Study: Habits of Beauty Shoppers Decoded

Where are consumers shopping for cosmetics? And what influences a beauty purchase? New research sheds light on retail preferences and behaviour




In an ongoing survey of 1,200 U.S. adults, The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research study the behaviour of beauty shoppers, paying particular attention to where they buy, how they’re shopping and their expectations of service, quality and price, on both a brand and retail level. Here, some surprising results from their most recent survey.

Mass Retailers: Still Number One

Mass retailers are the go-to destination for beauty consumers: 42.5 percent of shoppers seek their beauty needs from these locations, thanks to their large product assortment and affordable price points. Although mass retail holds the top spot, the research report notes that shoppers “haven’t quite latched on to the idea of ‘mass-tige.’” They continue to search for their upscale beauty needs at department stores.

Now, 7.6 percent of survey takers (up from 2.5 percent in 2013) say department stores are where they most often shop for beauty—citing the availability of high-quality product and the sensorial experience (being able to try before they buy) as their reasons.

Some shoppers still head to dollar stores in search of their beauty buys, but traffic has decreased since 2013. Less than 10 percent of dollar-store shoppers felt these locations carried quality products, had friendly staff or provided a pleasant retail environment.

When Do Shoppers Replenish?

While trends are driven by the changes in season, a mere 2 percent of shoppers stated that a seasonal transition triggers their decision to make a beauty purchase. Rather, 38.2 percent of shoppers reveal that they make their purchases when their current stock of a product runs low. More than 12 percent of shoppers will wait until they are completely out of a product before repurchasing.

Unexpectedly, the survey found that deals and promotions have a relatively small impact on triggering a purchase, with just 8.8 percent of shoppers naming sales as a deciding factor. (However, sales do influence consumers’ willingness to try a new product; see below.) So which products are consumers most influenced to purchase at sale price? At 13.7 percent, shampoo and conditioners take the lead, followed by skincare at 12.1 percent.

In-Store vs. Online Shopping

Once shoppers decide to make a purchase, they’re still heading directly to stores versus ordering online. The survey also noted that overall, few shoppers turn to the web to research what products are best for them; however, they’re most likely to do Internet research prior to purchasing when it comes to skincare and fragrance. Search engines are the most popular tool for beauty product research, whereas social media (including Twitter) ranked as the least used resource. Even with the overall preference for in-store buying, purchases in the beauty category doubled on in 2014.

What Inspires Shoppers to Try Something New?

When it comes to buying a beauty product they haven’t used before, 49.1 percent of shoppers are influenced to do so by free samples, while sales and coupons in the mail follow closely behind at 39.4 percent and 38.6 percent, respectively.

Among the product types that consumers bought simply because they wanted something new, fragrance and lipstick/gloss are the most common. On the flip side, people are least likely to experiment with deodorant and haircare just for the sake of trying something new.

Click here to read the full report.