Selling smell has always been an issue in e-commerce. Here to solve this problem, tech expert Álvaro Suárez has opened a pop-up in Paris where customers can visualise scent through images, blend bespoke perfumes and take home DIY devices. With an online store on the horizon, we speak to Álvaro about how he implemented complex algorithms to help people understand the art of perfumery through a digital activation.
Tell me your story. How has your career led you up to this point?
I used to work in tech manufacturing at the BSH group, which included working with brands like Bosch, Siemens and Neff. They set up a new department to encourage innovation and come up with ideas across industries. We noticed that the perfume industry was not consumer orientated and it’s really hard to sell online. We wanted to build a digital environment where consumers can find fragrance by composing ingredients and smelling them visually.
How does the technology work?
Our algorithm means that every one of the 34 ingredients in the portfolio is represented by an image. The formula rearranges these images depending on the blend. It’s programmed so that the size of the images represents the intensity of the fragrance, for example, vanilla will look bigger mixed with cardamom but smaller with strawberry. On the app, the collage rearranges as the user plays with the blend.
Marketing fragrance (unlike something that is visual) is very difficult. How do you tackle this?
We’re calling this a ‘new language of scent’ by focussing on the ingredients. Giving control to the consumer, we also want to leverage a community so scents can be shared via the app across the world. We want people to talk about perfume through these visualisations.
We decided to set up the company, Noustique, in Barcelona one and a half years ago. I was researching markets and discovered that France is the perfume capital of the world. It was important not to focus on one gender and Spain’s perfume industry has a much bigger female market. In France it’s equal. French people are also very proactive in giving feedback.
Describe your atelier. How does the design reflect the brand? How does it encourage interaction?
Our brand focuses on two things: the quality of ingredients and connecting people. The space doesn’t look like a typical parfumerie store, it’s more of an ‘experience centre,’ designed by Bestiario studio in Barcelona. Divided into sections, the customer begins with ‘BASES’ then moves onto ‘ACCORDS,’ encouraging them to spray and explore. Then we have our workshops with parfumiers, which take place three times a day.
How did you hear about Appear Here? What was it like using their service?
Puig referred us to Appear Here. Their service went way beyond just finding a space; they took time to really understand the project, from graphics to the target customer. It was totally personalised to us.
Why was it important to start with a pop-up for The Alchemist Atelier?
Our online shop will open within the next two weeks. The idea was to use the pop-up to boost our digital sales as a disruptive concept. Really it’s a physical touchpoint where we can explain the complex concept in-person.
What learnings are you looking to get from it?
Technical feedback on the app, user journey, and so on. We want to hear how consumers communicate about perfume and implement this in the digital world. We aren’t here to force sales - it’s about the experience. People can create a perfume, buy it and even take the device home to make their own (costing €599 including 6 perfume capsules, bottles, a ‘discovery kit’ and samples).
What are your plans for the future; in the store and beyond?
The online launch is next, then when that’s stable, we need to analyse the physical store and its impact. Then we’ll look into scaling, which could include big brand partnerships. This year is all about learning!