Commentary

The Sun, The Store, The Internet, & Thinking Like Retailers

Thinking seasonally this summer, the IAB recently released a study on the path to purchase of skincare products and suntan lotion.  Drug Store Newscovered the report. In partnership with Prosper Insights and Analytics, we found that summer suncare shopping has far more to tell us about how the digital age is opening up opportunities for CPG marketers and retailers than one might think.  Suntan lotion and skincare shopping are both a scientific and social experience. 

While frequent skincare buyers are slightly more likely to be 18-44 years old, suntan lotion buyers are much like the general population. Without elaborating on data points since they are all available by visiting the IAB website, I’d like to talk about themes and implications.

Frequent suntan lotion buyers are significantly more likely (statistically so) than the average American adult over 18 (A18+) to purchase an array of summertime products when they go shopping during the summertime: for first aid antibacterial lotions and spray, insect repellent, charcoal/liquid propane and sunless tanning products.  Retailers already know the relationships between these product purchases and have used such insights to create the seasonal aisles of the stores we visit.  And, we know that brand marketers, especially in CPG, have been studying shelf space and placement for years, too.  The art of the in-store display is something we media and ad tech folk rarely think about.

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The dominant reasons, in rank order, for purchasing a particular brand of summertime product are “trust in the brand,” price, a sale, a coupon and “it works best.”  The frequent suntan lotion buyers are significantly more likely than the average A18+ to report trust in the brand and “it works best” as reasons. Despite the uncertain economy, brand still bookends bargains in the top 5.

What about media use?  The path to purchase for suntan lotion and skincare buyers is intertwined with media, much of it is social.  They are heavy media users in general. Their TV and Internet usage are on par and in both cases, significantly greater than the typical A18+.  Three quarters of the frequent skincare purchasers use social media compared to just over half among average Americans. And, half of suntan lotion buyers versus one third of A18+ regularly/occasionally view Facebook pages from retailers for offers and information. Frequent skincare purchasers report higher levels of giving advice on products or services they have purchased (50% regularly do so) and they tend to use digital media more than the average A18+ to give that purchase advice, reporting on usage of email, text, mobile devices, and Facebook posts.

Frequent skincare buyers are way ahead of the average on use of mobile devices to do research and to purchase. Fully one-quarter use mobile devices for beauty product research, versus only 8% of the general population; similarly, 20% versus 6% buy beauty products on mobile.  One might ask about device ownership in this context, and in fact frequent skincare purchasers’ ownership of smartphones and tablets is significantly higher than the general population.

If the study and its coverage by a prominent newsletter that targets HBA marketers and retailers tell us anything it, it's that all media -- both digital and legacy -- is delicately intertwined in the path to purchase.  It also tells that the path to purchase is multidimensional.  The science of the purchase is being honed by consumers, and the conversations they have with each other and with interactive advertising are critical to the decisions they make. Shopping habits in the digital age demand even more insight and creativity in the physical dimensions of the shopping experience. Strong HBA brands still have enormous power and need to speak with consumers on both social and scientific levels.

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