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​Online platform Parfumado: where data acts as a second nose

Parfumado

When Martijn van Rooy was launching perfume brand YVRA and discovered that niche perfumes hardly stand a chance of success 'in store', he decided to launch an online perfume subscription model. He has now been operating Parfumado for four years, accumulating a base of 400,000 members, and handling around 65 brands, from Versace and Paco Rabanne, to more niche perfumes like Miller Harris and Escentric Molecules. Parfumado's co-founder Floor van Rooy talks strategy.


The idea behind Parfumado is as follows: for € 14.95 per month, you get to choose a new perfume every month: 8ml - enough for 30 days - delivered to your home free of charge. You can choose from 450 perfumes by 65 different brands. To seek out a selection to suit your taste, you can take part in their scentquiz, where none of the answers are wrong. In addition, you get a free travel case, so you can easily take the perfume with you on your travels. We speak to Floor van Rooy after she just celebrated the 4th anniversary of the platform, together with her brother Martijn, the founder of Parfumado.

How did your brother come up with the idea?
"Through his work launching the niche perfume house YVRA, my brother quickly noticed how difficult it is to stand out as a brand on the shelf, and how hard it is to get up there in the first place. As a consumer, you go into a store and are often overwhelmed by the scale of what's on offer. For a perfume brand, it's therefore difficult to be picked out, and that's especially true for a niche brand. The moment Martijn spotted the rise of the subscription model across the border and noticed that there wasn't one yet for perfume, he came up with Parfumado. Within five months, 70 subscribers a day were being added. After half a year I joined him, and since then we have been running it together."

You are also active in the UK and Belgium: what's your secret?
"Consumers can experiment with different scents through our platform without having to immediately commit to a whole bottle. This is how we are the discovery platform for perfume. Since you can't smell via the internet, we let data act as a digital nose and help the consumer make an appropriate choice through our scentquiz, which we developed together with an AI party. Through this tool, we have collected a lot of consumer data, enabling us to make good recommendations."

You are also using this data for target sampling?
"Thanks to our data, we know exactly who to reach with the right content or sample. For 18 months now, we have been providing targeted sampling with our second company Rocket Campaigns for beauty brands such as L'Oréal, Giorgio Armani, Lancôme, Dior, Givenchy and Hugo Boss. In stores, samples are simply given away randomly, and brands don't receive any consumer feedback, which leads to lots of waste, whereas we send it in a targeted manner, on the basis of data."

What about customer feedback?
"A week after the sample has been received, a mailing is sent out asking for a review, the option to buy the whole bottle at a discount, and to sign up for marketing by the brand. Many members remark that they are inspired to discover new things in this manner, which is precisely the reason we founded the business.''

Surely that feedback is also of considerable value for the brands?
"Absolutely! We have sometimes received feedback such as a brand aiming their new product at millennials and mothers first, only to discover through our feedback that it was more of a match for mothers."

What else can brands expect from a partnership with Parfumado?
"We draw up a launch plan in advance. A brand can be incorporated in our monthly inspiration email campaigns, which are divided into various segments: we have different target groups, with each being shown different content. We can also boost awareness through our social channels, where we offer brands a platform through our '5 questions for the founder or perfume maker of a brand' format. A brand can also be highlighted in our tip cards via the packages. After each quarter, the brand is supplied with a report featuring the results, which includes things like how many members added their brand to their perfume calendar, how many bought a whole bottle, and how much engagement there was with the content they were mentioned in.''

Besides the subscriptions model, are there any other trends you're getting into?
"People buy perfume for themselves, but also as gifts, which is why we now have a gifting department, where we launch products throughout the year that are all related to scent, such as room sprays. The nice thing is that you can personalise the label; this was in response to our community, who indicated that they would like to personalise not only their scent journey, but also their gifting products . We believe in this too.''

Do you also work with influencers?
"Certainly, although it works best for us when an influencer commits to us for a long time and actually launches new products together with us. For example, we launched our first room spray with the Dutch TV-personality Fred van Leer. Fred has been working with us for almost two years now and is very engaged with what we do. He is a huge scent lover too. This is pretty much the way forward for collaborations with influencers within our community.''
What does your community consist of?
"Since the start, it has been around 15 percent men and 85 percent women. So far, we have 400,000 Dutch members and just under 50,000 members from the UK. The same applies to Belgium. They vary in age from 25 to 65. Our younger members are more environmentally conscious, and ask critical questions about packaging and opt for niche more often. They want influencers who are genuine and can see straight through any commercial angles. Another large section of our members are between the ages of 30 and 45, and much more active on Facebook than the younger group.''

What's the difference between your target group in The Netherlands, UK and Belgium?
"Through our qualitative target group research, we found out how woke the UK target group is, and that people didn't connect - on the same level as Dutch customers do - with the models we used at first. They lacked the diversity to reflect the UK population. On our new platform, which is set for a late 2022 launch, you can see how this discovery has inspired us. In Belgium, our customer is generally more upscale , traditional and chic.''

How long do customers stay with you?
"We don't share that data - but it varies, as our service is highly flexible . Of course, we focus on improving lifetime, for example if a person has a fully filled calendar, which is a sign of high engagement, they tend to stay longer. So we focus on creating that engagement on our platform.

What stands out for you in those customer choices?
"Often new customers choose popular brands such as Narciso Rodriguez or Montale in the first few months - and Rituals. Mostly because they recognise the bottle or the well known logo. The discovery usually starts straight after the first received product, people are then more likely to opt for niche. Niche perfumes are more unique and complex. We see that, as customers discover more scents, they are less drawn to mainstream fragrances that they easily recognise.''

What are you doing to prevent people cancelling?
"We constantly steer on that data. We come up with campaigns for specific months to stimulate customers to stay longer, for example, by offering customers a little extra. For customers who have been with us for more than twelve months, our main members, we have a loyalty programme with discount vouchers and (online) perfume workshops. We have also introduced a pause button to create more flexibilty, which allows you to take a break of up to three consecutive months. Usually people don't stop/pause forever; often it's because they are waiting on a new perfume that has yet to come out, or they simply have enough to supply them for some while. People tend to reactivate a lot by the way.''

What are your future plans?
"Lots of exciting stuff. We have just signed a partnership with the fast-delivery supermarket Flink, where we are recommended as a last minute gift. These types of partnerships help us to gain awareness. We're also focus on expansion: not just the UK and Belgium, but also in the Nordics and Germany. The trend in the perfume world is personalisation, we strongly believe in this: being able to put together your own room spray scent: from the label to your favourite fragrance. We are now developing products that will enable this, so you can put together your own scented in-house products in the future."

Finally, what pointers do you have for beauty brands?
,,If consumers know what they want, they'll select the cheapest provider online. As a beauty brand, you need to try to foster loyal customer relationships online. Personalisation is key in that regard. We inspire consumers through on-point communication and sampling, and convey the brand story through different touchpoints; online and via our packages. Our data shows that after our sampling campaigns, consumers will still choose to buy products through our channels, even though they can get them cheaper elsewhere online. Through targeted sampling campaigns, you can steer clear of that online price fight."

Floor en Martijn van Rooy

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