- Challenge: How can a perfume agency identify the ideal fragrance for a customer in an online consultation, without Smell-O-Vision?
- Solution: The Fiole Fragrance Finder: a typeform-powered quiz that marries the theory of classical perfumery with a decade of shop floor knowhow.
- Result: A streamlined method to match a customer with their next favourite perfume.
How do you choose a new fragrance? Most of us spray a few samples on our wrists and muddle through. But perfumery is an art. For those in the know, there are centuries-honed techniques for choosing a delightful perfume.
Traditionally, department stores and boutiques employ fragrance specialists to help customers find a smell that fits like a glove. Josh Carter and Sam Gearing met whilst they were both working as perfume specialists on the shop floor of Fortnum and Mason, London. They realized they were serving a niche clientele.
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In the UK, buying an expensive perfume is common, but consulting a fragrance specialist is definitely not.
From shop floor to online store
In 2020, Covid came along and swept away a lot of things that already seemed old-fashioned. The department store perfume consultant died, and no-one showed up to the funeral.
However, it did spark an idea for Sam and Josh. They realized that perfume consultations themselves are still useful. If you’re spending a hundred dollars or more on anything, you should make an informed choice. The problem was that going into a shop for advice seems pretentious and intimidating.
Sam and Josh realized that if they could make personalized perfume recommendations online, it would be popular far beyond the end of the pandemic.
What’s more, there's often little difference in cost between mass-marketed perfumes, and artisanal ones. Many people choose a perfume with a billboard ad because they're easily available. But for the same price, they could also consider something mixed by hand, from an independent fragrance house. If Sam and Josh could sell perfume online, they could open customers’ minds—and noses—to a whole new world.
This is the brainwave behind Fiole: boutique perfumes, matched perfectly to your taste.
Offering bespoke service on a budget
Josh and Sam created a digital decision tree that could ask the same questions a fragrance specialist does. As a company born in the pandemic, they couldn’t afford a software developer. So Josh made the quiz with Typeform instead. It’s embedded on the Fiole website as a slider, or collapsible sidebar. It looks as though a dev baked it in.
Fiole represents some outstanding perfume brands. But it’s the chance to have one matched to your tastes that gets customers through the digital door. Their typeform — the Fiole Fragrance Finder — is integral to their offer.
Do you want to smell fresh as a daisy or sweet as honey?
Each question asks users to choose between two descriptions, for instance, “fresh citrus fruit” or “warm woods.” These refer to olfactory families — groups of smells, to you and I.
It isn’t a gimmick. The system works because it connects two approaches to perfume. Classical perfumery, with its time-honored systems of analysis, and how customers actually talk about scent. There’s a disconnect between the smells people like, and the smells they think they like.
To make their fragrance descriptions more evocative, Josh presented them as picture questions, with images from Unsplash gallery. The idea is to encourage snap judgments.
So, from the customer perspective, the quiz is an exercise in instinct. But in the backend, the logic is astonishingly complex.
By the end of the quiz, the user has chosen their favorite combination of olfactory families.
Creating scents of occasion
Once you’ve completed the typeform, the ending screen will link you to Fiole’s website to buy a box of perfume samples to match your answers.
The real theater begins when your sample box arrives. Your bespoke perfume choices come in blank vials, like a chemistry set. The idea is to blind-test them, without the color of a bottle or a celebrity endorsement influencing your choice.
Once you’ve decided upon your favorite perfume, and only then — you may open a “reveal booklet” to discover what they are. It’s an awards ceremony, and you are the prize. After all, perfume is a luxury, choosing it should make you feel important.
The sweet smell of success
Josh and Sam have been testing, tweaking and improving the Fiole Fragrance Finder for about a year now. Reviews testify that it’s delightfully accurate.
According to Josh, it works because people usually know their scent preferences instinctively. This typeform just unlocks that information.
In many ways, it’s more effective than the in-person consultation it was based around. It’s more accurate, more scalable and less awkward — not everyone feels comfortable walking into a department store and flagging down a perfume specialist.
On the scent of an industry game-changer
Fiole is a small UK startup now. But their idea whiffs of potential. They have plans to expand into Europe in 2022, and even to place the Fiole Fragrance Finder on tablets in UK stores.
The Fiole method could be a major disruptor for the perfume industry. If buyers learn to shop with their noses, perfumiers will have to compete on new terms. Selling perfume could become a question of inspiring scents, rather than inspiring marketing. This art form could be on the verge of a new golden age. Delicious!