The burgeoning direct-to-consumer fragrance category is getting even more crowded with the launch of Scent Trunk, a new entrant that aims to bring affordable personalization to the masses.
“It started with a problem I was having. I wanted to upgrade what I wore. I got better clothes and then I wanted to get better cologne. As a guy, Sephora was really intimidating. The fragrance shopping experience was just really poor for me,” said chief executive officer William Yin, who founded Scent Trunk with his Queen’s University buddy Richard Smale. “Our hypothesis was people like me would pay not to have that intimidating, overwhelming shopping experience.”
For all their faults, people can smell scents at stores and can’t on their cell phones or computers. But Scent Trunk has found a way to bridge the virtual-physical divide with its Fit Kit, an array of six sample scents encompassing woody, citrus, aromatic, chypre, oriental and floral options, that customers fork over the shipping cost of $4.95 to receive in the comfort of their homes. They rate each option, and the ratings are analyzed by Scent Trunk’s algorithm to create individualized fragrances.
“These six teach us a lot. If we figure out how people respond to them, we can get an understanding of what they want to smell,” said Yin. “We will be your expert scent guide and give you the right one for you.” Scent Trunk delivers 5-ml. colognes or perfumes monthly to subscribers for $11.99 per month. Yin explained, “We will send you a different personalized scent each month. You can lock in your signature scent whenever you want or keep exploring.”
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Similar to other e-commerce companies such as Everlane and Casper, Scent Trunk, which has been in a beta-testing phase for two years, maintains it can keep prices low while releasing top-notch products by cutting out retailers and the mark-ups they demand, although Yin envisions the Fit Kit possibly entering stores. Cincinnati-based Scent Trunk’s fragrances are crafted in-house, and it works with a lab in Canada to blend them. Raw ingredients for the fragrances are sourced from small producers worldwide.
“Because of our lab in Canada, we don’t need to go to a lab that has high minimums, and that allows us to make many combinations with high-quality ingredients,” said Yin. “We are profitable on every single one we sell. We don’t need to have scale to be profitable, and a big part of that is we are mixing in Canada.”
As members of the start-up accelerator Brandery’s 2016 class, Yin and Smale have been able to solicit advice from Dollar Shave Club’s chief marketing officer Adam Weber on the Scent Trunk concept. He persuaded them that the subscription approach and expansion plans to cultivate a broad brand are viable.
“Right from the beginning, [Dollar Shave Club] wanted to be a men’s grooming brand and their subscription service gave them a touch point with customers to help do that. Subscriptions are to build the brand and not just about being in a subscription business per se. When we provide an amazing fragrance, there is a huge emotional connection made, and customers need to subscribe to keep getting it, and that builds a deep relationship with them,” said Yin, adding, “The goal isn’t only fragrance. The goal for Scent Trunk is to be a scent brand. We want to use our data to make better scent products in other verticals.”