The Number 1 Factor Driving Skincare Brand Choice

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There are many factors that attract women to the beauty products they buy. In skincare, however, there is one factor that has always eclipsed all others.

Something that takes time and patience. Something that has to be earned and can't be bought.That thing is TRUST.

It's not surprising then, that the skincare giants, Olay, Estée Lauder, Clarins, Clinique and Lancôme, have stood the test of time. They continue to be brand leaders, even as their competition has grown.

And it's not hard to see why.

They have invested substantially in gaining the trust of their customers – and it’s an on-going process.

Many new brands continue to fall by the wayside because they fail to grasp these fundamental principles.

They expect customers to flock to them and love their products just by simply being there. But with minimal support and commitment to building trust, they fail to make their mark.

Today, there are dozens more new skincare brands looking for a piece of the action. There have been notable successes, including Pai Skincare, Trilogy, Korres and Philosophy.

Like the established, successful brands before them, they have invested in building strong, trusting relationships with their customers.

But is it enough?

What are they doing now to build and maintain that trust?

To find out, we interviewed 1,000 women to discover what influences them to purchase skincare and their attitudes towards the promises made on their packaging.

We found that skincare is a minefield for consumers.

They continue to want the best products for their skin but struggle to make sense of the conflicting advice and claims.

Through the survey, we got to the heart of the kind of questions women ask themselves when choosing a new skincare brand or product:

  • Do the claims stack up?

  • If I spend more on a premium brand, will it live up to my expectations?

  • Should I believe the reviews I read in magazines, and newspapers?

  • Are blogger recommendations more trustworthy?

  • Or am I better off asking my friends what they use?

Here are 4 insights we discovered from the research:

Women are more likely to trust the recommendation of a friend or family member than anything they read in magazines, blogs or on social media.

This may come as a surprise, but does not mean that brands should ditch their media budget. Nor does it mean they need to make a stark choice between traditional print channels and the new wave of digital channels.

Brands should be thinking about how they build one-to-one relationships with their customers and make each and every one into a brand advocate who is happy to spread the word.

And to do this, they need to use all channels at their disposal. It means moving away from a broadcast mindset towards direct communication.

Peer recommendation is crucial to millennials’ decision to buy skincare.

We hear so much about millennials’ engagement with all things digital, but this isn’t the case when it comes to skincare.

Throwing your entire media budget at digital campaigns simply won’t work. Millennials aren’t going to buy just because of what you tell them.

They are far more likely to talk to their friends, compare products and buy the products they like and are using - than search around on social media for advice.

The majority of women are lukewarm about skincare claims.

Skincare claims are a contentious issue for brands.They are necessary for brand building, but can also build false hope and expectation in the performance of products.

This disconnect between brand and consumer leads to disappointment and lack of that all important trust in brand credentials.

A famous example of how over claiming has backfired is skincare brand Rodial.

In 2011, the company made excessive performance claims for its Glamoxy Snake Serum, Boob Tube and Glamtox Sticks, in the product description section of its website.

Quite a number of consumers took umbrage and the case was referred to the Advertising Standards Authority who ordered Rodial to remove these claims.You can only wonder at the negative impact on brand perception as trust waned throughout their community of customers and prospective customers alike.

A substantial percentage of women actually find scientific claims in advertising to be misleading.

Today, consumers are a lot more knowledgeable about the marketing methods of brands. They know when brands aren't giving them the whole story and when they are trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

There have been numerous examples of major skincare brands pulled up by the ASA for digitally enhancing advertising images to create a misleading impression of the effect a product can achieve.

They include many of the brand giants that I referred to earlier - Clinique Even Better Eyes Cream, P&G Olay Definity and L’Oreal Revitalift 10.

Interestingly, the demographic that is most sceptical is women over 55.

This is important because our research also points to this age group as being the most likely to experiment with different types of skincare product.

Doing your best to stand out from the crowd and wow your market is key but not if it creates a barrier between you and your best prospects for new, loyal customers.

The skincare industry has one of the biggest growth opportunities in its grasp – but who has the guts to take it? The Skincare Report is the 2nd in the Premium Market Report series of in-depth sector studies.It launches on June 20th and takes a deep dive into these skincare issues and much more.

To get a more detailed overview of what is included in the report click here.

Image by James Frith, Suspension of Disbelief