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Customer experience

Customers bring home their "Scent Choices" on a card for an unforgettable experience
Why KAORIUM, an AI system that translates scent to words, is all about customer satisfaction

Overview of article
  • KAORIUM experience device uses Epson Connect API
  • Users are given a Personalized Card, containing fragrances and descriptive keywords that indicate their scent sensitivity
  • API linkage can enhance print automation, enabling a more simple customer experience

Think of a scent you really like. Can you describe it in words?
Individuals have unique preferences and it is extremely difficult to define things we cannot see, such as tastes and smells.
SCENTMATIC Inc. ("SCENTMATIC") offers new customer experiences by digitalizing the sense of smell. The company has developed KAORIUM, an AI that has been trained to express the vast variety of scent in words. KAORIUM is now at work at the KO-GU fragrance brand shop. The AI analyzes what type of scent each customer tends to favor based on their sensitivities. This helps the customer pick the scent they will enjoy. Analysis results are represented with descriptive keywords. The personalized cards, which are printed using the keywords and eau de parfum from KO-GU, were made possible by Epson's cloud printing service Epson Connect.
In this interview with SCENTMATIC's President Toshiharu Kurisu, we explore how the company helps customers bring "emotive experience value" home as memories.

■ Mr. Toshiharu Kurisu
President, SCENTMATIC Inc.

■ Interviewer: Sayaka Morimoto
P Strategic Planning Department, Seiko Epson Corporation

* Honorifics omitted in article

What is Epson Connect?
Epson Connect is a cloud service that uses the power of digital to connect people that are far apart from each other.
Printers and multi-function printers connected to the Internet each have an email address and can be used for printing and scanning from anywhere.
* Learn more about Epson Connect at http://www.epsonconnect.com/.
* Learn more about Epson Connect API at https://openinnovation.epson.com/en/developer/.

KAORIUM, the AI system that translates scent into words: Scent and flavors that were once vague and could only be detected through the senses can now be expressed in words and better understood with this experience device

Morimoto: Would you start by describing KAORIUM?

Kurisu: KAORIUM is an AI system that converts scent into words and vice versa. Scent is vague and it is hard to grasp an impression of them in our minds, but with its cutting-edge technology, KAORIUM can use words to visualize impressions and find scents associated with particular words. The technology is currently finding use in a range of categories, including sake, wine, tea, chocolate, craft beer, and e-cigarettes. At SCENTMATIC, we are looking to expand the range of our data business based on language data for consumer scent and taste preferences. Examples of business applications would include recommendation functions, product planning, and marketing tools.

During system development, we prioritized the customer experience. I spent more than a decade working in new service and new function product management at a major mobile phone company. The other core members at SCENTMATIC were also part of the team at that time. Developing mobile applications, we acquired the skills to create precise user experiences. This is one of our greatest strengths. In some products, scent and flavor are of utmost importance, but it's hard to choose such a product just by looking at the label or the appearance of the product. Our goal was to help consumers better understand such products and decide which one they want to buy. KAORIUM is built so that customers can try scent several times when they are picking out a product. Then after that experience, they receive a Personalized Card that lets them take home something tangible.

* See https://scentmatic.co.jp/en/ for more information about SCENTMATIC.

KAORIUM device AI system for translating scent into words
KAORIUM device AI system for translating scent into words

Fragrance brand shop KO-GU introduces KAORIUM, helping each customer choose scent that they like

The Shinjuku Store of daily fragrance brand KO-GU, by NOSE SHOP
The Shinjuku Store of daily fragrance brand KO-GU, by NOSE SHOP

Morimoto: Fragrance brand shop KO-GU introduced the KAORIUM device in March 2022. What led them to do that?

Kurisu: Tomonobu Nakamori, CEO of a niche fragrance shop known as NOSE SHOP, first contacted us with an inquiry in early 2020. We found that we shared a vision of what I call the "democratization of scent." By this, I mean that consumers would have a more accessible way to choose their scent. Soon after that, we set up a partnership and after three months, we were doing real-world testing.

We worked closely with NOSE SHOP to optimize our AI. For example, we called on members of NOSE SHOP's community of fans to help create a database from scent samples.

Morimoto: How does the use of a scent experience device help individual customers pick out the scent that they like?

Kurisu: There are bottles containing scents on the top of the device. The customer chooses one that they like, then the screen will display various words that express the impressions people have of that scent. Then the customer chooses the word that is closest to what they are thinking. In turn, the device leads them to a scent associated with that word. The process is repeated as the customer continues picking out scents and words. This enables the AI to analyze the scent that the customer tends to like based on their sensitivities and find keywords to describe the customer's impressions of that scent.

A series of such experiences help the customer understand the key points of the scent they like so they can choose the fragrance best suited to them. Three types of selected fragrances and the descriptive words associated with them are printed onto a Personalized card for the customer to keep.

KAORIUM experience device: after customer selects scents and words that they like several times, the screen provides keywords that describe the impressions they had.
KAORIUM experience device: after customer selects scents and words that they like several times, the screen provides keywords that describe the impressions they had.

