March 30, 2011, 4:14 PM

Web-only fragrance retailer to use mobile to get between customers and counters

Scentiments.com will debut an m-commerce site targeting price-sensitive store shoppers.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

A mock-up section of an m-commerce page for Scentiments' soon-to-launch mobile site.

Web-only retailer Scentiments.com sells men’s and women’s fragrances at a discount. It raked in $15,810,000 in sales in 2010. Getting in the game online offers a variety of ways to nab customers, from paid search to search engine optimization to online display ads. But what to do about the customers that are not online, the ones standing at a department store counter trying out the latest colognes and perfumes?

Starting in the second quarter, Scentiments.com will unleash a mobile commerce program that will make the web-only merchant a player offline as well. It’s finishing work on an m-commerce site and creating alliances with comparison shopping mobile apps in an attempt to get its prices in front of customers in stores. If successful, m-commerce can give Scentiments.com’s bottom line a boost.

“What we’re trying to do is to tie together the huge smartphone market and the vast number of shoppers who are price-sensitive, giving us the opportunity to grab those dollars from those price-conscious consumers,” says Howard Wyner, CEO and chief of e-business at Scentiments.com. “Consumers can find their favorite product or new products in a store and then check our site or ShopSavvy or other apps to make sure we have it for less.”

Wyner says he has noticed a small but increasing percentage of consumers accessing Scentiments.com from mobile devices. He says even though the full e-commerce site renders fairly well on a smartphone, it’s time to create an optimized experience for the fast-growing number of smartphone users, an experience that does not require the pinching and zooming involved with viewing and using an e-commerce site on a mobile device.

“We’re developing a site that will be much more user friendly—easy to navigate and easy to check out,” he says. “And we’ll be starting with PayPal Express mobile checkout and the Sprint mobile wallet for Sprint users, along with standard checkout through a Scentiments.com account that stores shipping information. These options will make mobile checkout fast.”

Scentiments.com is building the m-commerce site with e-commerce and m-commerce technology provider CardinalCommerce Corp. Wyner says the cost is less than $5,000 plus a small percentage of every mobile purchase. He declines to reveal the percentage. But this is far less than the $50,000 quote he received from another company when he inquired about building a mobile app.

“Something similar to a 1-800-Flowers.com app, the cost involved with that is rather high, and I won’t get a good return. Whereas with a site, consumers can find me as they always would, by just typing in our URL,” he says.

Wyner adds that it’s best for smaller retailers to start out in mobile commerce prudently. One technology provider Wyner spoke with about a mobile commerce site charges $25,000 to start, plus a $900 monthly fee and a 7% revenue share.

“For a small market Internet retailer in the lower end of the Top 500, you want to be able to get into the m-commerce space without putting forth a lot of capital,” he says. “I don’t mind paying on the back end with a percentage of mobile sales because if I’m paying CardinalCommerce a lot of money that means I’m making a lot of money, and it doesn’t affect my margins that much.”

Scentiments.com began the process of building its m-commerce site in January, telling CardinalCommerce what it wanted of a site and how it would like the site to look. Shortly thereafter, the technology provider began sending the merchant site mock-ups (see image above).

One of the highest priorities for the mobile site was to replicate the 12-year-old inventory notification service found on the e-commerce site. If a fragrance is out of stock, a consumer can sign up to receive an e-mail notification when the fragrance is back in stock. Now, with the mobile site, consumers will be able to get notifications by e-mail or via text message, which will contain a link that connects the message to the mobile product page.

“This is the stuff we’re working on developing right now. That’s a cool factor we want for our mobile customers,” Wyner says. “And now we’ll have a text message marketing platform where by looking at our demographics we can send out fine-tuned messages to select opt-in customers when certain brands are on sale, for example.”

When asked if he has encountered any challenges as he constructs an m-commerce site, Wyner answers very succinctly: No.

“It’s just building the mobile machine,” he says. “Making sure the look and feel is consistent with e-commerce, ensuring customers can find products easily, and enabling checkout in just a couple taps of the screen. The goals are similar to those with our e-commerce site. Easy to navigate and minimal steps to checkout. That model works for us and we want to apply that model to our mobile platform, so that it facilitates conversions easily.”

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