If you go into any Drug store (Clicks, Dis-chem etc.), boutique makeup and beauty shops post the breakout of COVID-19, you will notice that the samples have all been removed. Product samples drive trial which in turn drives sales so if shoppers aren’t able to test the products that they want to buy this will have a crippling effect on the beauty industry. Sampling products before you buy them gives you a chance to interact with the product, gives you surety that the product will work for you, matches your skin tone and helps you avoid post purchase dissonance, which is when you get home and regret or have second thoughts about what you have bought. When you think about it, testing makeup where we all sample the same bottle of concealer or lipstick has always been unhygienic, COVID-19 has forced the beauty industry to review this practice.
I had a personal experience recently where I wanted to buy foundation from a brand that I had not used before and would have needed to test the different shades to understand which one would match my skin tone. With all the testers gone, the lady who was assisting me gave me samples that she thought would be most suited for my skin tone, asked me to test them at home and then come back to buy the shade of foundation that was the closest shade to my skin tone. And if none of them were a match for my skin, she would give me more samples to try. This is obviously not a sustainable way to move forward because I had every intention of buying the foundation that day and instead, I walked away with samples which might not actually work for me. I still haven’t gone back to the store, it has been over a month.
What does this mean for us as shoppers who want to test the products against our skin in-store before we purchase them? Some beauty brands are looking into virtual testing, virtual try on tools have been in existence but had not been developed further pre COVID-19. I tried it on the Lancome USA website, I used the live video option and could select the makeup product and see it what it would look like on me. The level of accuracy can only be tested by actually purchasing the product but this is one of the options of what sampling could look like in the future. In South Africa this would only work for those privileged enough to have access to data and live video functions on their laptops or cell phones, so there has to be a more accessible and inclusive way to do it both at home and in-store.
I also tried to find my shade of foundation on the Estee Lauder SA website (you have to scroll down to find the section ‘Find Your Shade’) and it requires for me to know what my undertone is and I don’t think most people do, they would need someone to assist them in figuring that out. So we are still quite far off on a solution and hopefully in the near future, this will be resolved. One thing is clear though, the future of sampling at this point is going to look very different.