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Beauty Product Samples in the Age of eCommerce

With consumers purchasing more beauty and skincare products online than at a beauty counter, DTC beauty and skincare brands are shifting their sampling strategies to match.

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Free beauty product samples have long been an industry staple. Frequent Sephora, Ulta or Macy’s shoppers are used to receiving a sample or two with their purchase or even a small makeup bag with several items after making a larger purchase.

With consumers purchasing more beauty and skincare products online than at a beauty counter, DTC beauty and skincare brands are shifting their sampling strategies to match. Instead of waiting for a customer to visit a store, brands can have their products shipped directly to consumers — sometimes at no expense to the brand.

Here is how DTC beauty and skincare brands are getting smart and targeting with their product sampling in the age of eCommerce.

Third-Party Beauty and Skincare Subscription Boxes

In 2010, two Harvard grads started Birchbox, a makeup and skincare subscription box. For $15 a month, Birchbox sends five beauty samples to consumers based on their beauty profiles. Today, they have over 800,000 subscribers and have shipped over 9 million boxes to consumers. They feature brands like Kiehl’s, MAC, Lancôme, La Roche-Posay and more.

Birchbox is not the only game in town. Hundreds of similar subscription boxes have emerged since 2010 to include beauty samples and full-sized products as a package for consumers to buy. In a recent survey of 1,000 men and women, 13% of participants reported currently use a beauty subscription box, while 13% have tried in the past, and nearly 74% have never used it before.

Subscription boxes allow up-and-coming brands to get their products to consumers in their homes and create brand recognition before consumers begin seeking out the brand by name. Since many beauty and skincare subscription boxes are curated by gender, lifestyle and other valuable demographic info, brands have a better chance of getting their product in front of customers most likely to buy.

DTC Curated Sample Packs and Minis

For more established and boutique DTC beauty and skincare brands, eCommerce sampling often happens outside the third-party beauty subscription box. Instead of getting one slot in a subscription box, some brands have established their own sample boxes on their eCommerce websites. These boxes allow consumers new to the brand to try something for the first time or for returning customers to branch out into something new.

Fragrance and beauty brands like Phlur, Kosas Cosmetics, Henry Rose and Supergoop! offer mini sizes and sample packs for consumers to try without committing to the entire product upfront.

“There are a lot of benefits to getting a sample set sent to your home and playing with scents when you’re getting ready in the morning or going out at night,” said Melina Polly, Henry Rose co-founder and CEO, in an interview with Glossy. “You can live with them and then decide which one feels the most right for you.” 

These sample packs are curated and packaged beautifully with artistic boxes and bags. And once a consumer has purchased a sample pack, brands often offer a discount code or credit toward their purchase of the full-size product.

Tag Teaming Luxury Brand Purchases

Pairings are not just for wines and cheeses. They are also available for beauty products and fashion. Some DTC brands are branching out and offering samples as a bonus when customers buy an unrelated product. For example, receiving a sample of the latest Revlon eyeliner shipped separately from an outfit bought at Ruelala.

By gathering data about purchases and browsing history, companies can better understand the types of products that might fit a consumers’ lifestyle. Then, when they purchase a product, a beauty or skincare product that complements their purchase arrives at their doorstep as a welcomed surprise.

The emerging trend in eCommerce sampling is targeting the right customer at the right time and learning more about the consumer efficiently and in greater detail. Instead of getting lost in a random grab bag at a beauty counter, DTC brands have an opportunity to turn a sample into a sale and easily convert potential customers in the future as they learn more about them and their preferences.

Download Scalefast’s latest Beauty Digital Hype Report for insight on more DTC beauty trends.

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