Is Consumer Confusion Costing the Premium Beauty Industry?

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‘You can never have too much of a good thing’, so the saying goes. While the sentiment is a nice one, I’m sure there are plenty of fitness professionals, dieticians and doctors who’d beg to differ.

In fact it’s probably fair to say that too much of anything isn’t good for anyone.

The beauty industry provides a case in point. Rather than induce excitement and a feverish will to spend, consumers are overwhelmed by product choice when they walk into any premium beauty hall.

Beauty has always been a bit of a battleground. In no other category can you find so many brands within inches of one another, vying for passing traffic. Every brand is trying to shout over the top of their competitors, creating a cacophony of noise that bombards our senses.

However, in a bid to entice purchase during one of the toughest economic periods in history, beauty brands may have overdone it.

Premium fragrance is one of the worst offenders. According to Michael Edwards’ compendium, Fragrances of the World® 2013, there were 1,330 new fragrances launched onto the market last year. When Edwards first began monitoring launches in 1984, there were just 38.

It’s become a nightmare for retailers, looking to squeeze more and more products on shelves. It’s become an even bigger nightmare for consumers who don’t know where to start looking.

Move over to the premium skincare or make-up counters and it doesn’t get much easier. An over-abundance of new product and multiple variants of the same kind of product put off many consumers before they’ve even reached the counter.

According to Datamonitor, only 1 in 10 consumers notice products launches in-store and this was back in 2012. Does this feel like a good return on your investment?

Like much of the advertising found on the Internet, Consumers have become adept at blanking marketing messages of all kinds out and moving away.

My own experience has taught me that consumers don’t notice product launches if:

• They are unable to differentiate products within an individual range

• They look similar to other brands

• There are too many skusIn this time of confusion, isn’t it time for greater clarity in-store? Shouldn’t the focus now be on paring back on the products presented and focusing more on the customer experience?

Chanel is a great example of how to do it well. When Chanel launch a new line, they never lose focus on their hero brands, such as No.5, which are given prominence at the counter.

They understand that the hero will pull the customer in and provide an opportunity for them to experience the new. Chanel is always consistent and consumers know exactly what they are getting.Some other good examples of stand-out brands that I’ve noticed on my store visits this week include:

Benefit, Carnaby Street:

The products are loud and in-your-face, but arranged in an intuitive manner: top sellers have their own place on counter and are separate from the basics.

Hourglass Cosmetics:

Just launched its first UK concession into John Lewis, Hourglass’ range is pared back in terms of skus and the hero products are presented in bronzed frames.

Liz Earle in Boots:

New counters feature make-up products laid out by product category. Three make-up “looks” highlight individual “hero” items. The fixture is easy to browse and encourages impulse purchase.

No matter how shiny your new ranges are, consumers will only notice your new launch if you give it the platform it deserves. While PR and marketing campaigns remain powerful tools for building awareness of new products, brands must help consumers navigate their ranges in-store if they are to make the most of the time and money that goes into each new product launch.

You can find out how the premium market has changed over the past 10 years in a new report,

10 Years of Premium Beauty, which launches in November. In this report, you will discover in more detail what has led to so much consumer confusion and what you can learn from past trends to help regain clarity in the future.