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Market Focus: Beauty Product Buyers

August 2004 By Lisa Yorgey Lester
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A Beauty of a Market

Even before Cleopatra made famous her kohl-rimmed eyes, women the world over sought out lotions, creams and powders to put their best face forward. And throughout the centuries, the desire for beauty products has only grown.

The cosmetics industry basically is divided into three categories: skincare, haircare and color cosmetics. Citing research from Datamonitor, Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine puts the total cosmetic industry at $124 billion, with sales expected to top $145 billion by 2005. It also points to skincare and color cosmetics as industry growth areas, with estimated sales of $31 billion and $22.5 billion, respectively.

Many Faces, Many Shades

Frank van der Ree, vice president of marketing at Yves Rocher, a direct marketer of plant-based cosmetics in Exton, Pa., estimates that women ages 15 and older spend on average approximately $342 a year on beauty products.

Demographics point to a decidedly female market, but that’s pretty much where these individuals’ similarities end. Cosmetic buyers are as diverse as the products they buy. Moisturizers, anti-aging preparations, eye makeup, lip color and more are available as natural or chemical-based products, at virtually every price point, for every skin type, and through every sales channel.

So why would companies want to reach women in search of beauty products through a direct channel as opposed to a retail environment?

Although there are some notable exceptions, such as Ulta.com and drugstore.com, that have cashed in on the 24/7 availability of the Internet, many of the beauty products sold via direct channels are not your average drugstore cosmetics. For example, when Bliss launched its catalog in the late 1990s, it did so in part to make available its spa-quality products to customers who couldn’t visit its New York spa.

While selling beauty products via direct channels makes your product available to a larger audience, it does present some hurdles. One of the cosmetics industry’s biggest challenges to selling beauty products via direct channels is overcoming consumer reluctance to purchase fragrances they can’t smell, or shades of cosmetics they can’t see firsthand.

According to Yves Rocher’s van der Ree, the key is to sample products as much as you can. “While samples are by far the most successful,” says van der Ree, his company also uses scent strips in its upfront marketing materials in addition to the product samples inserted in customer packages.

Van der Ree also notes that Yves Rocher makes certain its product descriptions are as accurate and as descriptive as possible.
 
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