Nanyang flavour: Scent Journer’s localised fragrance opens door to China expansion

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Scent Journer's pandan-infused Clouds In Heaven perfume has garnered strong interest from Chinese consumers. ©Scent Journer
Scent Journer's pandan-infused Clouds In Heaven perfume has garnered strong interest from Chinese consumers. ©Scent Journer

Related tags Singapore China Fragrance market entry

Singapore-based Scent Journer’s pandan-infused fragrance has gained traction among Chinese consumers seeking unique scents, propelling the brand’s first venture into the market.

Entering the Chinese market has been on the cards since the early stage of business, only that the plan was disrupted by hefty shipment fees, according to founder Joyce Lian.

In Singapore, perfumes are classified as “dangerous goods” due to their flammable nature. A​ Hazardous Substances Licence must be obtained prior to the import, sale or export of ​any hazardous substance controlled under the Environmental Protection and Management Act (EPMA).

After the brand’s online store commenced international shipping, it saw orders coming in from countries including Australia, South Korea, Thailand, and France.

Subsequently, Scent Journer created a Xiaohongshu (RED) account and hired a native Chinese to actively post on the social media platform, with content and messaging specifically pandering to Chinese consumers.

After we started Xiaohongshu, one of our signature fragrances, Clouds In Heaven, gained traction among Chinese consumers, who call it the ‘Nanyang flavour’ because of the pandan note​ in it. We were receiving a lot of messages about it. For example, people in Dongbei (northeast of China) wanted to order from us, but due to the additional charges for dangerous goods, we lost a few customers.

“Nevertheless, Singapore is a popular holiday destination among Chinese, so there were visitors who dropped by our stockists, such as Design Orchard, to purchase our products. These customers posted about our fragrances on Xiaohongshu, whose algorithm really worked in our favour,” ​Lian told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​.

This did not go unnoticed by the owner of Sniff Time, a specialty fragrances store in Guangzhou, who connected with Scent Journer at local shopping event Boutique Fairs.

She valued having something more niche and interesting that is currently not available in China, as it adds another layer of uniqueness to her store in China. She brought back a few of our perfumes, and started taking pre-orders from her customers.

“We started from a small scale, but the response has been good. We will be shipping over a larger batch of products when our license gets renewed by the end of June.”

At the moment, the fragrances available in China are namely Clouds In Heaven, Dancing Blue Bees, and A Starlit Spell

Although The Blooming Jewel is our bestseller in Singapore, the three fragrances selected to launch in China are more unique and suited for the Chinese consumers.”

In Lian’s opinion, Scent Journer’s fragrances appeal more to South East Asian and Chinese consumers as they are on the “lighter side”, compared to Middle Eastern-style fragrances.

“We believe that Chinese consumers, who are very creative and willing to explore beyond the existing European style of fragrances, will be able to accept our take on fragrances and the incorporation of unconventional ingredients into our perfumes.”

In fact, she has deliberated on the idea of creating a localised scent for the Chinese market.

One of the scents that is easily acceptable by Chinese consumers is osmanthus, a flower whose fragrance is very popular in the country, especially during autumn when it is in full bloom. However, our Chinese partner said that osmanthus fragrances are already commonplace and local consumers are looking for something more unique.

“They want something that makes them feel special and that has its own identity when worn, rather than regular designer fragrances.”

Gearing up for growth

In the short term, most of the firm’s marketing efforts will still be focused on Singapore, as it seeks to build a stronger connection with local consumers and establish brand loyalty.

Additionally, Scent Journer officially launched on Sephora Singapore's online store on July 2, marking its first entry into the beauty retailer. 

Over the next two years, however, it plans to put more budget into creating an impact and raising brand awareness on social media platforms like Xiaohongshu to prepare for further overseas expansion.

Lian shared that Thailand is the second market that Scent Journer is looking to break into, with sights set on Australia and more cities in China as well.

“As we hope to enter Thailand soon, it will definitely be important to at least build up presence in the social media space first. Ultimately, we feel that fragrance is something that people have to experience in person. We are taking a trip to Shanghai this September, and hopefully connect with more places to stock our fragrances.”

At the same time, the firm is targeting to open its first boutique in Singapore by 2026.

“We actually looked for a store space last year but we realised that our current line-up of five fragrances is not extensive enough, so right now, we are fully focused on R&D. Some of the items that we are working on include reed diffuser, hand cream, hair mist, and bath products.

“As our customers have been asking for a woody fragrance, we are developing a sixth scent. Woody fragrances are trending in Singapore, but we want to steer away from the typical style of popular brands. We’ve been trying to find the directionby using unconventional ingredients to showcase our creative approach, and we aim to launch it by spring-summer next year.”

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