December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Dollars and digiscents at the e-Candy site

Good customer service and an easy-to-use site may not be the only way to get consumers to shop online. Los Angeles-based Inc., aiming to attack more than one of the five senses during online shopping, has partnered with Oakland, Ca.-based Digiscents Inc. to promote Digiscents’ iSmell technology that allows computer users to smell the candy they want to buy from the site.

Scent-enabling the eCandy Web site will require consumers or businesses that buy candy from the site to have the iSmell device, a plug-in adapter that will have changeable scent cartridges that mix scents to correspond with online items. The price for such an attachment is not set but may be in the $80 to $150 range, according to Digiscents. While the company acknowledges that it’s hard to get consumers to adopt such new technology, Digiscents points to computers before sound. Once considered unnecessary, PCs today have a variety of different soundcards to accompany online Web sites.

While Digiscents has its eye on providing the smells of the Internet, from various locations like the Brazilian rainforest or a country garden in England or for products like wine and food, eCandy is aiming to be the first full-service Internet site to provide consumers, manufacturers and retailers with a wide array of products from Pop Rocks and jellybeans to premium truffles and European chocolates. eCandy recently signed a marketing and distribution deal with Nestle USA’s chocolate and confectionery division, which includes the Willy Wonka and Perugina brands. “The technology could allow visitors to the Willy Wonka online chocolate room to smell the chocolate while they are there, and then smell fruit in the fruit room,” says eCandy CEO James Griffin.

Adding the scent of candy is expected to boost sales. Griffin says eCandy was skeptical at first too, but was impressed with the Digiscents technology and the fact that it actually smells like the candy-dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate vs. white chocolate. “It’s really cool how authentic it is.”

But consumer sales may not be its first application. In the fourth quarter, eCandy wants to use the iSmell devices for B2B applications. In particular, candy manufacturers can use the devices to do consumer testing through eCandy instead of sending out different flavored products to consumers and getting feedback. “This speeds up the consumer testing process,” says Griffin, who notes that the devices also can make a lot of sense in selling candy to stores that get their supplies online. “Smells can’t be experienced even in stores with the way candy is packaged. There’s a lot we can do with this technology and we want to help pioneer it.”

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