As beauty sales in the mass market remain flat or in decline depending on the week, brands that traditionally sell in mass and drug channels are beginning to shift product-launch strategies to favor rollouts to Amazon, e-commerce and specialty retail first.
In July, many key mass makeup brands — think Cover Girl, NYX, Maybelline, Revlon and Wet ‘n’ Wild — rolled out July launches exclusively to Ulta, Walmart and Amazon. Some of these exclusive products were meant to remain exclusive to the retailer, and some were meant to roll out to wide distribution later. Launching products online first or in retailers such as Ulta is one way to introduce trendy, of-the-moment products outside the planogram reset schedules of traditional retailers — especially in the social-media-driven makeup category.
Skin-care sales have not suffered as much in the mass market — while mass makeup and nail sales were flat, mass skin-care was up 6 percent in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 25, according to Nielsen data. Sales growth has largely been driven by basic items adjacent to makeup removal and skin prep, such as cleansers and moisturizers. Despite skin-care category performance, drugstores still have a foot traffic problem as shoppers increasingly shop online and in specialty, and for key mass skin-care launches, going online or to Amazon first is a way to drum up marketing buzz and consumer awareness before hitting drugstore aisles.
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The latest instance is a treatment collection from L’Oréal Paris called Revitalift Derm Intensives, including the 10% Pure Vitamin C Concentrate and 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum. The products, which contain active ingredients that are ubiquitous in prestige but not commonly found in drugstore skin care, are rolling out online and will be available on Amazon and at walmart.com and target.com by Oct 1. They are set to go into wide retail distribution beginning in November.
L’Oréal Paris declined to comment for this story, but Amazon analysts say there are several benefits to launching a mass skin-care product on the platform before rolling it out to drug and mass brick-and-mortar distribution.
“Amazon is not just a sales platform — it’s also a marketing platform,” said Pete Andrews, director of insights at One Click Retail. “If you think about looking at new products on a shelf, one of the first things you do is go on Amazon and see the reviews that are up. If that item is not online and you can’t find any reviews, you’re less trusting of those items. The strategy is, ‘Let’s get our items out there and get some customer reviews on these so that when we launch in store, people can say, ‘Hey, these are great products for these reasons that other people are saying.'”
Mass skin-care in general is a hot category on Amazon. It is the top category within beauty, and sales grew 35 percent in the second quarter of 2018, according to data from One Click Retail. The category’s best-selling products are a mix of drugstore staple products such as Neutrogena Makeup Removing Wipes and Cerave Daily Moisturizing Lotion, and cult items from niche or K-beauty brands, such as Aztec Secret’s Healing Clay and CosRx Pimple Master Patches.
“There’s two types of [skin-care] shoppers,” said Andrews. “One is, ‘I find the product that is best for me and I continue to use that same product over and over again,’ and the other is a person always looking for the next best thing to see what work for their skin. Amazon plays well to both of these shoppers.”
L’Oréal Paris has increasingly emphasized skin care over the past few years, once a less significant part of its business, and is becoming a more formidable player in the category. In 2016, it introduced the Revitalift Bright Reveal Pads, which brought glycolic acid to the mass market, and the Pure Clay clay mask collection — at the time, masks were still very much a prestige-focused trend. The brand has made efforts to appeal to a range of customers — not just Millennials — with items such as the Age Perfect Cell Renewal Rosy Ton Cream, an antiaging product that counts Helen Mirren as a spokeswoman — and the Pure-Sugar scrubs, which are formulated with superfoods and geared toward younger shoppers. L’Oréal Paris sales were up 22.4 percent year-over-year in the moisturizer category, according to IRI data tracking the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12, driven by the Hydra Genius franchise. The brand’s Pure Clay facial cleansers, a 2018 launch, have driven nearly $21 million in sales so far this year, also per IRI.