ScentFluence’s Pandemic Pivot — Open a Retail Pop-Up

Caroline Fabrigas is no stranger to innovation. Years before corporately commissioned scents became an industry mainstay, she was leading the way as CEO of Scent Marketing Inc. As the co-founder of ScentInvent, she has contributed to the creation of Linger Fragrance Primers and Sparti Scents fragrance launches. Her latest venture, ScentFluence, an aroma design studio in Scarsdale, NY, offers a new model for fragrance retail amidst the turbulence of a COVID-stricken industry. 

At the heart of the space is a curated library consisting of 65+ scents organized in one of five families (Fresh/Clean, Citrus/Fruity, Woody/Spicy, Floral/Green, Gourmand). ScentFluence offers a socially distanced and touch-free alternative in the form of press button-activated scent diffusers. The curation continues online, where those seeking personal and professional fragrance options are guided through business and space categories, while diffuser options range from USB plug-ins to commercial-grade HVAC systems.

Following a successful holiday season, Fabrigas sat down with BeautyMatter to discuss the transition between business- and consumer-facing formats, as well as the future of fragrance.

ScentFluence was launched as a pop-up; are there plans to make it permanent or expand it as a retail concept?

I wanted to bring the work we do in the professional space with Scent Marketing Inc. directly to the consumer. We are evolving from being a B2B to being a B2C as well. I’d been looking in the Scarsdale village for quite a while, and because of COVID, I found this venue available as a six-month lease and quickly started popping up the studio just in time for the holidays. Based on the success of the first two months we are definitely going to make this into a longer-term concept with additional locations. It has been great fun and so well received. We are incredibly grateful to the residents of Scarsdale who are supporting their local businesses. It’s also been a great proof of concept for what we can do. 

How does ScentFluence differ from traditional fragrance retail formats?

The whole idea of ScentFluence is that we’re using scent to create influencing experiences for your home, business, yourself, your children, family. What we like to create is not only a great scent for your space; we also want to provide an immersive sensory experience that makes you feel something emotionally.

The first interaction when someone comes in, aside from asking them to sanitize their hands, is we ask them to tell us about their scent preferences. We invite clients to the library, which is broken down into different sections. You pick your category, then we pick up a scent diffuser to test a scent with a quick press of a small button. The scent is released and you can even smell it right through the mask! When you turn the diffuser off, the scent disperses and is gone in a second. Even though there are 65+ scents in this library, you can experience a great many of these in one session and get this instant impression. If you want us to take you through the library, we can do that too and the experience can be totally “touch free.” 

This is a very unique retail format and experience. Every week we are putting new scents into the library to keep things interesting. The thrust of the studio is our expertise in scent marketing, which is bringing the commercial-grade, professional, ambient scent experiences to your home and space. While these are not custom scents for you particularly, they are very exclusive and not to be found anywhere else.

How did you curate the fragrance library?

Over the years I have been inspired to create certain scents. For example, my late husband and I were so lucky to go to Morocco years ago and we made Moroccan mint tea with the Berbers in the Atlas Mountains. I’ll never forget the smell and taste of that tea, so I made a corresponding scent. We work with quite a few fitness studios and they usually aim to achieve a scent that enhances performance—one of our favorite scents called Full of Energy came as a result of that. Or with my own children studying at home during COVID, I’d read so much about peppermint helping people to focus that we made a special aroma called Mint Focus.

I have a couple of aromas I have been working on recently, like ScentFluence Child’s Pose. I’m actually launching a line of ScentFluence yoga-inspired products in the vein of immersive sensory experiences, with Child’s Pose meant to recreate that complete state of surrender and relaxation. The ScentFluence Yoga Series will consist of ambient diffusion scents, but also candles and wellness mists. 

How do you go about creating personal scents?

It’s the same way we do it in a business-to-business space. There is a custom development fee because obviously there is a lot of legwork and it’s a totally exclusive scent. We conduct a DNA analysis, which is a process that I have developed and fine-tuned over the years: we capture all of the key things the key stakeholders want to express and determine what is the essence of their brand. Once I understand that, I select a perfumer who will be able to articulate those sensory cues into an aroma. I’ll get the submissions and will have a sense of which four best represent the client. The next part, which is my favorite part, is to do a sniffing session. We’ll send the submissions with beautiful descriptions, boards, images, and include an ambient diffuser because you have to really evaluate the scent in the format it’s designed for. We discuss, get to two top picks, and then leave them with the client to experience for a week. If the submissions need a lot of reworks, we didn’t get the brief right from the beginning. But because we’ve done so much of this work, we usually get very close. Maybe we’ll have one, maximum two, reworks, and then we’re ready to go.

ScentFluence launched during the pandemic, which has obviously been such a challenge, but it’s also interesting because of this feeling like a return to your consumer-facing roots.

Absolutely. In order to build this business, I have had a very active consulting business called BeautyFluence. I get to work with some amazing clients and stay very connected to all of the retailers. I have such a love for consumer-facing products and helping other people to develop their brands while I am developing mine. I really enjoy working with these special people, learning about their business, and making products for them. 

When I work with clients at the ScentFluence scent library, it is great to see customers come in, interact, purchase, and come back again—that’s the real validation that they enjoyed it. We’re still young, but the level of appreciation for the work and taking a chance during COVID to bring this to the neighborhood has been really good. It is a bit of a pandemic pivot.

How have you seen lockdown and self-isolation impact the role scent plays in our lives?

Home has become the new headquarters. How do you create cues during the day to get moments of differentiation? We’re finding people doing that here at ScentFluence. They’re using Full of Energy in the morning to focus with their kids, Lavender Leaves at night, and they might be purchasing a Vanilla Cedarwood Sage for when they’re cooking a meal because it pairs nicely with the cuisine. A lot of scent is being used for anxiety and sleeplessness—the functionality part of scent is coming alive. The association of scent used in the right way to give you a sense of safety and hygiene is another important trend. People have multiple generations at home, and the safety of not having an open candle flame is why they are interested in ambient scent diffusion.

The last big turning point in fragrance was with indie infiltrating the mainstream and a more customized approach to retail. How do you see the fragrance category developing and what is going to be the next innovation or disruption? 

Fragrance is definitely evolving. At one point, it was considered something that you would use sparingly and on special occasions. Now, from the millennial standpoint, they’re not always wanting the typical fragrance experience, but are experiencing it in their fabric softener or room. You see the evolution into functional fragrance, a more therapeutic use. Then there’s the aromatherapy pot, which has always been there, but there has never been a time of understanding it as there is now. But all of these applications are always available in a spray, body spray, roller ball, body lotion, deodorant, fabric softener, or candle. All those different reasons to experience a fragrance, but there had never been anything new in the actual delivery systems. Why can’t fragrance be more like color, in a palette, why can’t it have skincare benefits? Why can’t it be more affordable, fun, and portable?

ScentFluence has given us a consumer-facing ability to test this unusual work in a public domain. This is a pandemic pivot because we took a huge risk off the back of a business that we have had for many years, but it is also a story of a brand-new type of retail experience. We have lots of plans to expand the concept beyond just the library, new ways in which we are going to interpret scent in the studio and online. It’s not just fragrance for the sake of fragrance, but an immersive sensory experience that is tapping into so many things that are needed today.

Read the original piece here.

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