Why a personal approach can make all the difference for self-select cosmetics brands


Shoppers walking into Boots‘ flagship store on Oxford Street are greeted by rows of brightly-lit, eye-catching make-up aisles and product stands. The size of the space is testament to the resilience of in-store cosmetics spend, against the rise of e-commerce. Recent polls show that online spend hasn‘t diminished in-store spend in the way it has in other sectors. With so many consumers continuing to shop for cosmetics products in-store, it‘s vital that brands focus on their in-store strategies to capitalise on these retail sales.

The purchase of a new item of make-up is a highly personal experience, and one that is unique to each individual shopper. A purchase may be made in response to running out of a product, triggered by a positive magazine review, or simply to prepare for an evening out. All of these factors mean consumers are reluctant to wait two to three working days for a delivery when the products could be picked up immediately in-store.

Yet the main reason that cosmetics are bought in-store is because shoppers want to try before they buy. As make-up is such a personal purchase, consumers want to test out foundations and concealers in-store to judge which products and shades work best with their unique skin tone.

Many customers are also open to trying new products and brands: research from the IPA reveals that 39 per cent of women change their shopping habits when buying cosmetics depending on their needs. This presents major opportunities for brands to advise and inform shoppers about the benefits of their products in-store; this is where in-store ambassadors could make all the difference. Take the example of a customer walking into Boots on Oxford Street; they will face an onslaught of beauty brands vying for their trade. The aisles are emblazoned with some of the biggest names in the industry – the likes of Barry M, Revlon, Rimmel, Max Factor, Maybelline and Nivea. Cosmetics brands that place trained brand ambassadors in third party stores can not only leverage their understanding and knowledge of the brand, but also train them in offering advice to consumers, and improve their sales skills.

Research we commissioned earlier this year found that that 53 per cent of UK consumers do their research online before making a purchase in-store. When entering the store consumers are likely already armed with some knowledge, but are likely to have questions on, and a desire to test, the brands they‘ve considered. By having trained brand ambassadors in-store, brands can interact with individual consumers and answer questions about their products.

Our research also identified that beauty consumers fall into tangible ‘tribes‘. The majority are primarily ‘functional‘ (52 per cent) and place the greatest value on products that work well for them. This presents a big opportunity for brand ambassadors to explain and sell the benefits of new products. Just 11 per cent are identified as ‘habitual‘ shoppers, who more often than not buy their beauty products based on previous purchases. Given this willingness to shop around, brands are missing an opportunity by leaving consumers to shop unassisted: this is where in-store activity can be at its most incisive.

All of the major brands are looking to appeal to shoppers, and will have spent vast sums of money on advertising and developing their product line to achieve this goal. Yet when selling through third-party retailers, brands cede a great deal of control over how their products are marketed.

In-store dominance for sales of cosmetics demonstrates that human interaction is still significant to shoppers. Both consumers and brands stand to profit from a smooth, positive customer journey. Cosmetics brands need to make sure they reflect consumers‘ preference for shopping in-store and ensure they offer their customers the best possible in-store experience.


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