The Swiss fragrance major conducted proprietary research with 6,400 consumers aged 18-65 years across 11 different countries, including the UK and France, over two time periods – April/May and July/September – to find out how COVID-19 had impacted lifestyles, needs and fragrance preferences. Firmenich was set to conduct a third survey ‘wave’ at the beginning of 2021.
Findings from the research conducted so far indicated 56% of consumers appreciated fragrances more during COVID-19 lockdowns and 56% also took more comfort in the scents they used.
Ilaria Resta, president of global perfumery at Firmenich, said: “Fragrance reinforces feelings of safety, calm and happiness for consumers dealing with stressful situations. Our latest consumer research shows the importance of scent for different populations of consumers is growing and can be leveraged by customers to determine fragrance and category mix.”
Innovation ‘even more important’ with COVID-19 changes
Catherine Ducret, director of digital consumer insights at Firmenich, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe the research gave a real insight into how COVID-19 had become part of consumers’ daily lives and provided indications on what this meant for the fragrance industry.
“Top activities remain hygiene, social connections and nesting, favouring online consumption. In terms of product used, we see a continued shift to protection, hygiene and cleaning products. Overall, consumption remains pragmatic and safe, with a focus on natural and online purchases,” Ducret said.
Importantly, she said the research showed there was increased curiosity among consumers – to try new brands, new products and/or new shops – and this was important.
“In this period of instability and restricted socialisation, consumers are looking for escapism and pleasure through different experiences and solutions. As always, innovation becomes even more important when society is at a changing point,” she said.
Fresh scents and reassuring fragrances
Ducret said that for consumers living through the ongoing pandemic, fragrance profiles that were longer-lasting; rooted in clean, fresh and naturality; and evoked feelings of safety and serenity were key. She also said many were looking for scents to provide “reassuring emotional signals” – a need set to continue over the coming months.
This echoed ideas raised by fragrance marketing expert Nathanial Davis earlier this year: that fragrance trends reflected people and therefore products had to tap into emotional needs.
Davis said that in a tumultuous year – with COVID-19 but also forest fires, Brexit and the Black Lives Matter movement, among other issues – consumers were looking for products and brands that they could connect with. “The fragrance industry is well placed to give relief and help people back into ‘the normal’,” he said.
Mintel global beauty analyst Margaux Caron also previously identified ‘fresh’ as the top scent European consumers looked for in their perfumes, and suggested manufacturers take this one step further, adding escapism and multi-functionality amid COVID-19 disruptions.
“[Consumers] need to be reassured, and a fragrance can help them to do that. Complimenting a clean scent with hues of escapism will win consumers over,” Caron said.