One of my favorite aspects of being a cosmetic chemist is shopping! Yes, that’s right, shopping is a very important part of the job. Shopping allows you to identify trends, keep up on competitive intelligence, and look for opportunities to fill an unmet need. Here are some tips to get the most out of your shopping experience.
How to shop like a cosmetic chemist
NEW! – Look for this word on the label. Companies can only market a product with the word NEW on the label for a limited amount of time, but they take full advantage of the opportunity to use it to get your attention while they can. New products, mean new formulas, and new ideas.
Visit a variety of stores — Shop your local grocery chain, drugstore chains, specific beauty stores, etc. Some stores may have exclusivity to certain products and shopping high-end locations can also clue you in to trends and ingredients stories that can trickle down to mass.
Location, location, location — You should shop in different neighborhoods and, if you can, shop when you travel. Consumer preferences and habits vary by demographics and psychographics. This will give you more insight into what people want.
The claim game — What cosmetic claims are other products making? Consider what you know about instrumentation and testing for cosmetics. Can you bust these claims as puffery or figure out a way to beat the claim with your product development skills? Either way, it’s a learning opportunity.
Compare costs — Look at the cost of a product and analyze it per ounce to estimate cost per pound. As you begin to develop a sense of raw material costs and ingredients levels, you can make some judgment about what’s driving pricing strategy. If a product is on sale or discounted, note the difference in pricing. Discounts are offered to help generate interest in a new product or to help turn, or move a product through inventory, faster. Discounts are also used to move a discontinued product.
Mind the gap — Is there anything your product line is missing? Some consumers buy a regimen of products, so is a competitor offering more than you are? Or are they missing a key product that you can add?
Observe — Take time to watch your consumers, of course you don’t want to be obvious. Do consumers quickly grab a favorite product, scan the shelves for products on sale, or pick up packages to read and compare labels? What grabs their attention? You can also ask consumers what they recommend; most people are more than happy to tell you what they think.
Explore the whole store — Don’t only focus on your product category. Innovative ingredients can have very unique applications in different product categories. Also, technology and trends can transcend from food & beverage, clothing, etc.
Don’t underestimate online shopping — Unlike brick and mortar outlets, online sites post reviews, show you top sellers, and often offer free samples so you don’t have to commit to purchasing a full size product. A couple of the best sites for finding competitive products online are Amazon.com, Drugstore.com, and eBay.com.
Are you a fan of shopping for cosmetic products? What stores do you like best?