A veteran beauty consultant and a youth marketing expert saw an opportunity in social media and teamed up to create Free Beauty Samples. The company, which samples and markets new beauty brands and products through Facebook, is a joint venture between beauty consulting firm Excelsior Beauty of Paris and youth marketer Archrival of Lincoln, Neb.
A test in April with 500 participants garnered reviews from about 10 percent of the participants and purchases from 1 percent. The cost is 30 to 50 cents a customer.
“We’re getting samples out, generating leads for potential sales, there’s the viral advertising aspect, and also the market research part of it,” said Excelsior Beauty chief operating officer Nick Hudson. Omaha-based Free Beauty Samples can share customer feedback with clients, and gauge the popularity of a new product against others based on recommendations. Sales that originate on Facebook and are completed online may be traced, or a company can send out an 800 number with its samples.
Free Beauty Samples began with a profile, an application and ads on Facebook. The ads appeared on the profiles of women 18 and over who listed relevant keywords such as “beauty,” “fashion,” and “skin care” in their interests.
“We wanted to get people with a strong interest in beauty,” said Archrival partner and creative director Charles Hull.
Clicking on an ad takes the surfer to the application page, where they register with their address and skin type. They can send the application to friends. Then Free Beauty Samples sends out three samples in a high-quality red envelope, and several weeks later e-mails recipients to ask them to review the products. Reviews are posted on the reviewer’s profile and appear on the news feed friends see. Friends can click on the review to join.
The company also has a Facebook profile where fans can post comments and see company news.
Trial samples came from Nia 24, Canyon Ranch Your Transformation, Dr. Denese, Lea Journo, La Fleur Organique and The Faceshop.
Most sampling is done in stores, and sales are not easy to trace. Brands also offer samples on their own Web sites. Free Beauty Samples plans to do more tests in the coming months and is talking to potential clients.
Archrival’s clients include Red Bull and State Farm. Before cofounding Excelsior in 2005, Hudson worked for Boots as vice president of business development.