Testing Before Buying Works Well at Mass

 

The mass market has always struggled with selling colors in a self-service environment. Too many times, women might pick up a blister-carded blush or lipstick and be disappointed when they got home when the shade didn’t look good on them. Rite Aid was among the first to offer at least one solution — in the form of a money-back guarantee. It is estimated that shrinkage from returned cosmetics is as high as 10 percent of sales — an annoyance for both retailers and shoppers.

 

Now there is another option, and manufacturers such as L’Oréal are jumping onto it to help women virtually try on colors in stores. There are a number of systems coming on to the market that offer “virtual makeovers.” One system currently being tried at mass retail is called EZface. It functions as a virtual mirror that can be affixed to wall fixtures near color offerings. A shopper can get an image of her face, scan a color product and “see” how that color looks on her. The computer also makes suggestions of other colors to try. For example, a different foundation shade can be recommended based on the woman’s skin tones. EZface was tested in Boots last year and is currently in a three-month try at a few Wal-Mart Stores.

 

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It was created by a woman frustrated that shades didn’t look good once she got home. And, although it solves the self-service shade issue, the kiosk has huge potential in giving retailers suggestions on what consumers are looking at and their shopping preferences. It can also help cross-sell, say, matching eye and lip colors. Now EZface has been extending the software to include hair color. Women can see how different shades look with their skin tones in the store and avoid actually getting a bad color.

 

Computers and kiosks have been tried in mass stores before with mixed results. In-store associates sometimes turned them off if they got annoying. Often shoppers didn’t take time to play with them. However, the technology used in EZface and by competitors such as Taaz perhaps represent a true breakthrough in bringing expertise to the mass shelf. The Wal-Mart test will be closely watched in the U.S. as the chain gives the system a road test in a mixture of markets including rural and urban, affluent and budget.

 

 

 

People, Places and Things

 

A few words with Joe Campinell, president of L’Oréal USA. WWD’s Andrea Nagel put some of retailers’ top questions to Campinell, especially about the decision to halt BOGOs.

 

WWD: Some retailers said L’Oréal’s new corporate promotional strategy, which is to stop BOGOs, for example, may put your share at risk.

 

J.C.: “Let me put it this way: There were many skeptics about the decision to adjust our promotional spending and to eliminate some of the very healthy promotional tactics that we use. And I understand that. But we have done this before. I did it way back with the hair color war days. We called them sizzle events. But we do other things. The area where we have been most disciplined and rigorous in cutting out the giveaways has been in cosmetics, and the business that [was] the most successful the first half of this year is cosmetics.”

 

WWD: Some retailers have mentioned that L’Oréal’s just-in-time shipping method is leading to out-of-stocks. Can you address this?

 

J.C.: “No, it hasn’t affected us. I think what affects retailers is many of them are adjusting to the upward [sales trend] of the categories. You’re trying to manage your costs, your inventory, your categories, and not produce as much inventory, so that when business is good, you have to scramble to recover. The retailers are trying not to hold as much inventory, the manufacturers are trying not to hold as much inventory, so when something sells, you can’t stock it fast enough. That hasn’t affected us. Yes, we have had issues with products selling well, like Lasting Drama, that we couldn’t keep in stock, but no more us than others. And we have a better performance this year than we have had in past years.”

 

 

 

What’s in Store

 

Rite Aid’s New COO: Rite Aid promoted industry veteran Ken Martindale, formerly senior executive vice president of merchandising, marketing and logistics, to chief operating officer. He assumes the position from John Standley, who, as previously announced, was promoted from president and chief operating officer to president and chief executive officer following the company’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

 

AXE New Promotion: Unilever’s AXE men’s grooming brand is using a mobile 2-D barcode technology from JAGTAG to help drive a marketing campaign for the launch of its new AXE Twist products. JAGTAG mobile bar codes appear in AXE Twist marketing efforts promoting exclusive content from the AXE Twisted Humor Tour, presented by “Funny or Die” and at college campuses. To reach the AXE target demographic, men ages 18 to 24, JAGTAG mobile bar codes will be featured across multiple media channels, including print inserts within nine national men’s magazines, such as GQ, Maxim and Men’s Fitness, in sample packs distributed at college campuses, in handouts and signage in movie theaters and at Six Flags theme parks nationwide.

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