How to create a one-of-a-kind ecommerce experience: Perfume Direct

Perfume Direct

Perfume Direct is the UK’s premier online fragrance and beauty store. Their customer focused approach to retail has enabled them to stock a range of specially selected perfumes from an extensive network of brands and suppliers. This business model has not only allowed them to source the latest fragrances, but it also means they are able to keep prices low and offer fast and reliable delivery.

Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with Jonny Webber, Head of Ecommerce at Perfume Direct about the ways they have succeeded in the ecommerce industry, as well as revealing his top tips for retailers.

The evolution of Perfume Direct

Jonny explained how Perfume Direct began and how it has changed since.

He said: “Originally, my three Directors were supplying all sorts of products including fragrances and cosmetics to third party vendors, then they decided they wanted to venture into a direct B2C offering.

“In March 2018, they brought me on board with the Perfume Direct URL and I set about creating the brand and building the ecommerce store to start selling to the public. We have now shipped close to 200,000 orders and have a product list of around 3,500.”

Utilising technology for customer experience

Perfume Direct has created a valuable customer experience which uses technology to offer a one-of-a-kind service.

Jonny explained: “When the High Street closed down and nobody could try fragrances for themselves, we put money into a fragrance finder. We made our own custom one to make the fragrance buying process easier. It’s an online questionnaire that generates the best matches and gives ideas of what a customer would like, without having to go into a shop and smell it.

“Quite early on, we also invested into a mobile app that condenses everything and makes it easy to use, which customers enjoy.”

Perfume Direct imagery

Overcoming the challenges of the pandemic

COVID-19 undoubtedly brought numerous challenges for retailers. Jonny explained how they worked to overcome any barriers to progress and used these opportunities to grow the team.

“Because we are quite a small team and are purely online, we were able to adapt well.We had some new software additions like Microsoft Teams and Slack to help us work remotely. The main problem for us was from a logistics point of view. We made the warehouse COVID safe, but demand went up when the High Street shut. This meant we were limited on staff, so we communicated this to the team who were very understanding. We managed to stick to our dispatch KPIs, which was a credit to our warehouse staff and facilities.

“We also had some issues with suppliers from Europe, but managed to get around that with our UK-based suppliers. We doubled our ecommerce and fragrance buying team and brought on a full time customer service member of the team. Communicating was essential during this time, as it’s always best to be upfront.”

Making the most of social media

Jonny explained the ways that he has used social media to grow engagement and introduce new customers to the brand. As one of the first touch points with many of their customers, here’s how Perfume Direct have used social media:

1. Social media ads

“Facebook and Instagram ads have been one of our biggest traffic drivers since the beginning, so we invest quite a lot into social advertising channels. Social media has been one of our biggest channels and we do a lot of retargeting too with really targeted ads.”

2. Content

“What we’ve found works best for prospecting new customers is short videos, informative blogs and great imagery with targeted messaging. The video aspect of it is something we’ve invested a lot more in. We just finished doing a shoot with a lot more product-focused videos to make it more engaging and also did a shoot in February using models and getting more lifestyle type videos, which is great for prospecting.”

3. Influencers

“We’ve started working with some UK-based micro influencers, which has brought more personality to the brand. When you’re a retailer of other brands, it can be hard to showcase your own personality, so involving micro influencers allows you to create a whole variety of content. Whether it’s them unboxing a perfume, or on a day out in London, it brings more personality to the brand, which is important. Social media is one of the first touch points we have with a lot of potential customers, so it’s important from the start that they feel engaged and trust the brand, which makes having micro influencers another nice aspect. ”

4. Customer service

“We also use social media as a customer service tool, so we’re always reviewing every channel every day for any queries. We make sure we’re quick to respond as it’s great to have the quick, nice and snappy customer service. There may be times when Royal Mail drops a ‘we missed you’ card through a customer’s door and they may complain saying it hasn’t arrived. Being able to view this information quickly and update them is very important.”

5. Reviews

“Trust is so important and if you can get one or two people reviewing products via video, that can speak volumes on social media.”

How to create an exciting ecommerce experience

To succeed in ecommerce, it’s no secret that you must offer something that your customers value. Jonny spoke about the ways that Perfume Direct has tapped into a gap in the market and offer something that their competitors cannot.

