Beauty on a Budget
With consumers around the world cutting back on discretionary expenses during the recession, Nielsen probed consumers’ attitudes towards health and beauty (H&B) products—where they purchased them and what factors went into their buying decisions—as part of its Global Online Survey of more than 27,000 people across 55 countries in the first quarter of 2010. And while views and habits differ by region, there’s one thing in common: people continue to place importance on looking good and feeling their best.
Virtually all online survey respondents in Latin America (96%) and Asia Pacific (92%) said they purchased H&B products, along with 90% of people around the world who made up the global average. But what prompts consumers to stock their cabinets with make-up, fragrances and personal care items?
For 44% of global respondents, it was the lure of the product’s promise. A pragmatic 69% of respondents said they were influenced by price, while 58% said they bought as a result of a personal recommendation. Magazine articles, Internet buzz and traditional ads all factored into the purchase equation as well.
Product samples helped about half of consumers along the buying path, as did the suggestion of a partner. But aside from price, the reason most consumers (65%) offered up for buying health and beauty products was the influence of their preferred brand.
Half of Asia Pacific respondents indicated that the Internet was a purchasing influence—the highest percent of any region. These consumers were also swayed by magazine articles (45%) and advertising campaigns (44%) more than other region. Conversely, European and North American beauty product choices were the least influenced by print and television ads, magazine editorial or the Internet and were most influenced by price; 82% of North Americans and 70% of Europeans agreed that price was a key determining factor.
Latin Americans said they were most persuaded by their preferred brand (72%) and free samples (60%). Middle Eastern survey takers reported the most balanced responses, giving fairly equal weight across all influencers. They were, however, least influenced by the product’s promise (36%) and most by their preferred brand (63%).
Far and away, supermarkets were the format of choice for 60% of global respondents, with the drugstore/chemist/pharmacy a distant second destination at 39%, specialty stores in third place at 33% and the Internet trailing at 22%.
Asia Pacific shoppers scored the highest of any region (33%) to say they shop the Internet for health and beauty products—more than double Europeans (15%), Latin Americans (14%), North Americans (11%) and Middle Easterners (9%). Specialty stores were the destination of choice for 40% of Latin American and Asia Pacific shoppers and 95% of Middle Eastern shoppers say they buy health and beauty products from just two channels—supermarkets (56%) and drugstores (39%).
Mass vs. Premium: Looking Good Enough
A question for the ages: can mass market cosmetics successfully sell against more expensive, premium brands in such an image-intensive category tied to personal vanity and ego? Yes, although the degree of success varies by product type. Global results for hair products showed that 81% of online respondents think mass market hair products are a viable alternative, while 75% find mass market skincare products acceptable, and 72% believed mass market cosmetics were suitable.
North American respondents were the most positive about mass-market health and beauty products, viewing them as good substitutes, while Middle Eastern and Asia Pacific survey takers were the least enamored with the off-market products.
In almost all Latin American countries included in this survey, sales for personal care products reported volume increases during the latest rolling year ending June 2010 versus year ago: Chile +7.2%, Argentina +4.7%, Brazil +3.4%, Mexico +3.4% and Colombia +3.3%. Only Venezuela showed a negative trend, declining 2.5%.
In the U.S., dollar growth for the health and beauty department for the year ending July 2010 is flat (0.3%) and units have declined 2% as the economy is driving consumers to make tradeoffs and buy less. However, sales in the June and July 2010 period are improving as retailers are raising prices to enhance margins. In Canada, rising prices have fueled an increase in health and beauty (excluding baby and OTC) dollar sales of 3.2%, which outpaced the total market (+2.6%) while units were flat.
In Asia, consumers started to switch back into purchasing personal care, healthy and more premium products in the second half of 2009. This trend is expected to continue with the improving consumer confidence in the region.
The never-ending quest for beauty and perfection bodes well for the H&B sector. In countries that have emerged from the recession with vigor, the sector is likely to thrive. Meanwhile, in those regions where the recovery is still shaky—or in doubt altogether—health and beauty product manufacturers and retailers need to know exactly what’s important to those consumers: value for money and high quality products that enable them to look good, despite life’s pressures.
Note about online survey methodology
While online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides the perspectives on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. Where noted, the Nielsen Global Online Survey data is supplemented with consumption data by market.