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Waft Transforms Fragrances Into Experiences for Corporate Gifting

Everyone knows the challenges of gifting fragrances to friends or for corporate gifts. How do you choose the appropriate perfume or cologne for the recipient? Waft aims to transform the use of fragrances for gifts and rewards by enabling people to craft their own perfumes in a way that provides a unique opportunity for planners of corporate gifts and events.

Over the years, multiple perfume brands have entered the corporate market, only to face disappointment. Despite the obvious popularity and cachet of the leading fragrance brands, the challenge for organizations is the same faced by consumers: how to select the right brand or fragrance for people without knowing their tastes? Waft aims to disrupt the fragrance industry by enabling women and men to craft their own fragrances in a way that creates a unique experience, and by offering organizations seeking a unique gift experience.
According to Valerie Boffy, Waft co-founder, the concept arose out of a desire to create a new category in the $90-billion-plus global fragrance industry that appeals to Millennials, addresses the increasing desire for personalized experiences and produce products that transcend traditional gender roles. Waft, she says, has set out to prove that fragrances can not only be sold over the Internet, but done so in a way that maximizes the gifting experience and minimizes the risk of sending someone a gift they won’t enjoy. 
Recognizing the opportunity in the corporate market, Waft hired Kimblerly Biggs to manage its corporate sales. Biggs is an industry veteran who has helped bring such brands as Godiva, Montblanc, Samsonite, Yankee Candle and Brookstone into the corporate market. 
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A Unique Web-Based Selection Platform

Waft enables women and men to identify their tastes and preferences using an online form, as well as the occasions and other factors that could affect their choice, to create their own unique combination. To do so, the company engaged one of the world’s leading fragrance makers, International Flavor and Fragrances, to help it create what it says is the first web-based fragrance company that enables people to craft their own fragrances using the world’s finest natural ingredients from the world’s leading producers. 
“The fragrance business is very traditional,” says Boffy. “It’s all about brand, inventory, stock, launches; it’s brand-oriented rather than people-oriented. Because of the high cost of producing and distributing fragrances, companies can only spend up to a certain amount for the fragrances they use to maintain a competitive price point. By eliminating the traditional costs of brick-and-mortar sales, we’ve created an amazing opportunity for consumers to enjoy the highest quality natural fragrance combinations produced by the world’s finest craftsmen.” 
Most brands in the traditional fragrance market, Boffy explains, “will pay on average $30 to $50 per kilogram for their fragrances. With our model, we can pay far more to enable the greatest fragrance makers to exercise their art to produce the most beautiful, natural fragrances that are sustainable and based on consumers’ actual preferences.” As a result, she says, consumers can get a product for about $95 that could easily cost $200 to $300 at retail. 
Using the power of algorithms combined with a fundamental understanding of fragrance classifications, Waft enables consumers to disclose through an online form at Waft.com the type of fragrance they are looking for based on multiple categories of fragrances. Says Boffy: “Our proprietary system, combining a web experience and a sophisticated algorithm, carefully curates the fragrance to be sent to each user based upon understanding where their preferences lie in well-established families and sub-families in the fragrance industry, such as citrus, florals, floral fruity, oriental, woody, spicy and so on. Consumers receive a set of three fragrances, which they can layer based on the occasion or their mood. The layering compatibility between the fragrances is made possible by the very high concentration of natural ingredients.”
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A Personal, Emotional Connection

Waft creates unique personal and business gifts because, as Boffyu says, “they offer a personal and emotional experience for the recipient. The giver can customize the name and message on the bottle and include a personal message. So when they go to the web site to create their formulation, they receive a highly personalized gift that reminds them of the giver, not only when they receive it but whenever they see the bottles and create their own fragrances for the day or evening.” Companies, she says, can put their own name in the packaging, in the messages and on the bottle, and the product ships within three days. “We’re breaking the myth that fragrances have to be experienced before purchased.” 
In the two years since the company was launched, it has filled over 20,000 orders and has a return rate of under 2%, even though it offers a 100% money-back guarantee. So far, says Boffy, the average repeat purchase rate is 2.5 times per person; customers are almost 50-50 women and men, and many purchase the product for themselves and not as gifts. While the company was founded in Singapore, where the founders live (Boffy is French and co-founder Kent Ertugrul is American), it launched in Singapore to test the concept but immediately eyed the U.S. as a prime market for a disruptive, Internet-based concept. Because of the nature of fragrances, Boffy notes the product must be produced and fulfilled in each country in which it operates to minimize transit times and shipping costs. 
In order to perfect the business model, the company has carefully launched in the U.S. It hasn’t yet launched any advertising or public relations and is letting social media do the initial work of word-of-mouth. This has already led to several sales to leading corporations for gifting purposes. “A leading international automaker used Waft at an event it sponsored as a way to get to know the attendees,” Boffy says. “It passed out cards inviting people to go to our website, where of course they had to enter their name and address information, providing the automaker a unique way to build a database of attendees for later follow-up. Their branding appeared on all of the packaging and bottles delivered to the audience.” 
The company is currently in talks with a major five-star hotel chain to offer Waft as a gift for people who stay in their suites, so that when they redeem the gift their packaging and bottles come not only with the name of the hotel, but with the number of the suite they stayed in. Likewise, the founders believe, it makes for an ideal gift for airlines rewarding business- or first-class customers, or for any event that seeks a special way to remind people of it throughout the year. For customers making a sufficient commitment, Waft can create a customized redemption website that enables them to ask unique questions that, together with the nature of information provided to create each individual’s formulation, can provide unique information on the organization’s customers or prospects. Waft can also provide an on-site experience with a holographic avatar that guides attendees through the experience of creating their own fragrances and then sending the highly personalized packaging, messaging and formulation to their homes or offices. 
“Our goal,” says Ertugrul, “is to provide mass customization. We can help organizations create business gift programs for tens of thousands of people personalized for each individual.” 
Because of the traditionally high margins in the fragrance business, and Waft’s ability to do away with the high cost of producing and selling perfumes, it can offer what the founders believe are high margins for resellers bringing Waft to their customers. 
Kimberly Biggs
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