Overcoming the challenge of selling DTC perfume and fragrance cross-border

Selling DTC perfume and fragrance is an effective way to delight current brand fans and also attract new customers by offering an accessible entry point to high-end or luxury brands.

Fragrance is also a growing industry. Experts say the global fragrance market will generate $59.87 billion in 2024. Savvy, global brands know that fragrance is a revenue generator and an effective way to attract new, curious customers and convert them into life-long fans over time.

The Complexity of Trying to Sell Fragrance Online

Offering perfume and fragrances to online customer is complex because these types of products are considered dangerous goods due to their flammability and potential risks during transportation. This categorisation is particularly relevant for air shipping. In fact, many carriers have strict regulations prohibiting the shipment of flammable items by air.

Brands with non-fragrance lines face additional complications when attempting to sell perfume online alongside other merchandise like clothing or handbags. Clothing, handbags and accessories generally do not carry a dangerous goods classification. They can ship easily via various methods, including air. Therefore, combining perfume with other items in the same shipment poses challenges, especially if the retailer intends to use air shipping services.

Creating Confused Customers

The online shopping experience generally mirrors the in-store experience. Some of the same language is even used: cart, checkout, coupon (code), etc. It’s unsurprising, then, that online shoppers would expect to go through one checkout process and receive their order in one package.

Yet, brands trying to sell and ship mixed carts of fragrance and other products often cannot meet those shopper expectations. For example, some brands force shoppers through two separate checkout experiences – one for the perfume and the other for the rest of the items.

This lack of integration is not only annoying for customers, but off-brand for some of the world’s best-known companies. Brands invest massive resources into building their reputations at home and abroad. Something as seemingly insignificant as the checkout process can undo years of brand-building effort.

The Consequences of Not Addressing Complexity

The complexity of selling DTC perfume and fragrance online cannot be ignored. Brands that engage with and reduce complexity from the start see better long-term revenue and profit. The stakes are even higher for luxury brands. Customers expect a particular and elevated experience when shopping luxury. It is critical that brands re-create the luxury experience online.

So what happens to customer loyalty and satisfaction when brands don’t address complexity?

Diminished Customer Loyalty

A poor ecommerce customer experience can lead to diminished customer loyalty. When shoppers encounter complexity, such as a convoluted checkout process, it erodes their trust and satisfaction, making them less likely to return to the same seller or platform.

Abandoned Carts and Purchases

Research indicates that a high level of complexity, particularly during the checkout process, can lead to abandoned carts and abandoned purchases. For instance, 87% of online shoppers may abandon their carts if the checkout process is complex, ultimately impacting the success of a brand’s ecommerce channel.

Navigational Challenges

Passing the complexity of shipping fragrance onto the shopper creates navigational challenges that shoppers may not put up with. The complexity makes it challenging for consumers to navigate through checkout, payments and delivery. It may also look like the brand is not being transparent and therefore is not trustworthy. All of this – complexity and lack of transparency – leads to frustration and potentially impacts their overall experience.

Business Impact

The negative impact that a complex DTC perfume or fragrance purchase process has on a customer is significant. But not addressing the complexity of selling perfume and fragrance online hamstrings business in other ways.

Reduced Catalogue

By not solving for storage and shipment of dangerous goods, brands may have no choice but to not sell fragrance in certain markets. A reduced catalogue means a reduced audience for product and reduced revenue. When entering new markets, brands need to cast a wide strategic net. Reducing the catalogue limits growth.

Limited Markets

Not eliminating the complexity of selling DTC perfume and fragrance could leave brands out of markets altogether. Global ecommerce is growing, with new markets emerging as profitable opportunities. Brands that cannot provide an excellent customer experience and offer the products shoppers want cede the market to competitors.

Restricted Promotions

For many beauty brands, offering free samples is an effective promotion that leads to increased revenue. Perfume and fragrance are convenient and well-loved sample options. But no matter the size of the packaging, shipping these items is still highly regulated and complex. Brands that want to offer samples and promotions need to have a solution for dangerous goods.

Solving the Complexity of Selling Dangerous Goods Online

To give shoppers the best experience, brands need to be able to properly handle mixed carts in ways that do not impact – or even appear to – the customer. The storefront, checkout, delivery and post-purchase experience must be seamless.

Know Your Product Classifications

When opening a DTC channel in a new international market, you should be aware of the ingredients and compositions of all of your products. Many items count as dangerous goods and different countries regulate material differently. It is better to have a clear picture of any potential challenges at the start than to discover compliance violations when products are in customs.

Don’t Sacrifice Customer Experience for Speed-to-Market

There are many temporary solutions or clunky work-arounds for getting fragrance into new markets. But customer experience must inform all DTC market expansion decisions. Reputable, global brands often launch in new countries with a certain amount of social capital among shoppers. This capital is all but drained if customers have a bad or off-brand experience.

Outsource Fulfilment and Shipping

While selling DTC fragrance is a challenge, it is by no means impossible. There are vendors and carriers that have the proper licenses and expertise to ship dangerous goods – even in mixed cart scenarios – so orders don’t have to be separated. Engaging an expert not only mitigates challenges but also provides speed-to-market. You can launch a full catalogue into new countries because the vendor already has the required qualifications.

The complexities of selling DTC perfume and fragrance don’t need to hold your brand back from revenue and profitable growth. The right solutions and strategy delights new customers and grows your business.