The Internet, of all things, might possibly be the answer to the fragrance industry, which needs new retail concepts to better connect and engage with consumers. Beauty Insider spoke with Scentbird Founder and Chief Executive officer, Mariya Nurislamova, about the subscription firm’s entry into e-commerce and its newest venture, Scentbird Men.

Beauty Insider: When did Scentbird launch? What is its mission?
Mariya Nurislamova: We launched Scentbird subscription just over a year ago and it was a result of a gradual evolution of our digital fragrance recommender, something we were initially working on. Right from the start our mission has been to allow our customers to ‘date’ perfumes before ‘marrying’ them, something that is hard to accomplish in a fast-paced retail environment where you get bombarded with dozens of fragrances at the same time. Unlike other subscription models where you get surprised with products every month, our subscribers choose exactly what they want to try next. We believe this is very important because of how personal and intimate fragrance is. Today’s perfume collections are bigger than ever before and there is a growing demand for trying new scents. I am convinced we provide the perfect platform for easy and fun scent discovery.

BI: How many subscribers does Scentbird have?

MN: We have shipped over 250,000 perfume samples since inception and a vast majority of them were shipped out in the last four months, so we are really starting to see the momentum and increased organic demand for our product. But our community goes above and beyond the active monthly members and is currently also comprised of 500,000 subscribers to our email updates and 200,000 social media fans.

BI: How do you lure new customers?

MN: I think our message really resonates with the millennial consumer. They are a part of the shared economy and ‘sharing’ a perfume bottle seems a natural concept to them, at least before they find that special one or two, at which point they want to upgrade. Most fragrance wearers have made at least one perfume mistake and ended up with a full bottle of product that they are not in love with, so an idea of dating perfumes before marrying is not a hard sell at all.

BI: How do you engage consumers? What is your marketing strategy?

MN: Apart from word of mouth, we are 100% digital. Social media, especially YouTube and Instagram, go a long way in helping us build our following. We have developed close relationships with a number of beauty bloggers and those have been instrumental in our early success. We have an extensive email marketing program that works well for both user acquisition and retention. But the biggest driver behind our growth is organic traffic – friends sharing with friends, wives telling their husbands, people posting on their favorite online communities – this is our biggest asset.

BI: Talk about your newest e-tail initiative.

MN: I think it is very important to close the loop with the customer: they discover through us, they try through us, they should be able to buy through us as well. In fact, the number-one thing that our subscribers were asking for prior to the launch of e-commerce is an opportunity to buy full bottles directly from Scentbird. About 70% of the fragrances in our portfolio will be available through our e-commerce store and with time we hope to offer all of them.

BI: How do you select brands? Why would a consumer want to purchase a fragrance from Scentbird versus a more traditional beauty retailer?

MN: Strategically we are focused on the designer and niche perfume market, but variety is key. We take a curated approach to our portfolio and want to make sure that we have a good selection of top sellers, up and comers, as well as the rare gems in fragrance. Most people find us through our subscription offering and then develop such a liking to us that they decide to purchase full size products as well.

BI: How do you tackle the hurdle of consumers not being able to sample the scent at point of purchase?

MN: We are the “try before you buy” mechanism, so a consumer is not necessarily going through the same level of hesitation they go through when contemplating a full product purchase. Our perfume recommendations, combined with a smart filtering system and a wealth of customer reviews, allows our subscribers to get a good understanding of what the scent is like before purchasing. As subscribers, they understand that they will be paying $14.95 for a perfume that they might not like, but the thrill of excitement and the fact it is way cheaper to blind buy a sample versus a full bottle makes it worthwhile to them. Keep in mind, this is a community of people who want to help each other make good choices, so very often in their reviews they would mention what they expected from the scent versus what they actually got – this type of feedback in invaluable to our customers and helps everyone make better choices. Consumers appreciate that they get to go through the process at home, at their own pace. They are able to “live with the scent” for a little while, see what their friends, boyfriends, etc. think about it. It’s a very different experience to having to make a decision in a retail environment where they have just a few seconds to make a decision.

BI: Talk about the launch of Scentbird Men and how it’s different from the original?

MN: Scentbird Men was built in the best traditions of the original – it has the same simplicity and follows the same structure and price point. Naturally, it calls for an entirely different scent portfolio, but the experience of the travel-sized spray and the fragrance queue are borrowed from the original concept. Currently Scentbird Men is more successful than we could’ve ever predicted and is roughly a quarter of our overall business.

BI: What are your growth plans for 2016?

MN: We are expecting and are planning for hyper growth in 2016. We have a few strategic partnerships in the works that would allow us to bring the company to the next level. Currently we are expanding our analytics and data mining capabilities to provide even more insights and value to our direct brand partners. We are also planning to launch in Canada this year and increase the size of our luxury niche perfume offering, which would inevitably bring about growth. However, the best growth hack for any early stage company is building a product that people will fall in love with, so we will focus on making the Scentbird experience even more luxurious and memorable for our customers.