NEW YORK — In a study commissioned by WWD, NPD Beauty interviewed 2,067 women across the U.S. via the Internet about their beauty shopping habits.
The purpose of the study was to provide insight into the changing patterns of women’s preferences. Were they buying cosmetics, fragrances, skin care and hair care products in a favorite store, or were they browsing in different types of retail formats? Have their habits changed in the past five years?
What are their perceptions of different retail channels in terms of retailing beauty? Are they aware of the emergence of a multitude of outlets, including online shopping, in-home catalogues and beauty specialty stores? Are they hopping across channels or have they switched entirely?
These and other questions were asked by NPD, a consumer tracking firm, which also asked women what they looked for in a store. Respondents were queried about their product preferences: how often they make their purchases, what types of beauty products they favor, whether they have a favorite brand and how much will they pay.
These questions were posed to a cross section of women in all sections of the country: 19.4 percent of respondents lived in the Northeast, 22.5 percent in the Midwest, 35.9 percent in the South and 22.3 percent in the West.
The age range of those who said they use beauty products was fairly evenly distributed. The 18- to 24-year-old group accounted for 12 percent of the pool; the 25- to 34-year-old group, for 17.5 percent; the 35- to 44-year-old segment, 19.9 percent; the 45- to 54-year-old group, 19 percent, and those 55 and older, the largest chunk, 31.3 percent.
In terms of annual household income, 25.2 percent of the 2,067 respondents, or 520 women, reported an income of $25,000 or less. Another 443 women, 21.4 percent, come from households with incomes between $25,000 and $44,999. In the $25,000 to $34,999 bracket, there were 265 respondents, or 12.8 percent of the total. Only 8.6 percent of the pool, or 178 respondents, reported incomes ranging from $35,000 to $44,999.
However, 23.2 percent, or 480 women, had household incomes of $45,000 to $74,999; 14.8 percent, or 307 respondents, fell into the $45,000 to $59,999 category.
— Pete Born
As consumers’ shopping patterns change, so do the ways in which beauty firms sell to them.
According to an NPD study conducted earlier this year, nearly half of consumers polled said they did not have a favorite store or brand for fragrances, hair care, skin care or makeup. The meaning is clear: Those who make a concentrated effort to pique those consumers’ interest could well walk away with additional sales — especially as the same study showed that 54 percent of those polled said that they are willing to try a new beauty product from a brand they’ve never heard of. Another 29 percent said that they would try a new beauty product if they have seen or heard of the brand before, and just 17 percent would only be willing to try a new product if they’d used other products from a particular brand.
And plenty of fragrance companies are after that business, especially as strict loyalty to brands is on the wane. “The higher income you get, the less likely you are to lock into brands,” said Paco Underhill, the noted industry analyst and author. “That’s simply the fact that everyone accepts a certain level of quality within the context of our larger consuming culture. I think there are a number of problems with the beauty industry. First, is the continuing focus on youth as opposed to beauty. When someone wakes up and says that’s not me…part of brand loyalty is figuring out who your customers are and communicating directly to them. A lot of the beauty products here are trying to be all things to all people. Marketing is much too crowded to be shouting at everyone, you have to shout at someone specifically.”
Not only that, you have to be careful not to shout at her too soon, suggests Underhill. “If you ask a woman in the beauty section if she wants help in her first minute there, it actually decreases your chances of converting her to a sale,” said Underhill. “One of the key aspects to a consultative selling practice is offering help when it’s needed. As Americans, we want this dichotomy of self-service and service. Which means, ‘Leave me the hell alone.’ On the other hand, when I want it, I’m desperate for it. This is a training issue and the tough part of it in the beauty industry is being able to indoctrinate somebody enough with the brand. [Give them] the knowledge. But be very careful about building a competitive sales culture where somebody is clearly working on commission.”
Fragrances were cited in the NPD study as the one beauty item that women were willing to spend the most on, although they are shopping less frequently for scents than they were five years ago, it revealed. To draw consumers in, several brands are turning to an unusual medium for the beauty category: radio advertising.
