Your character distilled as scent is the unusual promise being made by U.K. retailer Selfridges to those who visit the just-launched Fragrance Lab at its flagship central London store between now and the end of June.
The idea is that by creating an olfactory journey through a series of specially designed interactive spaces and tracking each customer's particular response, a master perfumer can gather enough information to create a fragrance tailored to that individual's character.
Fragrance Lab has been developed for Selfridges' Concept Store where experimental retail concepts are tested. Conceived by futures consultancy The Future Laboratory, it was brought to life by London-based design studio Campaign. "The idea was to develop an interactive environment to explore the outer reaches of scent—creating a personal, curated journey that would enable people to be profiled according to their responses to various stimuli and the choices they made," Campaign creative director Phil Handford explains.
The end result is a series of interactive spaces that take consumers through a sequence of different emotional states: from anticipation to disorientation, seduction, comfort, and intimacy, then revelation.
In the laboratory-styled check-in zone, visitors interact with touch screens to answer questions about their disposition—selecting images they like, for example. According to this initial profiling, they are given one of a number of different audio guides which help them navigate the interactive spaces that lie ahead.
"Each interactive space reflects a different mindset," Handford continues. "People are asked to make certain choices—selecting an object, for example, or interacting with a particular part of the room." How they respond is then interpreted by the perfumer—a sensory expert from leading perfume-makers Givaudan—at the journey's end.
"The end result is a fragrance that, rather that being built up with base notes in the traditional way, is built according to people's character as defined through their thought processes and mindsets," he adds.
Tailoring of the bespoke eau de toilette also extends to bottle shape, label, and descriptive language.
Behind the publicity potential of Fragrance Lab—the interactive environment has been constructed in the retailer's shop window (though visitors are concealed from the outside world)—lies a serious message, according to The Future Laboratory Chief Executive Chris Sanderson. "We think the future of retail is less about choice and more about informed recommendation," he explains.
"Fragrance Lab demonstrates this with the information gleaned about each individual customer, and with the customer's experience as a recipient of a specific, relevant recommendation as opposed to the mass selection offered by the retailer." It is a new retail model relevant to all products and services, he adds.
Handford endorses this. "I really think there is a platform missing at the moment for more of a more meaningful, multi-sensory theatrical retail experience in retail—a campaign theater on the shopping high street, if you like," he says.
"High street retailing is quite old-fashioned in its approach. As a result, (campaign theater) is an area currently attracting growing interest from online players as they look for different ways to shift more product and deepen customer loyalty. Though future growth will be surely driven by on and off-line retailers alike."
Fragrance Lab is open for business at Selfridges' flagship west end store until June 28.