possibility.

Stop asking ‘Would you like to try’? Not only is it totally uninspiring, but you’re making it far too easy for the customer to say no (and the chances are they’ve already done precisely that ten times today.)

Customers respond better if you’re actually interested in what they’re looking for – so ask open-ended questions that begin a conversation.

“Who are you buying for today?”

“Are you looking for something special?”

“I see you’ve been to Selfridges! Did you get anything nice?”

Make it personal

Helpfully, customers are a lot like you - so it doesn’t take much to see things from their perspective. Show them you relate to them – and don’t be afraid to pay them a compliment (as long as it’s sincere.)

Tell a story

Choosing a fragrance isn’t just about a smell – emotion is a powerful factor. Help customers make the brand a part of their personal story.

Really listen

How often do sales reps ask one question, then another that shows they weren’t listening to the answer? In building a relationship with a customer, it’s crucial that they feel valued. If you’re not paying attention, you won’t gain their trust – or their trade.

A touch of inspiration

A lot has changed since the point-and-spray days of Todd the Hombre guy. In fact, with its sensory and emotional dimensions, fragrance demonstration is exactly the kind of territory that lends itself beautifully to an experiential approach.

A number of gorgeous brand activation's out there show us how to get the job done properly:

The Robin collective and L’Oréal deconstructed YSL’s Black Opium, creating a sensory experience to connect the consumer directly with its aromatic elements. Not surprisingly, it was a huge success.

Chanel’s pop-up perfume museum created a journey for the consumer, marrying aesthetic elements with their most iconic fragrance and celebrating the number 5 brand from all angles.

Chloe’s clever, interactive ‘love story’ activation locates the fragrance within real moments of emotion – allowing customers to participate in a romantic gesture linked to a wider, recognizable tradition. Bravo.

Smell is so powerfully emotive that the precise science of ‘scent marketing’ is now used to sell everything from cars to clothes. It only goes to demonstrate the powerful persuasive effect of scent. When marketing fragrance, you’re already half way there. The trick is to turn the technique on its head. Successful experiential campaigns locate fragrance within just the right experience or emotion, allowing it to tell a story the customer wants to be a part of.

Vicky Whiteley

Account Director