PowerReviews survey underscores the importance of product reviews and sampling

By Cassandra Stern & Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

© Blue Planet Studio / Getty Images
© Blue Planet Studio / Getty Images

Related tags online retail e-commerce Consumer trends reviews

A new survey focusing on beauty consumer trends from PowerReviews underscores the importance of securing good online product ratings and reviews, while also pointing to the importance of hitting the right spot with sampling, including finding the right partner to help provide that sampling.

CosmeticsDesign-USA (CDU) spoke to Andrew Smith (AS), Vice President of Marketing, PowerReviews to find out more about how the PowerReviews Health and Beauty Shopping Trends in 2023​ was conducted, its key findings and what it all means to beauty industry manufacturers and suppliers.

The first part of this two part article series​ pointed to the fact that despite the cost of living crisis, certain consumers groups are still increasing their beauty spend. The survey involved 26,340 US consumers and was carried out in May 2023 with the goal of discovering how consumers browse and buy online – and the key factors that influence their purchase decisions. This research is an update of the survey report from the previous year: Meeting Beauty Shopper Digital Expectations in a Post-Pandemic World​.

CDU: What are the best practices to attract the new generation of beauty consumers who rely on product sampling and reviews?

AS: The majority of brands and retailers recognize the huge role ratings and reviews play in the purchase journey. Ratings and reviews have actually become the top factor impacting purchase decisions, surpassing other elements including price, free shipping and brand.

The concept of product sampling isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s an age-old strategy employed by brands and retailers to get people to try a product – with the hope they’ll love it so much they’ll purchase it on their own when the sample runs out. For example, pre-COVID, a beverage brand might distribute free samples of a new product at the grocery store. Or a CPG brand may mail out samples of a new laundry detergent to try to get consumers hooked.

Product sampling for reviews is a similar concept – with a different end goal. Start by sending out free samples of a product to a specific audience. The product can be as small as a travel-size toothpaste or as large as a vacuum cleaner. And it doesn’t have to be the product itself; it could also be a coupon or gift card that the consumer redeems for a free product in a store.

After the consumers have had a chance to try out the product, ask them to share their honest opinion by writing a review. Those consumers can also include a photo or video of the product in action as part of their reviews.

The best practices steps include setting a solid goal, sending out the right number of samples using the right sampling partner, targeting the right audience, maintaining the right level of communications cadence, having tools to measure campaign performance and to identify actionable insights and having authenticity and transparency.

CDU: How can cosmetics and personal care product manufacturers best use reviews and beauty product sampling practices to improve ingredients for product formulations?

AS: PowerReviews research has found that increasingly, shoppers seek out brands and products that align with their values, and when it comes to beauty products, there’s a large focus on the ingredients that are in them. 80% of consumers say it’s at least somewhat important to them that the product in question is “clean” – being sustainably made with natural ingredients. While nearly half (48%) say it’s important that a beauty product they’re considering is vegan.

Cosmetic and personal care manufacturers that heed such survey results and formulate products accordingly could realize improved reviews and increased sales.

CDU: Why have product rating and reviews become so vital?

AS: Throughout the pandemic and even now in a down economy, beauty as a sector continues to do well despite the fact that many shoppers are tightening their belts on discretionary purchases; 29% of consumers are spending more than $200 per month on beauty, up from 15% a year ago.

Ratings and reviews top the list of factors impacting beauty shopping behavior. In fact, beauty shoppers have come to depend on this content throughout the purchase journey. At the top of the funnel the majority of consumers use ratings and reviews to discover new beauty products, and 70% of beauty shoppers use this content to learn about products they’ve never purchased before. In addition, ratings and reviews are the factor consumers trust the most. 89% indicate they trust ratings and reviews when it comes to deciding whether or not to buy beauty products.

It’s becoming important for beauty brands – even those who sell exclusively indirectly through retailers – to have a robust online presence. Fewer than a third of US shoppers turn to department stores’ websites (31%) or brick-and-mortar locations (24%) when conducting beauty research, according to our survey.

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