Post-Covid beauty shoppers prefer touch-and-try to AR

A study conducted by retail innovation agency Outform has found that half of UK consumers cite testing beauty products in-store as a key factor before parting with their cash. This number rises to almost two-thirds (63%) of shoppers aged 25-34, and 58% aged 35-44. 

Physical testing is currently preferred to touchless technologies like augmented reality (AR), where just two in ten (21%) say it’s important. This number rises to 26% for 25-34 year olds.

Samples are also key purchase levers for female consumers at 65%, with make-up sitting above hair and skincare as the most important sample category. 34% of all consumers also say that sampling matters more to them now than it did before the pandemic, and 38% of men now value sampling more than women.

The research found that technology still plays a significant role in purchase decisions, despite the preference for traditional, tactile browsing and purchase methods. A third (33%) of Gen-Zs (aged 18-24) say that online make-up tutorials are important, while 36% use digital in-store displays. 

But when it comes to extracting data from these technologies for a unified customer view online and in-store, there’s still a way to go. 

A quarter (25%) of Baby Boomers, aged 55-64, are open to the idea of sharing data, but say current payoffs like bespoke loyalty benefits aren’t worth it. However, Outform’s research also found that in the UK, Millennials aged 25-34 are the group that value personalisation from health and beauty brands the most, with 43% saying it matters. 

Simon Hathaway, MD EMEA at Outform, says: “Beauty brands were leading innovators during the pandemic. With sensory experiences effectively culled during lockdowns, they quickly pivoted to the next best options, from one-to-one virtual consultations to AR technologies. It was invaluable while shops were closed, but has also been a lifeline for those who were - and still are - more cautious of touch.

“But as the research shows, there is an appetite to reinstate the try-before-you-buy mindset. The next step for brands and retailers who dare to innovate will be turning this into a data touchpoint, so that they have a thorough understanding of customer expectations and habits, from how they shop all the way to their unique beauty regimes.”

The research was conducted by Outform for the agency’s The Changing Face of Health & Beauty report. A total of 2,000 health and beauty consumers were surveyed across the UK, USA and Germany in September 2021.

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