Female fragrance gifting trends: what do consumers want?

UK consumers see fragrances as a great gifting option. A survey from 2016 has revealed that 72% of respondents like receiving fragrances as a gift, while 65% of those who have been in a relationship have purchased a fragrance for their partner as a gift. Perfume being very personal, many shoppers feel uncertain what to buy.

We attempted to find out which female fragrances consumers are currently most likely to choose when shopping for the perfect gift. In our steer we used ten perfumes from 2018, which were picked by Cosmetics Design Europe as top performers in late spring last year, based on data from an online fragrance retailer. The leading themes in this selection are pink designs, sweet accords and new twists of famous brands.

The Chanel fragrance stood out as a top choice in our multi-answer steer, which gave the respondents ten options and the opportunity to choose multiple answers. It seems that both men and women opt for classic fragrances when shopping for gifting occasions. Classic should not mean old, as brands update their line-ups with new exciting versions which are close enough to the originals to be easily recognisable. Coco Mademoiselle, for example, has been a favourite since its 2001 launch and its 2018 update “Intense” has continued the popularity of this line.

It is interesting whether men and women make different choices when buying perfumes as gifts. As the panel was comprised by an equal number of men and women (50/50 gender split) we were able to examine the result for gender-based differences:

As shown in the two graphs, there are not major differences between men’s and women’s choices, however, men are around 10% less likely to buy any of the options as a present. This could be due to men feeling uncertain in choosing a female perfume, therefore readily available advice could boost sales when it comes to this consumer group.

We picked the five options that performed best on average for both genders and ran a preference steer to ask the panel for a single choice. 502 consumers were shown three options at a time until all combinations had been shown, and the results below show the exclusive preferences made (i.e. where the consumer chose the same option every time it was offered):

The results were consistent with the findings from the multi-answer steer: Chanel’s perfume stood out significantly from its competition, with almost a third of consumers making it their exclusive choice. The second preference was again Gucci Guilty Absolute, with an average result of 16%. This fragrance scored better with men, 19.5% of whom made it their exclusive preference. It is the only one in our top five, featuring a darker pink hue and a more masculine bottle shape, due to the brand using a signature bottle for both the male and female versions of the perfume.

According to Cosmetics Design, 75% of women’s perfume bottles were pink in 2018. This fact goes against a supposed increasing popularity of unisex fragrances and contradicts the trend for ultimate transparency, seeing upscale niche brands present their fragrances in simple apothecary bottles. We ran a split test showing two mock-up images of a fragrance bottle to two separate groups of female consumers, with the only difference being the tint – one version was pink while the other colourless, featuring a transparent bottle and simple metallic cap:

Out of the two-thousand-strong panel of women aged 18-44, half were shown the pink version, and half the transparent version, with the pink version scoring 7 percentage points higher. Shoppers are looking to be excited by fragrances but niche concepts have not yet overtaken what consumers perceive as classic and feminine. Manufacturers and retailers need to be in line with current shifts in perfumery, especially when it comes to attitudes towards sustainability, transparency and gender. However, the mass market remains lead by well-known brands, familiar packaging and branding.

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