In last month’s article, TBC took a close look at the evolution of focus groups, and how brands can use this powerful tool to gather critical qualitative data about their products. This month, we turn our attention to other half of this equation: in-home usage studies or beauty product testing groups (BPTs), which put your product into consumer’s hands for the quantitative proof of efficacy that retailers want to see and consumers demand to see.
A powerful way to capture your buyer’s point of view and what she intimately thinks of your product (and more importantly—of using your product), BPTs are a time-tested and vetted process, very much like focus groups, and have been utilized by marketing directors and brand managers for decades. However, unlike a focus group, which is conducted in a controlled setting (such as a testing center), and guided by a moderator, BPTs free up your panelists to interact more organically with your products from the comfort of their own homes, and thus—share far more intimate, targeted feedback—feedback which you can then channel into compelling consumer claims.
Why are consumer claims important? Because they help sell products in today’s competitive “prove it” shopper mindset:
- 94% of Sephora shoppers surveyed say seeing ‘honest feedback from consumers like you’ is important for making a purchase decision and 88% of them say that positive consumer claims are important to their decision.
- 91% of women say consumer claims from women their own age influence their beauty product purchasing decision.
- 91% of women look for strong consumer claims before buying a prestige beauty or personal care product.
Often used to prep products for launch, as well as to breathe new life into existing products via updated consumer claims, BPTs have a traditional process: consumers are given a set of your products to use at home, and then at regular intervals, are sent survey questions which let them self-assess on a whole host of factors including packaging, formulation, texture, scent, and perhaps most importantly—the results they see and that you want to claim. And while it’s great to follow this time-tested method, there are exciting changes coming down the BPT pike that only make for stronger groups, and results.
In the past, where many brands may have gravitated towards BPTs for a general category of topical products, such as cleaners, moisturizers, creams, and serums, today, that categorization has grown exponentially. Now, brands are opting to get every sort of product possible into the homes (and hands) of consumers including electronic personal care/beauty devices and ingestibles to name a few, and with good reason. Devices, in particular, benefit from the kinds of intimate, personal claims and feedback BPTs generate. Exploding in popularity and available for nearly every part of the body, devices are one of the fastest growing beauty segments and today, consumers can purchase devices that address nearly every health or beauty concern, including: cleansing the skin; hair removal/hair growth; age spot/pigment lightening; wrinkle-fighting/anti-aging; devices for well-being; and even devices that deliver mani/pedi benefits, and so much more. And for these products in particular that are often completely foreign to a new user, as well as for ingestibles—another hot category—consumers want to hear how they worked on real people before they plunk down sometimes hundreds of dollars in cash to purchase.
No matter if you are testing a hair removal laser or a feminine care treatment or an anti-aging ingestible, a BPT can be constructed to meet even the most stringent testing protocols, and—give you the kinds of claims that your target audience is seeking.
Take Your Time.
Timing is another aspect of BPTs that has evolved. Previously, brands may have focused on testing one or two products quickly and in short order, in an effort to gather the targeted data as efficiently (and expediently) as possible. Now, it’s not uncommon for brands to slow down, take their time, and conduct BPTs that last three, four—even eight weeks long. Why the shift in timing? A few reasons. One—products with a longer efficacy timeline (such as 56 days) can easily be paired with products that have a shorter efficacy timeline in one test. Case in point: a company has a long-wear mascara, an anti-aging facial skincare serum, and a hair thickening product that they want to test.
Each of these products appeals to the brand’s same target demographic: prestige-beauty buying women, ages 30-65, with anti-aging concerns and concerns about fine and thinning hair. This test can be run on one panel group with products being used in tandem and tested at differing intervals, along with different testing end points. The mascara portion of the test can end after one day. Did the mascara last a full 12 hours without reapplying? Did the bold color last? The anti-aging serum portion of the test can last for 28 days with appropriate “fine lines and wrinkles” claims. Finally, after 56 days does her hair feel fuller? Is there a noticeable difference? Does she feel more confident about her hair and her appearance?
Brands are discovering economies of scale with beauty product testing as well as richer test results.
Prove it’s Better Together – Using Claims to Sell the Set
Another big evolution to beauty product testing is the rise of multi-product or system/set trials that are specifically designed to prove that a ‘set’ of products work better together vs. when used apart, or with other products.
A key part of this kind of trial is careful splitting of panelists into groups that test particular groupings of products in order to garner feedback on how well products do (or do not) work together. For instance, in a test involving a system of three products, group A might use the branded, three-product system, while group B might test two out of the three products, as well as a third, non-brand product. By testing the entire system together, as well as testing components of the system with outside products, brands are able to capture vital consumer feedback that specifically speaks to the system overall. This feedback will not only inform consumer claims, it can also help consumers better understand how the system works, period—and hopefully convince her that your system is going to answer her issues and concerns.
Men in the Mix
Get men into your panelist mix! Although traditionally female beauty consumers have been the sweet spot for brand managers and marketing directors, male consumers are quickly becoming a bigger presence in the beauty landscape overall. And not just for ‘men’s products’ either. The lines are blurring between women and men’s skincare, hair growth/removal products, haircare in general, and even to some extent makeup, which means it’s time to start incorporating a broader consumer sample and—enjoying even more powerful consumer feedback and claims as a result.