2021 . 06 . 18 | written by Karen Marin

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Innovation in sampling and selling fragrance online is coming out of the UK. During two recent Zoom calls I spoke with passionate founders who, each with their own unique concept and means of reaching the end consumer, offer viable business opportunities and solutions that artistic perfumery brands should be aware of and should consider.

Odore is a London-based start-up that is harnessing the power of digital and data collection to create effective sampling programs that deliver ROI. By working closely with brands, the team creates unique and customized consumer experiences that heighten engagement and build loyalty. Originally chosen by L’Oréal for the Beauty Tech Accelerator program in 2018, the company recently received an $830k investment from SFC Capital. In the second of a two-part series, meet Karan Gupta and Armaan Mehta, the entrepreneurs behind this cutting-edge company that provides sampling solutions to fragrance and beauty brands.

How did Odore come about? What prompted you to create this solution?

Karan Gupta: Armaan and I met around 8 or 9 years ago at the London School of Economics. We then went to work in different areas of finance and technology, and we were looking at new industries and new ways companies were addressing their marketing. About three years ago we met with one of our friends who was a key executive in the beauty industry who started telling us about the complexity and the pain points that she faced around sampling. She knew it was incredibly important, she knew that it worked, but it was looked on as something that was incredibly difficult to actually execute. We looked at sampling as a whole and noticed that it was involved in every touchpoint: you have your online sampling, you have your beauty boxes, you have sampling in magazines and sampling in stores. So we took it one step at a time to research and develop a solution to address these issues.

Armaan Mehta: Initially when we first started we knew sampling was a massive mountain to climb. Companies knew sampling was effective in driving purchases but there was not really a great way to send them out, to track conversions and so on. So we actually knew that to tackle this problem we had to produce solutions for online as well as offline. We started with our hardware units where brands would purchase these devices, place them in locations where customers would go up to the unit, enter their details and a sample would come out. The brand then retargeted that customer through online channels. This garnered a lot of interest, but what has really accelerated due to COVID is the demand for the online side. For some brands who can’t provide samples in store, this a way to get customers to try the product in the comfort of their own home. And when you look at perfumes you realize that they’re a hugely personal product that adapts to the individual wearing them over time, so for that reason, the only way to really tell if it suits you is to see how it smells on you.

Please walk me through the platform and how it could be an option for independent niche fragrance brands. How does it work for the brand?

AM: Our platform provides all the tools that brands require to design, launch and monitor effective product sampling campaigns. We have customers who want a full package including our account management team who gives strategic advice and direction, design expertise and so on. We have other brands that want to completely self-serve and just use Odore’s platform to build out landing pages, email templates and so on and with that they can launch their campaigns. So depending on what a brand wants to do, what their requirements are, what their budgets are, and what their targets are, we could really advise them on every step of the journey, if the brand wants us to.

Typically a brand will tell us they have a certain amount of samples they want to distribute, they have a target conversion rate, a target opt-in rate, and then they want to build a quiz or a game or whatever it may be to target customers on through different mediums. Then they use Odore’s platform as their core operating system to track all these interactions and journeys. Say the consumer redeems a sample, then we send an email to review, we send an email to purchase and then, maybe after a certain period of time if the consumer purchased, we’ll send a replenishment email and so on. So you can really track how much value is coming from each sample that goes to each customer.

If a small, independent brand does an event on Instagram, inviting the audience to retrieve a sample, you can help with the execution – and your role is invisible.

AM: For all intents and purposes, it’s the brand who is launching the campaign, so it’s a one-on-one relationship with the brand. They can go on social media, do Instagram lives. Influencers can promote and invite consumers to claim their sample. We have fulfillment partners in 3 core markets (the US, the UK and Europe) that would send the samples out. So if brands want to launch in these markets we can service them quite effectively.

What kind of quantities should a brand be prepared to supply? What are the costs?

KG: It depends on the KPI’s the brand is looking to do . Do they want to generate sales, grow the customer base, or generate reviews? From this, they look at what is possible from the campaign and they work backwards. We have seen some niche brands test across multiple channels – so not only with the launch of a paid media campaign but through our platform they’ll also offer samples to their existing customers. Our in-house team will work very closely with the brand if required to advise them on what the optimum levels should be, and then they can make a choice.

AM: In terms of cost, the more you sample the more the cost per sample decreases. The sampling is charged on a per sample basis depending on the weight, the size, the location and packaging and so on. For access to the self-serving platform there’s a monthly subscription depending on how many users you take per brand and so on. That gives you access to launch, monitor and create your campaign and do your sampling.

Tell me about how data retrieved could be utilized for future campaigns.

AM: Say you ask a customer, “what do you look for in a fragrance”, and they select from several options. On the Odore platform you can create campaigns for segmented audiences based on what they’ve said. In a matter of a few clicks, you can target specific audiences for follow on campaigns – which means you are building a long-term relationship with these customers and then customers feel a deeper connection with the brand because they’re receiving more targeted messaging.

What do you feel is the most compelling reason why a brand should partner with you?

KG: Over the years we’ve built out our platform to enable some of the world’s best brands to drive product trial, grow their audiences and database, expand customers across different categories and drive customers to retail - all from one place. Those benefits are really powerful for the brand, but where it really becomes valuable is helping brands create that long term affinity and desirability. This is really where we’re going in the business - to not only give our partners tools to launch programs but to continue to nurture and engage their customers to become long term brand advocates.

The ability to interpret customer data lets us look at each and every interaction and through our platform we can personalize the message that every customer gets. Personalization is a huge topic and it’s something that brands find really effective. It’s a big part of why brands want to work with us.

Additionally, we are a complete end-to-end solution: we can do everything on the platform from the creative to the analytics to the fulfillment and making it much easier and much quicker for brands to bring campaigns to market: you don’t have to spend weeks planning for it: you can launch in a matter of hours or days. It requires a lot less resources and it’s more efficient.

AM:. We’ve really seen the ins and outs not only from working with large corporations but also smaller brands. Sampling goes so much further than just passing over a few vials to your customer – there’s a lot of things that you need to be able to track from the first touchpoint to the second touchpoint, their repurchase, all the metrics to really have the true value and that’s what we’re trying to solve. Sampling is here to stay, if not to grow, and it has to be done in the right way. We’re showing brands it’s not just a sunk cost or a “nice to have” but it’s actually an investment you can track, measure and see the ROI on with the tools that we provide.

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