Le Labo City Stories

Academic Case Study

4 Weeks, Spring 2019

Enable online fragrance shoppers to experience a scent digitally by engaging their other senses.

Le Labo


In a team of 5, this project was an academic case study for a senior user experience design course at Simon Fraser University. The brief for the project was to find and research a business problem within a domain and to design an intervention that would alleviate customer pain points and provide value to the business.

For this case study, my roles included conducting primary and secondary research to support our intervention and co-leading UI decisions such as the art direction, user flow, and microinteractions. I ensured that the art direction was on-brand to Le Labo, in addition to the animations providing a seamless experience.


Le Labo is a New York-based luxury fragrance company that is competent in producing handcrafted unisex perfumes in-store. In addition to the 17 fragrances they offer year-round, they have a city exclusive line of fragrances that are only sold at their respective cities. However, for a limited one-month period in September, these exclusive fragrances are available worldwide.

While Le Labo’s intent of the limited time frame is to maintain exclusivity, customers are unable to make an informed purchase due to the lack of information that is available. Although short descriptions are provided, it can be difficult to imagine what these high-end scents may smell like.


Through primary and secondary research, we synthesized 3 insights to drive the project:


The online fragrance market is growing increasingly due to convenience.


Customers are unable to smell the perfume before purchase so they resort to external websites to do their research.


Samples are bought to help drive the decision to buy a fragrance.


Our research and insights helped shape the persona we were designing for — the investigative customer.

Le Labo Persona

Customer Journey

Currently, their website provides very limited information describing their perfumes in addition to a lack of a review section. This breaks the shopping workflow of the customer in which they resort to other websites to research.

Le Labo Current Experience

In order to address this customer friction, we intervened in the research stage of the journey of purchasing perfume online.

Le Labo Journey


How might we help customers make a satisfying purchase despite not being able to smell the fragrance online?

How might we preserve Le Labo's intent of maintaining exclusivity while enabling customers to make memorable and satisfying purchases?

City Stories

In order to help customers make quick and informed decisions to buy perfume online, we proposed Le Labo City Stories. Here is a prototype walkthrough of our solution:

Extension of Le Labo's E-Commerce Website

Upon arriving on the extension of the current Le Labo e-commerce website, the customer can select a fragrance and are introduced with a short description of the product.

Embodying the Fragrance

To learn about what the scent smells like, they can proceed to City Stories, an experiential journey that guides them through the fragrance notes as if they were to wear it for the day. The story of each note unfolds through a narrative of one’s experience of the city that inspired it, beginning from a pleasant arrival to an exploration that leads to a lasting impression of the journey.

A Second Opinion

Returning to the product page, the customer can check reviews from verified buyers. It gives the customer an idea of other people’s opinions of the fragrance.

Building Confidence

With a better understanding of the scent, customers can purchase a sample to confirm their expectations of the product before purchasing a full size. We made the decision to encourage the purchase of samples to ensure that customers are confident that the fragrances are exactly as they envisioned before committing to a larger purchase.

Post Engagement

After customers make a purchase, a follow-up email is sent — inviting them back to join the postcard community by giving feedback on the scents.

Le Labo Email

Design Decisions

Metaphor: Fragrance Notes

Fragrances are composed of three layers of scent, also known as notes, with each one purposefully providing a different scent over time. The top note provides the brief first impression of the perfume while the heart note blends with the base note which enables the perfume to last on the skin for a longer duration.

Design Decisions

Storytelling Narrative

In order to bring the customer to the scent, we framed our intervention around a narrative using the top, heart, and base notes as story arcs.

Le Labo Email

Design Decisions

Engaging Other Senses

To help drive the immersion of the experience and to support their purchase decision, we used audio and video depictions of the notes of the scent.

Design Decisions

Communicating Scent Online

Using the fragrance notes as a metaphor, the videos are edited to mimic the duration of each note. For example, the top note simulates a faster pace while the base note simulates a lingering sensation.

Design Decisions


In order to ease customers into each note, we used black and white photography that transitions into videos in colour. In addition, the transition animation simulates entering the experience as the photos zoom in and fade out.

Design Decisions


We also incorporated digital postcards as reviews from past customers of the perfume to share their thoughts. Using handwritten reviews also enabled them to feel more human.

Le Labo Email

Value Proposition

City Stories provides tangible, intangible, and aspirational value propositions to both Le Labo and their customers. For the customer, they get access to information that goes beyond written descriptions and scent diagrams. As a result, they gain the confidence in making the decision to purchase in addition to the ability to resonate with the fragrance and its respective city. For Le Labo, they're able to take another step into the growing online fragrance market as City Stories provides an opportunity for a larger stream of customers during the short period. They're also able to maintain the City Exclusive collection as a highly coveted product line.

Le Labo Email


Using Jake Knapp’s Sprint in our process, I learned how important it is to ideate, test, and reject ideas as quickly as possible in order to ensure that the end-product is viable for the end-user. While our project was successful in aiding our user testers in making an informed purchase through their new understanding of the perfume, we still have a few areas to address. In hindsight, we did not consider other screen sizes for this experience, particularly mobile devices as they are a growing entry point for e-commerce. We also considered an on and off state for the platform where the exclusive line is not actively being sold.

Our proposal aims to help online fragrance shoppers make quick informed decisions by immersing them into an engaging narrative experience.

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