No more testers, no more solo olfactory wanderings: now, customers must ask shop assistants when they want to smell perfumes. Masks and social distancing also have an influence on the shopping experience. All this has largely contributed to the rise of online sales and the emergence of digital technologies. “The recovery we experienced online actually saved us. The public’s appetite incited us to reinvent ourselves in the digital world,” explains François Hénin, founder of Jovoy, the Embassy of Rare Perfumes.

However, the current situation does not seem to have altered perfumistas’ curiosity too strongly. “In this slowdown context favourable to discovery, some people want to purchase the same perfumes, while enthusiasts are eager for new launches,” adds François Hénin. Brands and the media do their best to feed this appetite with new fragrances, some of which are only available online, while promotional games flourish on social media.

Boxes: a major discovery medium

However, “ boxes are the best new perfume boosters,” says François Hénin. “Thanks to regular newsletters, they gained the public’s buy-in: when they fall in love with a perfume, people tend to buy a bottle online”. For Jovoy, it is a way to transpose their generous sample policy to the digital sphere – a significant advantage in this tricky period punctuated by lockdowns and other restrictive measures for physical stores. With this in mind, Jovoy also made boxes structured around different themes (seasons, materials, events).

Boxes being a more intimate and serene discovery method, they are now on a roll. For example, “taking in account both subscriptions and unit sales”, sales on the Auparfum website “rose by 20% compared to last year,” says Lucile Rives, of the Nez team. The website’s e-shop (, which displays books, candles, and games, actually saw sales increase by 40%, compared to 2019.

Innovations and surprises

“We need to keep surprising people and innovating, even online,” explains François Hénin. “For example, in our boxes, we slip scented papers which provide information about the fragrance, including the olfactory pyramid. We want people to have fun.” To re-enchant online shopping, Jovoy also offers various gifts with purchase. For a 100 ml bottle, you get one of these small gifts of all sorts: testing doses of perfumed detergent by pH Fragrances, flasks of the Nosy Be vanilla absolute by Parfumeurs Sans Frontières, a 15 ml new BDK perfume to discover… Brands are definitely willing to play the game, hoping to gain some visibility.

New virtual experiences are also welcome. Since the information provided in the press is not enough for perfume lovers, Instagram lives and other videos are getting widespread. “We are going to organize an online competition. Web users’ most beautiful descriptions will be posted on our website, and winners will get bottles,” François Hénin eagerly reveals.

To get rid of the trouble related to social distancing rules in stores and offset the decline of physical traffic, Jovoy offers private consultation sessions in small groups of two to three people – an opportunity for customers fond of this luxury cocoon to experience a special moment. In North America, LuckyScent offers to make an appointment to get the same advice as in stores. “These initiatives encourage concept stores to develop new analytical skills – and customer loyalty,” explains François Hénin.

Brands and major groups also take action. Puig multiplies innovative initiatives to re-enchant the shopping experience in stores. To comply with sanitary rules, the group developed a tool derived from Wikiparfum, AILICE, to be able to visualize a fragrance before smelling it thanks to a QR code on customers’ smartphones. When scanning a perfume’s bottle or packaging, AILICE automatically analyses the information and retrieves the relevant content in a perfume database (olfactory family, main ingredients, etc.). For now, this new technology has been deployed in Penhaligon’s stores in the UK and Asia.

In the same vein, Puig partnered with Air Parfum to devise a diffuser which perfectly renders the complexity of trails. Thanks to this tool, in summer 2020, they unveiled Paco Rabanne’s PaCollection in “3D” at the Sephora store of the La Défense shopping mall, west of Paris.

In South America, Natura recently fitted their stores with the MultiScent 20 scented tablets. This technology developed by Brazilian startup Noar is now brought to fragrance players and retailers all around the world by the Orlandi group.

There is little doubt this type of technologies will soon become a perfume shopping basic. Perfectly aware of these stakes, the Paris PCD show organizers partnered with Coty to make the ESP and ESEPAC students work on innovative perfume testing solutions. Curator journals like Nez, websites and blogs specialized in perfumes, as well as boxes and sample sets are likely to get increasingly popular in terms of perfume discovery. Still, what impact will the context have on creation, but also on our relationship with perfumes, in the long run?