When Fragrance Goes Digital

January 19, 2021

Chenaya Devine Milbourne, Director of Product Marketing

At the start of the pandemic, the fate of fragrance across the industry was uncertain. More than any other beauty category, fragrance has historic ties to brick and mortar, and when stores closed it was unclear if consumers would be willing to shop for perfume online, or even be interested in wearing it while staying home. Overall, the impact on the category was substantial, but there was a bright spot: online fragrance sales in 2020, which grew 13% in the U.S. over the prior year, are a strong indicator that people are becoming increasingly open to digital fragrance experiences. 

We’re fortunate that we’ve always taken a digital-first approach to Glossier You, our award-winning and cult-favorite eau de parfum that launched in October 2017. Sales have grown double digit percentages every year, and it was our top revenue driver over this last Black Friday Weekend. Glossier You’s digital-first qualities even start inside the bottle, with a formula inspired by our “skin first” philosophy designed to celebrate your unique scent by complimenting your pheromones (instead of covering them up). The team worked with renowned perfumers to perfect the arrangement, which is made up mostly of warm and creamy base notes, ambrox and ambrette, and topped off with sparkling pink pepper and fresh iris. The result is an open-ended and more versatile fragrance experience that invites the person wearing it to be the final ingredient. 

For many customers, Glossier You’s ultra-personal scent story has helped lower the barrier to discovering it digitally (not an easy feat, since consumers tend to go online only to buy scents they already know and love). In a customer survey we conducted last July, a quarter of respondents said they bought Glossier You without ever having tried it. Overall in 2020, nearly 40% of people who purchased our fragrance were new to Glossier entirely. Personal trial is still the most important touchpoint for consumers, and we’ve seen a lot of success with our sampling program, but our findings also show that online reviews are a major influence for purchasers of Glossier You, who notably tend to be more interested in hearing about how the fragrance made someone feel, over technical details about scent and ingredients. 

When it comes to the question of fragrance habits during the pandemic, it's true that consumer use was down—nearly half of fragrance users said they were wearing it less frequently as a result of lifestyle changes in 2020. We saw similar trends among customers in our survey, but also noticed encouraging sentiments around the emotional connection people have to scent. When asked why they use perfumes, respondents most frequently said that they wear it to smell good for themselves—fragrance as a mood booster was another popular response. In a time when many of us are at home and away from loved ones, scent can be a powerful way to find comfort or draw up memories, and we’ve heard from many community members that they have found a sense of ease in the warmth and familiarity of Glossier You.