“There is so much competition in the fragrance and cosmetics sector, which means customers demand a solid ecommerce experience, or they will simply go elsewhere.

“We’ve worked really hard over the last three years to create a well designed, scalable and data-driven site with products at the right price. We create a consistent look and feel at every touch point, whether it’s on mobile, SMS, the mobile app or anywhere else, as this builds trust and recognition.

“The fragrance finder tool has been great, as it’s completely interactive and it solves one of the biggest pain points for customers looking to buy a fragrance online. Investing in tools is something that we want to do even more of.

“We’ve also partnered with a few ‘buy now pay later’ partners to allow our customers to pay for their products in manageable chunks, or in the future, interest free. We’ve found them so popular. Almost 50% of our customers use ‘buy now pay later’. We always try to put the customer first in everything that we do and I always try to put myself in the customer’s shoes and think about what they might want to see.”

Top tips for retailers to grow the ecommerce side of their business

Here are four top tips to help you optimise your ecommerce experience:

1. Innovation and user experience is key

“Always use data to make key decisions, wherever possible, including heat mapping or page drop-offs. Look at how customers use your site. For example, on our old site, before we built the new one, we found that most people were going to our search bar. So when we made the new site, we put the search bar front and centre, as we knew that was what people wanted.”

2. Be agile

“Always listen to the noise that your customers make. Review what people are saying and if you have to adapt, do this where you can and do it quickly. If something is not right, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.”

3. Invest wisely

“Invest wisely in marketing spend and tools, because there’s so much out there that you can spend so much money on, but it won’t necessarily have a good ROI. I’ve been strict on what we spend money on, so I must see a good return on everything. This is to make sure it’s right and targeted and we’re not just splashing a lot of money which could be used for better purposes.”

4. Have the infrastructure

“Make sure you have a strong, adaptable ecommerce platform like Shopify that can handle growth. It has a great selection of apps, so you can do almost anything you want on the site within reason. Make sure you’re comfortable using it and that it doesn’t cost the earth.”

Outstanding customer service

Jonny went on to explain the best ways to boost efficiency in customer service, as well as the benefits of having a smaller customer service team and the ways this can be used to impress customers.

“As well as social media, we use Freshdesk, which is a customer service portal that filters enquiries from different platforms into one place, so it’s super efficient for response times. We also use Yotpo for reviews, so we can analyse our own performance and respond to reviews. We have one person working on customer service, so this allows her to work as efficiently as possible. 

“Because we don’t have a huge department, when you contact us, you know you will get a person at the other end. You’re not passed from pillar to post and we can be a lot more personable. So this helps her to get back to customers really quickly and we also have others in the team that can log in and help if needed. We empower our staff so if they have an idea to improve a process, we can try it and work together to make it run as smoothly as possible.”

Product procurement

With a large range of products, Perfume Direct have become specialists in sourcing the right products and suppliers. Here’s what Jonny had to say:

“We have built up quite an extensive range of UK-based and European-based suppliers, so we’re always on the hunt for new suppliers. Now we’ve got to a certain size where we’re more established, we’re trying to work more with brands directly. We’re in a better position to say how much we’re selling and asking to work directly with them, rather than a third-party supplier.

“We take advice from our suppliers, do research and buy low volumes at the start for new or niche products, unless we know it’s one that sells in large volumes. We analyse slow moving stock, look at what is moving quickly and use this like a balancing act to get stock right for Q4. We balance a lot of different suppliers, so you have to find the right product at the right price, from a supplier that is able to ship it when you need it.”

What’s next for Perfume Direct?

While Perfume Direct’s business is thriving, Jonny explained that this is only the beginning and that there are countless exciting ideas in the works.

He added: “The biggest thing for us is expanding our product range and brand portfolio. We want to also focus on a green scheme, focusing on how we can be as carbon-neutral and eco-friendly as possible. I also want to do a new and improved loyalty scheme for our customers and at some point, we expect to start expanding and shipping into Europe. All of this will take a lot of thought and research, but you can stay up to date with news and offers in our weekly emails and on our social media channels.”

Click here to visit Perfume Direct’s website.