Alibaba’s TMIC Taps Data to Reinvent Fragrance Design in China

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Alibaba’s TMIC Taps Data to Reinvent Fragrance Design in China

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The ancient art of fragrance creation is getting a digital makeover thanks to Alibaba Group’s product development arm Tmall Innovation Center (TMIC).

TMIC has teamed up with the world’s largest fragrance producers, including Givaudan, Firmenich and Symrise and International Flavors & Fragrances, to launch a data-powered trend analysis tool for developing scents in China.

Brands can identify the latest trends in fragrance and see a breakdown of the raw materials needed to blend a winning formula.

“We’ll use the tool to conduct co-creation in collaboration with our brand and industry partners along the entire supply chain, from identifying trends, research and development into raw materials to brand positioning,” Ricky Xie, General Manager of Tmall New Products, told Alizila in Mandarin. He oversees operations at TMIC.

The TMIC database covers the most popular raw and synthetic materials in use today. Its data shows how ingredients like seaweed, agarwood and petitgrain are growing in popularity, while lime and water lily have plateaued.

Scent creators are leveraging this information to identify and meet consumer demand, which has shown a strong preference for gender-neutral fragrance blends.

“We’ve broken free from the traditional scent creation process and tried scent co-creation for the first time with a platform powered by big data,” said Jeff Yao, North East Asia Vice President at Germany-based fragrance producer Symrise.

China’s fragrance market will grow at an annual rate of 17% over the next five years, with sales reaching RMB15.44 billion ($2.21 billion) by 2025, according to forecast by market research agency Mintel.

Gender-less Fragrances

Brands are using TMIC’s innovative data tools to harness a wave of interest in unisex scents among Chinese consumers.

The gender-neutral perfume market in China reached RMB185 million in gross merchandise value in June this year, accounting for 24% of the perfume market, with an annual year-over-year growth rate of over 17%, according to TMIC market research.

“We’ve observed unisex as a cultural trend through the rise of unisex fragrance. Thanks to Tmall’s data insight, we’ve validated its strong market potential,” said Yao from Symrise.

TMIC and Symrise co-developed a gender-neutral perfume base made up of alcohol, water and emulsifier for brands to customize and sell in this growing product category.

This is TMIC’s first brand launch and it has partnered with key opinion leaders across Chinese social media to promote the fragrance base. Perfumers using the product have also been invited to use the platform’s branding for marketing.

TMIC launches a gender-neutral perfume base titled “Untagged”. Photo credit: Alibaba Group

Not So Neutral

While dubbed gender-neutral, the vast majority of consumers in China’s unisex perfume category are women, an analysis of shopping behavior by TMIC revealed.

Young female shoppers, around half aged between 18 and 29, make up 70% of buyers of gender-neutral scents and nearly half hail from second and third-tier Chinese cities. Some may be buying these perfumes as gifts for male friends, but many are shopping for themselves.

Estée Lauder-owned perfume brand Jo Malone tapped this market insight to launch a targeted marketing campaign over the summer in China for its wild swimming collection that dives into aquatic scents.

The mostly female followers of gender-neutral perfumes prefer natural and fresh styles and favor wearing the scents during summer, according to TMIC data.

Jo Malone launched a water-themed concert livestreaming on Tmall’s Super Brand Day during July to engage with those consumers. The campaign helped boost engagement rate by 200%, making it the best-selling fragrance on Tmall on the day of the livestreaming.

Digital MarketingLivestreamingPerfumeTmallTMIC
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