Why would I buy a full-size product and hope that it lives up to the claims on its packaging when, instead, I can test out a small-size portion on my own time, away from garish department store lighting and pushy salespeople? Many times, these samples are what draw customers back to in to buy the full-size portions. When I'm working in Sephora, several clients will return to the store days after having sampled a product, asking to buy the full-size product.
With the advent of stores like Sephora and Ulta, whose claims to fame are the accessible testers of each item sold in-store, consumers now want to test out products before buying them. And with good reason. For instance,several people have very sensitive skin that reacts negatively to certain ingredients found in many products. Others simply want to test out a product to wear over the course of a normal day in their life to see if it works with their specific wants and needs (say, a cross-country skier with perennially dry skin will need a different moisturizer than a teenage girl who is looking to cut down on oil and shine). At Sephora, we make sure to ask each client what issues he or she is looking to target and fix. This enables us to create samples of products that are specifically targeted to fix said issue while keeping in mind the unique preferences of the client.
Sephora has a "club" that shoppers can join which allows them to rack up beauty points that can be traded in for large, consistently updated samples of products. At any given time, there will be three different 100-point products, and one or two 500-point products offered in deluxe samples to beauty insiders. These samples usually change on a weekly basis. At my Sephora location, the three 100-point samples for this week are a Tarina Tarantino Fleur de Lash mascara, an Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster and a Too Faced Tinted Beauty Balm. The 500-point gift is a Caudalie 3-piece Beauty Essentials kit.
(photo c/o sephora.com)
These products can be chosen in-store or online, and there is a link on the website where Beauty Insiders can see which products are being offered at any given time. Even if shoppers aren't part of the Beauty Insider program, every online order allows them to choose three samples from a large selection of possible choices.
Aside from free samples, the store has a section called "Beauty To Go" where smaller sized versions of popular products are available so that, as with sampling, clients can try products to see if they like them before throwing down a pretty penny on something that leaves them feeling "meh". These junior versions of products in Beauty To Go can also function as travel size products when one doesn't want to deal with the hassle of redistributing a product into different containers.
It's not just Sephora that's in on the "deluxe sample" action. New Beauty (of the magazine) recently set up a boutique shop in the Los Angeles Fred Segal boutique, where they launched the TestTube, a sampling station inside of the store where customers can pack a capsule with samples that they choose from the 30 available options.
But it's not just brick-and-mortar stores that offer freebie packs.
Beauty brands such as Julep have started subscriber programs where, for a monthly fee (Julep's is $20 per month) the brand will mail a box of items (some sample-sized, others full-sized) every month for the user to try.
Birchbox, Glossybox, Joliebox and Lust Have It are all companies that were founded on the same premise as above (a subscription to a monthly box of beauty goodies), but instead of sending only a single brand's products, various brands are represented in each package. And though there seems to be a point of contention between these brands (they are essentially built on the same business model), not all are stationed stateside - Glossybox focuses on international brands and is based out of several different countries, Birchbox is also home-based, but focuses both on well-known brands and up-and-comers, Joliebox is made in the United Kingdom and France and Lust Have It is Australia's version.
(photo c/o birchbox.com)
(photo c/o glossybox.com)
(photo c/o joliebox.co.uk)
(photo c/o lusthaveit.com.au)
Blogger Pink Sith showed the goods that she received in her June 2012 Birchbox: a full-size Stila bronzer, a Juicy Couture fragrance sample, a Coola mineral sunscreen, a lip stain from The Balm and a colorful ziplock bag that is the perfect size to take on flights. (Did you click on the link for the Stila bronzer? Anything that is sent out in the monthly Birchbox can be purchased from birchbox.com).
If one is a fan of novelty and discovering new products and brands, then these subscription boxes may be just the answer. As was discussed on Pink Sith, the $10/month price for the Birchbox may seem negligible when a $36 bronzer is delivered in the box. However, it's a gamble. What if a subscriber doesn't like anything that was sent in the box for three months? Is that $30 that could have potentially been spent on one full-size product that the subscriber knows that she would have loved? But then again, people pay for magazine subscriptions with the hope that each issue will behold information that is relatable and interesting. That doesn't always happen, either.
So, what are your thoughts on these beauty subscription/sampling services? Would you be willing to pay for one, and if so, which?