Try-Me-Outs: How Health and Beauty Retailers Are Leveraging This Powerful Tool

A Driver of Purchase

Few women will categorize cosmetics as a non-essential; while beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, it never hurts to look glamorous and/or professional at all times. Most women would also agree that shopping for cosmetics is fun – what is there to not love about trying on different lipstick colors, new shades of eye shadow, or newly-released mascara? There seems to always be an ongoing desire to try something new.

In Southeast Asia, when it comes to mingling and playing with Try-Me-Out’s, shoppers have a number of venues to choose from. Higher-end brand users go shopping malls, where sales assistants are eagerly waiting to rave about the latest line of products.  Seekers of more value-for-money make-up roam the more down-to-earth supermarkets or health & beauty retailers like Boots and Watsons. While department stores create a sophisticated and glamorous environment for their sales, health & beauty retailers do not – so what attracts shoppers to these lower-end stores? Is it just price?

These retailers, which tend to carry more affordable brands compared to department stores, typically group cosmetics in one of their aisles, where a brand is given shelf space of approximately 1 meter in width, by 3 meters in height. Five or more brands are placed next to each other in this space, while a brand’s products are placed on top of each other – if you want to grab that lipstick, you might have to kneel to get it (as it’s shelved just right above the floor).

While this does not sound like the ideal shopping environment that would stimulate purchase, it must be working on some level, as one can always observe girls and women crowding over these makeup stands. So given that the environment is far from perfect, and far from glamorous – what is it that draws the crowds and causes the engagement in these narrow aisles crowded with brands and shoppers?

Health & Beauty Retailers’ Use Of Free Trials

Shoppers are attracted to the ability to try the product freely, without the hassle of talking to sales assistants and listening to recommendations – which is what happens in department stores.

Try-me-outs are a classic technique in-store to stimulate purchase behavior. In the middle to lower-end cosmetics space, it introduces sales opportunities for a number of reasons –

  • For lesser-known brands, it takes away the risk of purchasing products that might not “work” for the user.
  • It encourages users to try out new products or versions of a product that they will not typically buy. It might also encourage shoppers to try something more expensive than the brands they usually buy. Hence shoppers could end up spending more than if they had not had the chance to try it.
  • Because a brand’s products are placed vertically, it gives brands the opportunity to really highlight the products they want shoppers to notice; these key products would be placed at the eye-level, with a sampler to encourage trial.

In today’s changing environment where consumers and shoppers are increasingly influenced by out-of-store stimuli (YouTube reviews, online forums, promotional emails) – and the range of brands vying for attention is seemingly getting bigger every year – it is even more important for brands to grab attention in-store and then close the deal. Marketing managers must ask the key questions about their shoppers, and come up with an in-store marketing mix that will affect and bring about change in the behavior of target shoppers. It looks like certain health & beauty retailers have been successful when it comes to making products accessible – hence getting potential buyers to trial, and then to purchase.

Cosmetics marketers seem to understand how to attract, and how to overcome any barriers to purchase. What barriers are preventing your target shoppers from picking up your brand, and what do you need to do about it?

This blog is found in Course 27: Retail Investment Principles.