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Scentbird to Add Canada, Considers Category Expansion

The fragrance sampling business now has 100,000 subscribers.

Scentbird is migrating to Canada.

The perfume sampling business anticipates adding Canadian distribution in the next three or four months as a next step in the company’s growth. They’re also considering Europe, according to cofounders Mariya Nurislamova and Rachel ten Brink, who started the business with fellow cofounders Sergey Gusev and Andrei Rebrov.

The company sends designer and niche fragrance samples to subscribers and shoppers who can either pick their scent directly or based off of recommendations. Some customers subscribe, but shoppers can also buy one-off samples as well as gift sets, and soon, gift cards.

Scentbird shipped its first box in October 2014 now has 100,000 subscribers paying $14.95 for monthly 0.27-oz. samples. That equals nearly $18 million from subscriptions per year, and while Nurislamova and ten Brink were mum on financial figures, they said the subscription service still makes up the “bulk” of Scentbird’s revenue. On top of that, the 100,000 number marks more than 400 percent growth for the company in the past 11 months, according to Scentbird.

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That expansion comes as the business raised a $2.8 million seed round in March and upped its marketing efforts, including influencer marketing and switching from photo to video ads on Facebook, according to ten Brink. “When we started we didn’t have any funding and it was really driven by word of mouth,” ten Brink said.

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But roughly two years later, the brand is finding success with its videos, which are “helping people understand that they get to pick what fragrance they want,” Nurislamova said.

The business relies heavily on feedback from consumers in order to guide its customers. For example, Scentbird has a feedback loop that includes customer comments on where they would wear a fragrance, if it’s a date-night or for-the-office scent, what personality the fragrance has, what season they’d wear the fragrance in, and more.

“Now we can leverage this data to help a new consumer select their next favorite scent,” Nurislamova said. The data benefits the other side, too — the brands on the platform also get to use that information, ten Brink said. “There’s always a huge disconnect between what brands think a perfume is perceived as and what the perfume is actually perceived as,” ten Brink added.

“There is this idea that there is a lot of hunger to sample fragrances, but we’re also hearing from the manufacturing side that they’re really challenged with sampling options because magazines, which used to be a huge [method] of [sampling]…are declining or closing…the other piece of it is that you are seeing department stores closing down. There’s definitely a shift that we’re seeing in how consumers want to explore new fragrances.”

Men, who the pair described as department-store averse, are a growing part of Scentbird’s business. Originally slated to make up about 10 percent of sales, male shoppers are actually approaching 30 percent, Nurislamova said.

Outside of its geographic expansion plans, Scentbird is also mulling over the idea of category expansion, according to Nurislamova and ten Brink. “It’s an always evolving, breathing organism,” ten Brink said. “We always look to our consumer, we do a lot of surveys, there are a lot of things they’re telling us…‘What can you recommend outside of fine fragrance?’ This is definitely a consumer who likes candles and body lotions, etc.,” she continued. “We’re looking at how Scentbird can help the fragrance lover shop for fragrances outside of fine fragrances.”