Nearly three-quarters of US consumers still prefer at-home shopping and product try-ons: Survey

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

© Zak Kendal / Getty Images
© Zak Kendal / Getty Images

Related tags: Online shopping, sampling

Consumer behaviors in shopping and sampling have evolved since 2020, with at-home experiences, new product discovery and hyper-personalization leading the way for beauty and personal care innovation, says a new survey from Sampler.

In July 2021, digital product sampling brand Sampler surveyed over 38,000 North American consumers and found that, while lockdowns lift and retail shopping resumes, 74% of consumers still favor shopping and trying on products at home compared to heading in-store.

“Though the product testing experience might look a little different today, consumers’ desire to sample new products has not only remained strong—it has actually grown with more consumers wanting to sample at home than ever before,”​ explained Marie Chevrier, Founder and CEO of Sampler on what is driving the at-home shopping experience.

“The comfort of the at-home sampling experience really allows consumers to be at ease and inspires trust because they are not only in the driver's seat, but the opportunities for them to have their voice heard through surveys, ratings and reviews, and even user-generated content are endless,” ​she added.

Innovation, investment and immersion

As consumers still crave the ability to try on and shop for products at home, we can expect to see increased innovation and investment from beauty and personal care brands that focus on creating immersive at-home product experiences.

“It is safe to say that things will not be returning to the pre-pandemic normal any time soon—so brands are taking an at-home approach,” ​said Chevrier.

“At-home sampling and shopping for beauty and personal care transforms what was once a high-touch and high-risk interaction into a contactless one that consumers deem safe,” ​she added. At-home product engagement can also deliver a more memorable and intimate experience to beauty consumers.

Sampling calls-to-action (CTA) in digital advertisements is also on the rise. Sampler’s data shows that a free sample incentive on a brand’s website or advertisement drives a 7-times higher conversion rate to its email list or customer relationship management (CRM) system than a digital advertisement or CTA with no incentive.

“Brands are achieving the same, or better, acquisition metrics by re-investing their media spend in sampling CTAs—all while having their target consumer actually experience the value of the product at home,” ​said Chevrier.

Personal care aligns with at-home products

Ample opportunities exist in the beauty and personal care sampling market, as they particularly resonate with consumers.

“Personal care products are best experienced in the comfort of one's home,” ​said Chevrier. “Think about shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, or hygiene products—trial doesn't generally happen for these categories in-store or at the point of purchase.”​ Even if personal care products are distributed at an experiential event, consumers still take these home to try them.

“The problem for brands here is that they end up relying on the consumer to transport the product home and to not lose it or dispose of it,” ​stated Chevrier. To overcome this obstacle, brands like Sampler offer consumers the ability to opt-in and choose to trial products, which indicates their intent and interest in the product.

Perfumes and color cosmetics are two beauty and personal care categories that Chevrier noted “were once extremely effective at sampling in-store but have had to pivot to at-home sampling”.

In today’s beauty and personal care landscape, health and safety via touchless and at-home solutions have become paramount. “Hygiene concerns have forced beauty retailers to halt in-store trials for these categories,”​ she said. “So we are really seeing every category in beauty and personal care really investing in direct-to-home sampling.”

The study’s main findings

Marie Chevrier, Founder and CEO of Sampler details the key results from the brand’s research into consumer behavior and preferences about product sampling and shopping experiences:

  • 76% said to discover new products they normally wouldn’t buy when asked for the primary reason they sign up to receive samples at home. In 2020, this number was 70%.
  • 74% of respondents said they prefer shopping and trying products at home over in-store when asked where they prefer to sample and shop for products. In 2020, this figure was 94%.
  • 51% of respondents said affordability over easy to find, local brand, quality and
  • organizational values when asked what is the most important factor when making a purchase.
  • 51% of respondents said makeup when asked what products they are buying in-store.
  • 44% said a selection of products that closely match their lifestyle over an attractive and fun boxing experience, a coupon for a full-size product, a surprise gift or brand communications when asked what is the most important factor when receiving a box of product samples from a brand.
  • 85% said coupons when asked what drives them to purchase a product they sampled.

Brands amp up omnichannel offerings

Digital brings current opportunities to brands by allowing them to map out sophisticated and hyper-personalized shopper journeys.

“In 2022, we will see more and more beauty and personal care brands investing in frictionless omnichannel shopping experiences that meet consumers, and their interests, exactly where they are,” ​said Chevrier.

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