2021 . 01 . 01 | written by Karen Marin

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Michael Edwards is unstoppable. Not quelled by the likes of a pandemic, he has been locked down in Sydney for the past ten months, busier than ever despite the lack of travel. Michael met virtually with me to discuss the projects he’s been working on since our last chat in Spring. He also weighed in on a controversial topic before sharing a few closing thoughts on brand activity in 2020.

Michael has been wrapped up in developing and fine tuning two fragrance finder programs with the A.S. Watson (The Perfume Shop, ICI Paris XL, Marionnaud) and Puig groups. 2021 will see the A.S.Watson eCommerce finders roll out to twelve EU and UK markets, the realization of more than two years’ work with eLab, A.S.Watson’s digital unit in Milan. According to Michael, “a tremendous amount of qualitative and quantitative work has been going on behind the scenes to try to identify the routes people take when shopping online. The result is an eCommerce tool that’s both accurate and intuitive: https://www.theperfumeshop.com/fragrance-finder.

2021 developments will focus on transaction data to identify how people actually shop online and instore after using the fragrance finder. Expanding on the types of queries, Michael explained “Do visitors come back once, or twice? What proportion makes a purchase after the second, third or fourth visit? Any correlation between in-store purchases? A.S.Watson’s team drives us to an extreme, but the results are so rewarding.”

The other eCommerce initiative that excites him is Fragrances of the World’s partnership with the Puig Group. Their first eCommerce finder, for Nocibé France, debuted in February: https://www.nocibe.fr/DiagParfum?connect=true. “Le Diagnostic Parfum is a totally different approach to fragrance recommendations and the results have been more than promising. 2021 will see the program roll out to other markets.”

The next big project that Michael plans to release in 2021 is his “baby” Match It online program. This tool, customized for each retailer, works brilliantly on a smartphone or online by providing in the blink of an eye three alternatives to the fragrance entered into the search bar, showing the fragrance bottle image, the brand, year of launch, fragrance family and three key notes. Referencing over 35,000 fragrances and priced at € 575 per month or € 6,900 annual fee, it’s an economical option for smaller retailers. Conveniently, it can be attached to any site in a few short minutes. Genius!

Michael hinted at another project which is destined to help protect brands from counterfeiting. Recently revealed at the ScentXplore 2020 event held December 5th, Authena consists of an electronic non-removable tag that can be affixed to any fragrance, worldwide. When in store the consumer can scan the fragrance and the Authena app will attest to the authenticity of the product. This project is the brainchild of Alessandro Brun, founder of Masque Milano, who collaborated with Michael and his encyclopedic database. The Authena app is available in Play Store.

Our ensuing conversation shifted to fragrance launches and trends. Michael reminded me that in 2019 Fragrances of the World listed over 3,100 new fragrances. “Covid-19 impacted launches this past year but not as much as one might have expected. We anticipate that in 2020 the number of launches will reach about 2,200. “ How the brands are getting sales is an intriguing question. Michael observed “The major brands are tying up with retailers well in advance, they’re putting online program and support together, and their PR is pretty good.” He feels niche brands have been a bit less strategic in their approach. Michael continued “Niche is growing up. It remains special but the market is crowded. So often, niche brands don’t convey why they are so special. They say they’re expensive. They say they use rare ingredients. OK, so do a thousand others. They rarely talk about the story, about the creation or why they came up with this or that. In a conversation last year, I asked a fairly established niche perfumer if he liked my book, Perfume Legends? Oh, he said. It’s genius. ‘Then why don't you write your own legend?’ I asked. Perfume Legends is just a template on how to tell a story! “ This is wise advice!

We then turned to the growing debate on whether the name Oriental, for the Oriental fragrance family, should be changed. Michael has polled a few industry insiders from around the globe, and so far, the opinions vary. “It’s an interesting conundrum. Some say it’s racist, but there’s little evidence that the term is actually a racist epitaph. it’s outdated, others say.” Look for this topic to fuel discussions in 2021.

On a final and upbeat note, Michael mentioned that reports indicate that in lockdown, fragrance has become a pleasure that people can share. “We're back to the kind of awe and pleasure that people had twenty years ago in the eighties. Fragrance is back to being luxury and something special.”

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