Till a few months ago, beauty and cosmetics brands thrived on the mantra of ‘try before you buy’ to reach out to customers and drive sales. “It enables a better understanding of the product with reference to texture, colour, scent, etc, thereby decreasing the degree of uncertainty… the prospective buyer can try the product firsthand and then make a purchase decision,” says Abhishek Bhattacharya, Country Director, KIKO Milano, an Italian makeup and skincare brand.
However, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the in-store experience has undergone a drastic change as physical touch and using common testers has become tricky due to the norms of social distancing. Many brands have removed testers and suspended makeovers and demonstrations in stores.
Some brands, including The Body Shop, are now providing sealed samples and makeup swatches to customers in the stores and also with online orders. “We have invested in live chat assistance with our brand experts and tips and tutorials are readily available to our audience via our social media channels. With the e-commerce revolution in beauty, consumers have become more comfortable buying makeup online,” says Vishal Chaturvedi, Vice President – Retail, The Body Shop Asia South.
Talking about the usual philosophy behind offering samples (which has been discontinued now), he adds, “Sampling gives an opportunity to reach the target consumers by providing him/her a teaser of the products, its USP and benefits. It drives numbers at the point of purchase and boosts sales. Everyone loves a freebie, and offering product sampling is often the difference-maker that can allow brands to convert customers into loyal brand followers.”
“Due to the general aversion to stepping out, footfalls in stores continue to be on the lower side. However, our customers have really rallied behind our home delivery and curbside pickup services and these orders account for an overwhelming majority of our store sales… We are also making a strong sampling push online by providing complimentary samples on every order,” said Antara Kundu, Marketing Head, The Body Shop Asia South.
In post-COVID times, Gaurav Singh, MD of Khadi Natural Healthcare, notes, “There has been a considerable dip in our offline sales. Initially, since all offline stores were shut, there were no sales. Even now, consumers are still hesitant to go out and buy products, so it is difficult to gain those numbers back from store sales.” However, buying online also has its advantages, as customers can go through the reviews and then choose products, which can’t be done in an offline model, he says, adding that online sales have increased by 12 per cent in the last few months.
“COVID-19 has brought two major shifts in customer behaviour: the reluctance to shop in a crowded store and increased propensity towards digital,” says Neha Rawla, Head, Brand Communications, Forest Essentials. “However, our physical stores will continue to function as fulfilment centres and a vital component of omnichannel fulfilment in a post-COVID world,” she said.
In the absence of touch and feel the experience at the stores, Forest Essentials is leveraging visual mediums like Instagram and YouTube to show consumers product textures, benefits and application methods. “We have also introduced a new ‘Speak to Your Store’ feature on our website, through which customers can connect with in-store staff or experts over a call or video call them and make the most of a personalised shopping experience,” she says.