NEW YORK--The educated consumer of today wants to try before she buys.
With little opportunity in the schedule for shopping, however, few women have the time to invest in visiting beauty counters to fully investigate the wares. Additionally, health and pilferage concerns have reduced the amount of sampling in both class and mass market outlets.
Now, an array of new sampling options are helping beauty marketers reach shoppers directly in their homes. Samplers delivered via bills, postcards or magazine inserts are able to reach consumers in their homes--away from the hustle and bustle of the retail environment and without any unwanted pressure from beauty consultants.
This kind of sampling can especially help a store that has a self-serve environment--where even if a customer wants to dabble in new colors, no one is there to assist.
The hope is that if a consumer likes the sample at home, she'll be encouraged to come to a retail outlet to make the purchase.
"One of the biggest marketing and retail problems today is poor store traffic," said Suzanne Grayson, a partner in Grayson Associates of Santa Barbara, Calif. She said marketers are seeking new methods to drive customers into stores--such as more direct and aggressive sampling. "All of our research shows that when people can try a product at home, it broadens the sales base," said Roger Barnett, president of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Arcade Inc., which was the pioneer of ScentStrip technology.
Some experts estimate sales can be increased 25 percent via advanced sampling. And they agree that sampling has become even more critical a marketplace where shoppers are so busy they don't have time to spend trying out products in stores.
"With more women in the work force and balancing family and home, they have a lack of leisure time," said Steven Greenland, packaging business manager for Labels Inc. of Amesbury, Mass. "Sampling gives marketers the option to reach shoppers in their homes."
Out-of-store fragrance sampling has been available for over 15 years, thanks to the introduction of ScentStrips. "Prior to 1979," said Barnett, "you had to have vials or scented blotters. Suddenly with ScentStrips, you could reach a person in the home. Companies could put a scent in with a print ad."
Barnett stressed that sampling is especially critical to fragrance sales. "People need to smell a fragrance before they'll buy it," he said.
Arcade has since gone beyond the ScentStrip to introduce DiscCover, a sampling method that Barnett said prevents any pre-release of the fragrance, as well as providing the capability of resealing. DiscCover can be applied to any paper, as well as glass and plastic.
"That means we can bring fragrance sampling to new delivery systems, such as CD jacket covers or scented stickers," said Barnett.
The process has been used for sampling Calvin Klein's CK One fragrance in Tower Records, as well as sampling Ann Taylor's Destination scent on business reply cards, Giorgio Beverly Hills' Wings for Men on billing statements and Mariel by H20 Plus on postcards.
The technology also allows for samplers to be placed in unique spots--such as on bottles or compact discs--to reach people who might not traditionally be looking for samplers in magazines.
"People say they like the fact that magazines have samples, they just don't like to be overwhelmed with the scent," Barnett said.
He said DiscCover has met with publishers' requirements for placement in their magazines. For example, The New York Times Magazine recently approved DiscCover, according to Barnett, who noted that publication puts the samplers through rigorous testing to insure there is no leakage or "pre-odor."
New technologies are also allowing marketers the opportunity to do for skin care and color cosmetics what ScentStrips did for fragrances.
"A number of products on the market require that a consumer be able to see how they feel and smell. This hopefully gives them a memory of the product that they'll remember in the store," said Greenland at Labels.
Labels has come up with a way to sample so-called cosmeceutical products--items that merge skin care with pharmaceuticals. Labels has a packet-style trial vehicle that can be attached to a mailer, bill or point-of-purchase display.
"This way, people can actually feel and smell the product. Tactile senses are very important," Greenland said. "Many of these products work so well that customers can see a difference after just one application. That's enough to encourage them to buy more." Labels also offers fragrance trials and recently created samplers for Christian Dior's launch of Eau Svelte. With shoppers leery of making the wrong color cosmetics choice, sampling has also become a key element in makeup launches.
"There is really a great deal of dissatisfaction in color cosmetics. People really want to try a color before they'll purchase it," said Laura Condolora, director of marketing for ColorPrelude of Greenwich, Conn., adding that too often sample chips aren't accurate replicates of a color.
ColorPrelude has a process that allows for color samples to be affixed to paper while maintaining hygienic safety, she said. The company has created samplers of Guerlain's Terracotta powder, Clinique's Blush Stop and Revlon's Revolutionary eye, cheek and lip color. Amway also uses ColorPrelude for sample pads to be used for demonstrations and as "leave-behinds."
"We create a custom program for each marketer," said Condolora. "Our specialty is creating a sample that looks, feels and performs like the real product."
Condolora added that the samplers are not only good for targeting customers in their homes, but also as a handout in stores, especially those without cosmeticians. When customers can actually try a color, Condolora said, it also cuts down on returns. Retailers said that the increased use of samples is having a positive impact on driving shoppers into stores.
Revlon was particularly singled out for its efforts. The company has shade cards that have helped herald launches such as ColorStay and Age Defying. This fall, Revlon will use ColorPrelude's color-on-paper process to tout new color stories.
"We're seeing more inserts and samples in magazines and mailers and it is working," said Susan Grimshaw, buyer for Kmart Corp. in Troy, Mich. "Cosmetics companies are doing more to get shoppers to come into stores and buy."

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