Sampling gets a Boost in the Cosmetics Industry

Companies have started to employ creative tactics to continue to bring their services to consumers during the pandemic.

With health being a paramount concern, trends such as contactless payments, grocery delivery, and virtual meetings and medical visits are gaining steam.

But some businesses that offer samples for consumers, like cosmetics retailers and grocery stores, face a challenge as the practice was abandoned due to health and safety protocols.

That removal led to sharp declines in sales.

Ulta, one of the largest and most successful beauty companies, reported a 35 percent drop in first-quarter sales, leading them to permanently close 19 stores, according to CNBC.

However, a few cosmetic retailers have adapted to the new reality in a creative way: virtual sampling tools to allow customers to try on products home.

Ulta Beauty’s GLAMlab, an app that allows consumers to try on over 4,000 products carried by the retailer, has seen a marked increase in users over the past few months.

“Since the crisis began, guest engagement with the tool has increased nearly five times, and more than 30 million shades have been tested virtually,” said Ulta CEO Mary Dillon in their first-quarter earnings call.

Other brands, such as Mac, It Cosmetics, and L’Oreal, also began expanding virtual sampling once the pandemic hit. Each feature virtual try-ons and consultants on live video who can help consumers choose products that suit them.

For the cosmetics industry, sampling is nearly a necessity.

Meiyume, a beauty product developer, reported that customers are four times more likely to buy a product if they test it.

While virtual features have existed for some time, most beauty product consumers preferred in-person shopping, and the technology was lacking to make virtual try-ons reliable.

“This is an opportunity for developers to focus on nailing some of the virtual try-on tools that are currently a novelty,” says Wende Zomnir, founding brand partner of Urban Decay.

Still, as stores being to re-open, these companies continue to develop new ways to offer sampling without the health risks to consumers.

Meiyume has a motion-activated sampler that can dispense certain products into a customer’s hand. Estee Lauder has iPads in its stores for shoppers to try on makeup products through their app.

“We live in a different world than we did three months ago,” said Steve Dodd, Meiyume’s Senior Vice President of retail solutions, “and the way that we sample beauty products has changed forever.”

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