Sampling is by no means a new marketing strategy for the cosmetics industry. Brands in the UK have been offering free cosmetic samples for many years now, hoping to capture a share of customer attention in the busy aisles of beauty stores. However, what started as a tactic for driving purchases of full-size products has now developed into an industry of its own, with several leading as well as emerging UK brands recognising the profitable opportunity that sampling provides.
A study by Euromonitor notes that close to 35% of customers cited free cosmetic samples as one of the top five influencers in the purchase decision behind their favourite beauty products. This is possibly one of the biggest reasons why brands like Birchbox and Glossybox have launched offerings in which sampling itself is the product. The astronomical rise of Birchbox has proven that customers not only want free cosmetic samples in the UK – they are even willing to pay for them!
For traditional beauty brands, however, sampling can still be quite an expensive, and often, not a very measurable marketing tactic. So why should UK beauty brands still consider including product sampling in their marketing strategy?
For one, sampling offers customers the opportunity to not only better understand beauty products, but also experience it with all their senses. This is especially important given the nature of the industry – cosmetics are a deeply personal product, and offering free samples can be the first step in building a relationship with your target customers.
Apart from this, sampling can be a great opportunity to drive customer loyalty, which is key to success in the beauty industry. Marketing experts agree that acquiring a new customer is much more expensive and requires more effort than retaining an old customer. Offering free cosmetic samples builds both interest, as well trust in your brand, which can ultimately drive customer loyalty to a large degree.
Sampling is also a sales tactic that can be adopted via multiple channels. In-store sampling is a tried and tested way of increasing product sales, but online sampling opens up new avenues for cosmetic brands to be innovative with how they get their products in the hands of the customer. In fact, online sampling is fast gaining traction as a means of both, leveraging the benefits of product sampling, while gleaning valuable insights into customers.
Several leading UK brands have found innovative ways of marketing free cosmetic samples in the UK, through both online and offline campaigns which were instrumental in driving awareness and sales among their target audience.
On the completely digitised end of the spectrum, L’Oreal, for example, introduced a virtual try-on app called Make Up Genius, that allowed customers to take selfies and try on different cosmetic products using their mobile phones.
Brands like Clinique and Avon, among others have taken it a step further, offering free samples via Facebook campaigns, whereby customers fill in lead forms to receive free cosmetic samples to their homes. This latter approach is especially effective for an online audience, but fails to capture the in-store opportunity, which still represents the majority of cosmetic sales in the UK.
However, our favourite example of innovative sampling in action was a recent campaign run by Clarins at the Voici Pop Up, where the brand used our smart sampling device to blend together a seamless and personalised sampling experience for customers. Our smart sampling device allows brands to interact with customers on a deeper level, providing a unique experience through which they receive a hyper personalised cosmetic sample, targeted specifically towards their needs.
The device indicated that customers enjoyed the brand interaction and were likely to both, immediately purchase the product, as well as engage with the brand in the long term. Additionally, Clarins was able to gain valuable product feedback from its customers as well as retain their information to remarket to them in the future – a win-win for both parties!