Clinique recently signed country singer Julie Roberts and pop/R&B singer Rihanna for a song that will be used in radio ads for the brand’s Happy fragrance brand this fall. The tune, “Just Be Happy,” was written by Ne-Yo. “These girls are the voices of Clinique, not the faces,” said Lynne Greene, global president of Clinique, who noted that the brand partnered with Island/Def Jam records for the effort. “They both sing this song in very distinct and different ways and they will be run as different spots.” The ads are planned for major markets, including New York and Los Angeles. While Greene wouldn’t discuss details, industry sources estimate that the brand will spend upward of $3 million on radio advertising this fall. Clinique is also partnering with Sony Connect to offer free downloads and ring tones of the song.
While the Happy family is no stranger to connecting fragrance to music — at its 1997 launch, Judy Garland’s recording of “Get Happy” was the brand’s signature — Greene likens the new campaign to Madonna’s numerous reinventions. “Madonna is still Madonna in all of her incarnations, she’s just communicating in a different way. That’s what we’re doing by adding a new song and campaign to a 10-year-old fragrance. We’re speaking to customers in a different way — and hopefully drawing in new ones.” Clinique will sample Happy at Rihanna’s tour this year, for which it is a sponsor. Overall, the brand is spending “launch-level support” to repromote the Happy family, Greene said.
Viktor & Rolf’s upcoming new men’s fragrance, Antidote, is also being kicked off with a musical salute, which was previewed at a launch party held by L’Oréal USA, the designers’ fragrance licensee, in June. The song, called “Antidote,” was composed and performed by Rufus Wainwright immediately after his last Carnegie Hall performance. While L’Oréal hasn’t confirmed plans for the song’s use in the future, it could be used for radio or TV advertising or other promotional efforts.
And the efforts aren’t restricted to the prestige side of the business. Cover Girl partnered with the Tom Joyner morning show, a nationally syndicated radio program, to introduce its Queen collection. The brand, fronted by Queen Latifah, was written into the script of the show’s mini soap opera, “Its Your World.”
“Cover Girl’s Queen collection dispelled the myth that you can’t sell cosmetics over the radio,” said Cheryl Hudgins Williams, associate director of global communications for Procter & Gamble Beauty. She added that the success of spots confirmed Cover Girl’s plans to run radio ads for Queen, which will feature Queen Latifah’s voice.
The Internet continues to be an important promotional vehicle, particularly for youth-oriented scents. Elizabeth Arden, one of the first beauty brands to effectively tap into the Internet’s power using e-mail blasts, banner ads and downloads, has used the medium extensively for the launches of its Britney Spears fragrances and is planning to do the same with its upcoming Hilary Duff fragrance. Coty Prestige has also used the strategy for its Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker brands, among others.
“The digital world has brought an explosion of ways to communicate with consumers,” said Marc Pritchard, president, global strategic planning, at Procter & Gamble, during WWD’s Beauty CEO Summit in May, “and that means that we need to look at different strategies of how we need to market to her.” Chief among them are the myriad electronic forms of communication — cable and satellite TV, the Internet and cell phone blasts, in particular. “TV used to be the big three networks, and now it’s cable, satellite, digital — as many as 600 channels,” said Pritchard. “And the Internet was born with Web sites for geeks, but now everybody is online and you can get virtually anything. So think about it this way, it’s simple: Online is no longer the new media, it’s part of the mainstream media.”
In fact, Pritchard noted, “new” media is increasingly the first place consumers are looking for product information — and used one of his teenage daughters as an example. Noting that she spends three or four hours online per day and doesn’t watch TV very often, he added that she always has her cell phone, so that she can text-message and take calls. “So that means on Cover Girl, without a digital strategy, I may not even be having a dialogue with my own daughter,” Pritchard said with a chuckle. “And by the way, it’s not just teens. We’ve done some research, and 30- to 35-year-old soccer moms are consuming media in much the same way.
“Despite the complexity of the digital world, I believe marketing is still fairly simple,” concluded Pritchard. “It’s about the brand, the message and the media. But we need to change how we communicate with consumers.”
— Julie Naughton, with contributions from Andrea Nagel