Millennials impose new dynamic in cosmetics

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At long last, we have identified an area of our industry in which the reality actually matches — and indeed exceeds — the hype.

Millennial_cosmetics_buyerI am speaking of the vaunted Millennials, the 18- to 34-year-old age group who one would think (based on the all of the articles in the press) accounted for the vast majority of spending in our economy.

In fact, if you peel the onion back a little more, we actually see that most journalists are writing about a narrow segment of this age group: the urbanized, affluent and well educated.

This is a classic case of “bubble journalism,” where authors write about people that are essentially just like them and then project their behavior to the entire universe.

If we listen to these bubble journalists, we will start believing that everyone buys organics regularly (actually only 11% do) and purchasing in consumer packaged goods is shifting dramatically to e-commerce (actually it’s fewer than 2% of purchases and stagnant for the last three years).

cdr-filler-opinion-750The problem with this skewed depiction of reality is that we fail to see the implication on a category or sector when the hype actually becomes true. This is the case with the color cosmetics category.

Millennial women account for a disproportionately high level of purchasing in the category. In fact, 44% of these women are heavy category buyers (defined as purchasing 10 types or more in a year), compared with the U.S. female average of 25%.

The purchasing behavior of these young women is distinctly different from that of women older than 35, and these differences require cosmetics marketers to adopt a distinct go-to-market model versus the typical CPG category.

There are so many differences that it is difficult to know where to start, but the one that probably has the most relevance to readers is how Millennials engage (or not) with brands.

There is virtually no loyalty in this category, as shoppers love to purchase across numerous brands (5 brands on average). The brand switching is much more pronounced among Millennials, who average 5.9 brands purchased versus 4.5 brands for women older than 35.

In addition, the younger women are finding new brands, such as e.l.f. or NYX, and driving their popularity to levels on par with more traditional brands like Sally Hansen or Almay. While these young consumers love to indulge themselves with expensive brands (such as M·A·C or Urban Decay), they also allocate a higher amount of their purchases to value brands, such as wet n wild or Jordana.

Their seemingly insatiable demand for brand variety suggests that retailers should cycle in new brands much more frequently if they want to capture their fair share of these consumers. Also, retailers need to learn that a sufficient quantity of value brands ensures a happy Millennial customer.

Millennials, too, impose a different dynamic on the category based on outlet shopping patterns. In their quest for brand, product or color variety, they go to multiple types of outlets to find these products. Millennials are making Ulta and Sephora the retail successes that they have become: 16.5% of their cosmetics purchases are in these two outlets, compared with 11.9% for women over age 35. What’s more, Millennials are 50% more likely to be regular shoppers of cosmetics online (9.6% of purchases versus 6.3% for women older than 35).

The whole notion of loyalty marketing by retailers becomes preposterous when we view the current outlet fragmentation of cosmetics shoppers, particularly Millennials.

Finally, Millennials are imposing a whole new pattern of gaining information about the products they buy with social media. Overall, 47% of heavy category buyers identify at least one social media platform as very important for getting category information. YouTube and beauty blogs are the two most popular platforms.

For Millennials, the social media numbers jump to 64%, compared with 32% for women ages 35-plus. Overall, Millennials account for almost 50% of category volume. So these media habits have profound marketing effects.

So, members of the CPG community, this is what disruption from Millennials looks like, and most of you do not have to deal with it to any great degree. Cosmetics marketers, on the other hand, not only have to deal with it, but also have to write the playbook in the process.

So far, it appears the brands that got their start in these new outlets or with new media may become the mainstream brands in 20 years because they are off to a very good start, as proven by their recent success.

Kurt Jetta, Ph.D., is the founder and chief executive officer of TABS Analytics.



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