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Prove It: At-home Use Studies

October 24, 2016 | Contact Author | By: Denise Herich, TBC
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In-home usage studies can provide more targeted, intimate consumer feedback on products that can be applied to the claims that both retailers and shoppers demand.

Keywords: in-home use | studies | claims | consumer

Abstract: In-home usage studies put your beauty care brand to the test and yield compelling consumer claims.

Last month, I took a close look at the evolution of focus groups, and how brands can use this powerful tool to gather critical qualitative data about their products.*

This month, we turn our attention to other half of this equation—in-home usage studies, or beauty product testing groups (BPT), which put your product into consumer’s hands for the quantitative proof of efficacy that retailers and consumers demand.

Claims Matter

BPTs are a powerful way to capture your buyer’s point of view and what she intimately thinks of your product—and, more importantly, of using your product. Like focus groups, this method is a time-tested and vetted process that has been utilized by marketing directors and brand managers for decades.

However, unlike a focus group, which is conducted in a controlled setting (such as a testing center) and guided by a moderator, BPTs free up your panelists to interact more organically with your products from the comfort of their own homes. As a result, they share far more intimate, targeted feedback, which you can then channel into compelling consumer claims.

Brands are opting to get every sort of product possible into the homes (and hands) of consumers, including electronic personal care/beauty devices and ingestibles, to name a few—and with good reason.

Why are consumer claims important? Because they help sell products in today’s competitive “prove it” shopper mindset:

  • 94% of Sephora shoppers surveyed say seeing “honest feedback from consumers like you” is important for making a purchase decision, and 88% of them say that positive consumer claims are important to their decision**.
  • 91% of women say consumer claims from women their own age influence their beauty product purchasing decision***.
  • 91% of women look for strong consumer claims before buying a prestige beauty or personal care product.

How BPTs Work

Often used to prep products for launch, as well as to breathe new life into existing products via updated consumer claims, BPTs have a traditional process: consumers are given a set of your products to use at home and then, at regular intervals, are sent survey questions which let them self-assess on a range of factors, including packaging, formulation, texture, scent and, perhaps most importantly, the results they see and that you want to claim.

While it’s great to follow this time-tested method, there are exciting changes coming down the BPT pike that only make for stronger groups, and results.

Validating Novel Products

In the past, many brands gravitated toward BPTs for a general category of topical products, such as cleaners, moisturizers, creams and serums. Today, that categorization has grown exponentially.

Now, brands are opting to get every sort of product possible into the homes (and hands) of consumers, including electronic personal care/beauty devices and ingestibles, to name a few—and with good reason.

Devices, in particular, benefit from the kinds of intimate, personal claims and feedback BPTs generate. These products are one of the fastest growing beauty segments today. Consumers can now purchase devices for almost every part of the body, which address nearly every health or beauty concern, including cleansing of the skin, hair removal/hair growth, age spot/pigment lightening, wrinkle-fighting/anti-aging, general well-being and even mani/pedi benefits.

Products with a longer efficacy timeline (such as 56 days) can easily be paired in one test with products that have a shorter efficacy timeline.

These products, like ingestibles, are often completely foreign to a new user. Consumers want to hear how they worked on real people before they plunk down sometimes hundreds of dollars to make a purchase.

No matter if you are testing a more traditional product, a hair removal laser, a feminine care treatment or an anti-aging ingestible, a BPT can be constructed to meet even the most stringent testing protocols, and give you the kinds of claims that your target audience is seeking.

Slow Down

Timing is another aspect of BPTs that has evolved. In the past, brands may have focused on testing one or two products quickly in an effort to gather the targeted data as efficiently and expediently as possible. Now, it’s not uncommon for brands to slow down, take their time, and conduct BPTs that last three, four or even eight weeks long.

Products with a longer efficacy timeline (such as 56 days) can easily be paired in one test with products that have a shorter efficacy timeline. Case in point: a company has a long-wear mascara, an anti-aging facial skin care serum and a hair thickening product that they want to test. Each of these products appeals to the brand’s same target demographic: prestige beauty buying women, ages 30–65, with concerns about skin aging and fine and thinning hair.

Brands are discovering economies of scale with beauty product testing as well as richer test results.

A single test can be run on one panel group with these products being used in tandem and tested at differing intervals, along with different testing end points. The mascara portion of the test can end after one day. Did the mascara last a full 12 hours without reapplying? Did the bold color last? The anti-aging serum portion of the test can last for 28 days with appropriate “fine lines and wrinkles” claims. Finally, after 56 days does her hair feel fuller? Is there a noticeable difference? Does she feel more confident about her hair and her appearance?

Brands are discovering economies of scale with beauty product testing as well as richer test results.

Proving the System Works

Another big evolution in beauty product testing is the rise of multi-product or system/set trials that are specifically designed to prove that a set of products work better together, versus when used apart or with other products.

A key part of this kind of trial is careful splitting of panelists into groups that test particular groupings of products in order to garner feedback on how well products do (or do not) work together. For instance, in a test involving a system of three products, group A might use the branded, three-product system, while group B might test two out of the three products, as well as a third, non-brand product.

Although female beauty consumers have traditionally been the sweet spot for brand managers and marketing directors, male consumers are quickly becoming a bigger presence in the beauty landscape overall.

By testing the entire system together, as well as testing components of the system with outside products, brands are able to capture vital consumer feedback that specifically speaks to the system overall. This feedback will not only inform consumer claims, it can also help consumers better understand how the system works, period—and hopefully convince her that your system is going to answer her issues and concerns.

Get Men in the Mix

Although female beauty consumers have traditionally been the sweet spot for brand managers and marketing directors, male consumers are quickly becoming a bigger presence in the beauty landscape overall. And not just for “men’s products,” either.

The lines are blurring between women and men’s skin care, hair growth/removal products, hair care in general and even, to some extent, makeup, which means it’s time to start incorporating a broader consumer sample and netting even more powerful consumer feedback and claims as a result.

Denise Herich is co-founder and managing partner at The Benchmarking Company (www.​benchmar­kingcompany.​com), which provides marketing and strategy professionals in the beauty and personal care industries with information about its customers and prospects through custom consumer research studies, focus groups, its annual PinkReport, and consumer beauty product testing for marketing claims.

Footnotes:

*Tell Me How You Really Feel,” September 2016; www.gcimagazine.com/magazine/pastissues

**2015 PinkReport: The Sephora Shopper, online quantitative study with 5,000+ U.S. female respondents, 2015, by The Benchmarking Company

***Online survey of 2,128 U.S. female beauty buyers, May 2014, The Benchmarking Company.