Having a card to take home offers a unique experience value: The impression the customer experienced remains in their memory

KAORIUM personalized card: printed with three fragrances the customer likes, along with descriptive words.
On left: KAORIUM personalized card: printed with three fragrances the customer likes, along with descriptive words.
On right: KO-GU Eau de Parfum 4 ml (from left: Ylang Ylang, Peach, Spearmint)

Morimoto: Customers get to take a Personalized Card home with them. Why did you make that a part of the scent selection experience?

Kurisu: From the very start, I wanted to use paper to increase customers' satisfaction with the experience. Specifically, I wanted them to have a souvenir they could take home to remind them of the impressions they had of the scent they enjoyed. The concept of putting digital data on a physical object they could take home just came naturally. I thought that if we could do that, there would be experience value for the customer.

With paper, people can reminisce on an experience even when it's over. Then the next time they go to have such an experience, they have something outside of their personal digital device, something that naturally coexists with the surrounding view and helps expand people's awareness. If you look at what people are posting on Twitter, they post photos of their personalized cards, not the KAORIUM device screen. And the words on the card help them think of tags to include in their SNS posts when they're explaining why they chose a particular scent.

Morimoto: What has the response been like from customers who've had this experience?

Kurisu: The feedback has been very positive. One customer stated "I felt that I had a very special experience." It was store staff who came up with the idea of spraying three scents chosen by the customer on the Personalized Card. This was a use case for paper that we had not anticipated when we started planning this project. With that, paper became a medium to put scents, which have no substance themselves, in a physical form that customers could take with them. It helped make the experience even better.

The way the shop staff interacts with customers has changed, too. In the past, staff often recommended the most popular fragrances without understanding the customer's sensitivities and the scent that they like. Now, staff can see the words on the Personalized Card and give more thorough attention to the customer based on their preferences. I've also heard that customers will use the words printed on the cards to search for a scent they like at other shops as well.

Morimoto: I see. So, the cards help people express themselves emotionally when they post on Social Media or talk with friends.

Kurisu: Our sensitivity to scent is constantly changing based on the time, place, and environment. Cards can even help us keep a record of our preferences at each occasion.

* KO-GU introduced KAORIUM for a limited time; the service is not currently offered as of October 2022.

KAORIUM and cloud printing service Epson Connect are linked by an API: Automated background processing maximizes experience value

Morimoto: I understand that you implemented Epson Connect API to include printing in the experience. What led you to do that?

Kurisu: The printing function was included in the development planning requirements. Since KAORIUM uses a touch tablet, we assumed the ability to print from Android devices would be possible. We also assumed that instead of going through a printer driver, printing processes could be performed in the background through system linkage. The reason we used a system link was to avoid dialogue screens while the customer is selecting a scent. An example would be, "Do you wish to print? Select Yes or No." That would spoil the experience value that we tried so hard to create.

We chose to implement it because we appreciated that Epson has a rich lineup of printers and has made their API's publicly available, allowing users to print even more seamlessly than Email Print. In terms of development, there were no issues with the API link and work proceeded smoothly.

Cards are printed by an Epson Connect-supporting printer located inside the KAORIUM device
Cards are printed by an Epson Connect-supporting printer located inside the KAORIUM device.

* About Email Print
One of the services included in the Epson Connect cloud service. All you have to do is send an email with a file attachment from a PC, mobile phone, or smartphone to the email address of an Internet-connected printer. This allows you to easily print photos and documents from anywhere.
Epson Email Print | Epson US (epson.com)

Morimoto: Now that you've been using Epson Connect API, do you have any suggestions on how it might be improved?

Kurisu: Currently, it takes 20 to 30 seconds to print. I'd like it to be a little faster! There have been instances where the user leaves without their Personalized Card because they do not realize the Personalized Card is printing. At this time, we have made improvements on the operating side, but I would like it to be a bit faster.

There are some problems with the interface that lets processing happen remotely. Specifically, it results in new maintenance jobs that must be performed onsite, like replacing ink and dealing with paper jams. The system needs improvements to make shop operations less burdensome. For example, alerts should be sent out so that the system status can be checked remotely.

Morimoto: Before we end, do you have any other request for Epson?

Kurisu: There is a wide variety of digital devices nowadays and it's a lot easier to transition to digital, but there are still some unexpected hurdles. Paper still has value, as in the case of KAORIUM, which uses paper to help people retain memory after the experience is over. I think digital and paper can still coexist going forward, with each being used in different ways. To help people understand and accept that value, some issues need to be solved, such as increasing printing speed. I hope that Epson will work with service providers like us that create experience value so we can maximize the value of both digital and paper. This will help both of us to develop our businesses.

Morimoto: It's been interesting to hear about your commitment to increasing experience value after years of promoting digitalization in the mobile industry and how you are using personalized cards as a tool to enhance that value while creating new experiences. KAORIUM sounds like a great way to help people find their preferences and scent that they like and commit them to memory. I'm sure that soon people will be able to have this experience all over town! Thank you!

Interview: April 2022

Written interview content and names of organization, affiliations, and titles, etc. are as of the time of the interview.

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