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Makeup, Fragrance Brands Drive Sampling Evolution

From digital sampling to modified business models, brands in categories more focused on experience are finding new ways to reach consumers.

Categories dependent on try before you buy are rethinking how to get products into consumers’ hands.

As traditional methods channels for product samples — magazines, and in-store opportunities — have fallen by the wayside, brands are finding new ways to make their products accessible to consumers with minimal cost.

Abeo, a digital sampling firm and part of Arcade Beauty, has seen a steady lift in digital sampling programs for beauty brands. “Digital and social sampling is a new channel, but it’s growing quite quickly,” said Larry Berman, senior vice president of sales, North America at Arcade Beauty. “Magazines were the biggest distribution channel for sampling. Because the demand for magazines is not as great as it once was, we’ve seen a shift in sampling from magazines to in-store and e-commerce,” Berman said.

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According to a case study on Abeo’s website, when the company spearheaded a digital sampling campaign for L’Oréal Paris’ Infallible Fresh Wear 24HR Foundation, it reached 88 percent non-L’Oréal Paris customers. Moreover, 82 percent of customers who interacted with the email — which had a 39 percent click-through rate — expressed intent to buy.

Brands have more to benefit than just sales gains. “You’re reaching a specific audience, you’re collecting data on that audience, and the cost per acquisition is around $3 per customer. You’re getting that sample into consumers’ homes, so even if they aren’t going in-store, there’s that experiential component at home,” said Allie Sorensen, senior vice president of digital sales and marketing at Abeo.

Sampling isn’t the only way to get products into consumers’ hands. Snif, a d-to-c fragrance brand that launched last year, gives a try-before-you-buy option on all of its fragrances, which make up 80 percent of the brand’s orders. As previously reported by WWD, industry sources estimate the brand’s sales to reach $3 million in its first year on the market.

“The reason why other companies haven’t really cracked the code of how to sell fragrance successfully online is that it’s something you need to smell in real life,” said Phil Riportella, cofounder of Snif. “We need to remove every pain point of buying fragrance online, of which there are many.”

The brand’s value proposition is focused on convenience, given that consumers can try scents with no collateral. “The biggest lever that we have is that we convince people that there is no commitment for them. It costs nothing to try and buy our fragrances, and to have our products shipped for you to try and experience yourself,” said Bryan Edwards, cofounder. Edwards added that they are eyeing adjacent categories for expansion, all of which will follow the same try-before-you-buy model.

Other categories with tactile products, like makeup, are shifting their sampling strategies. MOB Beauty, a makeup brand that launched direct-to-consumer earlier this year, is introducing samples on its website. True to its ecologically conscious ethos — its full-size products are all recyclable and refillable — the samples, which come in the brand’s full range of 65 shades, are recyclable.

Clean makeup brand Kosas also introduced sample kits for $35 on its website earlier this week, which its founder, Sheena Yaitanes, said was purely a response to consumer demand. “Consistently, the number-one feedback we get is, ‘I need help finding my shade,’ or ‘I can’t find my shade,’ or ‘how can I match my shades? Do you guys have samples?’” she said.

“The messaging around it is really about taking the risk out of buying complexion products,” Yaitanes continued. “You don’t have to guess anymore, you know you’re choosing the right shade, you can do it comfortably from home, and you get a credit for every dollar you spend on sampling.”

Even with the samples launching d-to-c, the brand said its retail partners stand to benefit from increased trials and exposure. “Driving sampling on our own website will ultimately still drive buys in Sephora, our number-one partner. And we just want to meet [our consumer] where she is,” said Adeline Leong, chief marketing officer of Kosas.

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