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  • Style
  • Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013

It’s not just about making a purchase as the exceptional shopping experience plays a role in sales.

WITH high-end products leading growth within the perfume and cosmetics industry, it is no surprise that beauty brands are placing increased emphasis on the “premium” experience of shopping for their products. Product quality itself is no longer enough. In the premium segment, customers are seeking an exceptional shopping experience and the sense of a certain mystique surrounding the products, explained Jasmine Petiot, Vice President at the Federation Francaise de la Parfumerie Selective (FFPS) and manager of the independent fragrance shop Parfumerie Seduction in Paris.

Although the cosmetics and perfume industry is more vulnerable than other sectors during an economic downturn, it is less likely to suffer from a decreased demand than the fashion industry. And, paradoxically, in the current economic climate, premium brands are leading the growth for the entire cosmetics and perfume industry, while sales of mid-range products seem to have gone down in recent years.

Customers seek an exceptional shopping experience and the sense of a certain mystique surrounding the products, explained Jasmine Petiot, Vice President at the Federation Francaise de la Parfumerie Selective (FFPS).

In fact, the most exclusive premium brands, such as Creme de la Mer, have rarely sold so well in the past. “These brands’ sales are increasing at a slower rate than last year, but they are investing in media and advertising heavily to maintain their volume,” said the Vice President of the FFPS.

“The customers who shop here regularly have not changed their habits, those who used to come sporadically sometimes come less often or buy in smaller packages, for example, from 10ml to 50ml packages when it comes to perfume,” she adds.

More than just the sum of their products, today’s high-end beauty brands are defined by the unique experiences they aim to embody, and services play an increasingly important role in this regard. Petiot notes that “clients are paying more attention to services, sales rituals, anything that gives value to the object they are purchasing: gift paper, scented packaging, a smile, and personal touches ... they are looking for recognition and for special attention. And all of these factors contribute to the memory of a pleasant shopping experience. Life is hard for many people, and walking into a perfume shop should represent an enchanted interlude.”

It is just this type of enchanted interlude that Guerlain hopes to offer through its newly-renovated Champs-Elysees flagship store in Paris. In white marble, wood and Baccarat crystal chandeliers, the new space is more than a boutique: it also includes a gourmet restaurant and a tea room where guests can sip beverages inspired by Guerlain’s iconic fragrances.

Another strategy for cultivating a premium brand image lies in product packaging. In a recent study, British research firm Visionaid revealed that the overall cosmetics packaging market has received a boost due to a stronger demand for premium cosmetics products.

“The trend towards the ‘premium-isation’ of cosmetics and anti-aging products in developed countries could lead to a rise in the price of beauty product packaging overall, as packaging will become more innovative and costly,” according to Visionaid.

Finally, the ambience and narratives surrounding a product or brand can also contribute to its desirability, which is why a number of brands are appealing to story-telling strategies to cultivate a certain mystique. In recent years, Chanel, for example, has emphasised its prestigious and iconic history through its Inside Chanel videos. This month, the brand continues in this vein, launching a campaign based on archival photographs and recordings linking Marilyn Monroe to the famous Chanel No 5 fragrance.

Thanks in large part to the Internet, customers almost always know everything about a product before coming into the store and buying it, Petiot explains. In consequence, brands need to add complementary elements that will make the customer’s experience more positive.

Telling the story of a product or surrounding it with interesting services is a way of inviting customers “to discover what they had not yet imagined, or did not know,” says Petiot. Cultivating the special relationship between each customer and the brand is a vital element for success in the high-end cosmetics and perfume industry. — AFP Relaxnews

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