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Poll: Shoppers prefer stores to online for beauty

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Consumers say they like to see and sample in person

NEW YORK — Despite U.S. consumers’ ever-tightening embrace of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores still trump digital channels when it comes to grooming and cosmetics purchases, according to The Harris Poll.

this-beauty-shoppers_cosmetics_rite-aidAbout nine in 10 consumers shop in person for hair styling products (91%), shampoos and conditioners (91%), cosmetics (90%), non-sunscreen products with SPF protection (89%), and sunscreen (87%), according to a Harris Poll survey of more than 2,200 U.S. adults. Approximately half of cosmetics (50%) and facial/skin care product (49%) buyers also cited retail stores as their top venue for these purchases.

The big advantage for brick-and-mortar stores: Product is right there for beauty shoppers to see and sample, Harris Poll noted. Of those surveyed, 66% said they’re more likely to buy health or cosmetic products in person when there are new products they want to try.

Beauty care items — particularly cosmetics — also may be better-suited for in-store purchases, Harris Poll said. Fifty-seven percent of respondents agreed that since computer screen colors vary, it’s important to buy products in person when buying for the first time. Similarly, 30% of consumers said they like to have a store associate show how to use a cosmetic product correctly when shopping in person.

For all of the cosmetic and beauty categories addressed in the Harris survey, big-box retailers were cited by consumers the top purchase location. Most buyers of hair styling products (59%), shampoos/conditioners (59%), non-sunscreen products with SPF protection (57%), sunscreen (56%) and hair coloring (51%) said they go to big-box stores for these items.

Pharmacies and supermarkets rounded out the top three purchase locations for beauty offerings, including shampoos/conditioners, facial/skin care, sunscreen, non-sunscreen SPF products, hair coloring, and hair styling.

Cosmetics showed much greater variety in purchase locations than other beauty products, the poll showed. Half of shoppers surveyed named big-box stores as their leading venue for buying cosmetics, followed by pharmacies (39%), department stores (23%), specialty beauty retailers (23%) and online specialty beauty merchants (22%).

Yet price commands more consumer loyalty than location for beauty products. Of those polled by Harris, 87% said that once they find a product they like, they’ll buy it wherever they can get the best price.

The online channel is most popular for cosmetics (cited by 40% of respondents) and facial/skin care products (34%), according to Harris Poll. Nearly three in 10 shoppers also go online to buy hair styling (29%), hair coloring (28%) and non-sunscreen SPF (28%) products. Online channels are less popular for sunscreen (22%) and shampoo and/or conditioner (17%) purchases.

One key perk for online retail venues: customer feedback. Almost six in 10 of shoppers surveyed (57%) said they like to see cosmetics or grooming product reviews online.

Mass merchandisers were the most popular online channel for most of the product categories in the Harris survey. Mass merchants’ online stores were cited as the chief buying venue for facial/skin care products (19%), non-sunscreen products with SPF protection (15%), sunscreen (15%), hair styling products (14%), hair color products (12%), and shampoos and/or conditioners (12%). However, specialty beauty retailers were the most-cited online destination (22%) for cosmetics purchases.

Still, 16% of consumers said they’re buying more from online mass merchants than they were two to three years ago.


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