A customer’s shopping experience — and what they’re looking for — can heavily influence the way they shop. Customers in a positive frame of mind are more likely to pick up a few extras. But can the everyday nature of where a category, such as Cosmetics, is positioned in a store, impact how the customer perceives that category? We’ll take a brief look at consumer psychology and how that intersects with the perception of value in the context of cosmetics and everyday health and beauty products at the grocery store.
How Environment Impacts Shopper Attitudes
Stores do their utmost to prime a location for inspiring purchases, and one of the first steps is atmospherics. This can cover everything from the music being played and what customers can smell to the lighting and even temperature. Grocery stores tend to favor family friendly pop music, which is intended to simultaneously relax customers with familiarity and inspire positive emotions. The bakery and ready-to-eat sections of the deli are filled with delectable scents meant to make the mouth water. Even if a customer doesn’t stop for those products, their hunger could trigger additional purchases in other departments. The temperature is always comfortable, and the lighting is always bright to enhance the sense of cleanliness and enable customers to read labels.
There’s another factor that impacts how people shop: placement. This not only refers to where the categories are located in the store, but how products are arranged on the shelves. Leading brands, best sellers, and other premium products are placed at the average adult’s eye level, sometimes referred to as the bullseye zone. (Interestingly, niche, gourmet brands are actually placed on the top shelf because either the distributor doesn’t have the budget to pay for a premium spot, or the products don’t generate enough sales, despite their higher ticket price.) Likewise, products for kids are placed at a lower level. End caps serve as a short cut to featured products, whether they’re new or discounted, in the hopes of capturing a customer’s attention.
How does this impact cosmetics? New or heavily promoted cosmetics will get an end cap, especially if they’re a part of a brand’s retail marketing campaign going for a glamorous or exotic tone. Shelving blocks are divided by brand, and those blocks are divided by product type. What the brand is best known for or is currently promoting is likely at eye level. Unless the store also features perfume, the aisle doesn’t tend to feature its own scent.
Category Segmentation In-Store
Categories are grouped together in a way that makes it easy for customers to find what they want while subtly leading them through the store. For instance, cold cuts may be on one side, while bread is on the opposite side. High demand products (e.g., milk, eggs, the seafood or butcher department) also tend to be in the back. Sometimes cosmetics are paired with the store’s pharmacy, and often they’re placed with over-the-counter medicines, feminine products, and other health and beauty products like shampoo and lotion. That’s because a store should be pairing categories according to market-basket analysis for affinity purchases, so they may also end up near greeting cards or the floral section. As it turns out, they’re also usually found near a store’s entrance or someplace with heavy traffic because they’re often considered impulse buys.
Perception of Value
The value of a product is often mutable to its shelf placement. Thus, grocery stores deploy anchor decoys. By placing a less desirable product that the store doesn’t expect to actually sell next to the products they do want to sell, they make the latter stand out as what the customer should by. This can probably be seen more in general health and beauty products, like shampoo, because of the way cosmetics are blocked out on shelves. However, there’s something to be said for placing the “basic” makeups alongside new releases — the customer has to choose between the potentially boring standard and the fashionable and trendy new product.
Even which store is chosen can impact the perception of value for a product. While grocery stores in general are considered to be sought out in response to need, they can also fall into into lifestyle related shopping behaviors. This is especially true for grocers like Trader Joe’s, which focus on eco-friendly, socially responsible, and organic products. Customers that shop at a grocery store like this expect to pay more because of the value they place on the quality they expect from the cosmetics featured there.
You’re probably already familiar with most of what influences the way a customer perceives value. If something is exclusive or exotic, they’ll pay more for it. If it’s from a well-known brand they already trust, they believe the quality is higher and thus will pay more for it. According to surveys, women tend to be highly loyal to their chosen brand of makeup.
The price itself can impact the perceived value — customers generally equate high costs with high quality. Interestingly, cosmetics sit in a strange nook at the crossroads of recognizable brands, cost, and quality. Take Sephora for example, it provides a premium quality and in-store experience, complete with testing stations and in-store beauty experts, along with its Instagram appeal. However, most women shop for their cosmetics at big box stores like Target or Walmart (66%), with grocery chain Kroger near the bottom of the list (11%). You might expect this to be because they valued price over quality, yet most women cited color (56%) and quality (54%) ahead of price/value (49%) for what mattered most when selecting their cosmetics. The most preferred brands in the survey were Cover Girl and Maybelline (63% each). Is loyalty what marks the difference in perceived quality? It may simply be that women are highly selective about when to “splurge” on a highly premium, more expensive cosmetic purchase at a store like Sephora. Millennials, in particular, are taking this “a la carte” approach to cosmetics.
How Emotions Impact Sales
Since the digital age has given birth to the self-informed consumer, shoppers still make their purchase decisions by relying on emotion, rather than pure data. This is usually applied to retail marketing using psychological tactics such as Liking or Authority, so ads use happy, positive notes to increase positive feelings and engagement, or sad or frustrating notes to evoke emotional connection or spur action. However, it’s just as applicable when customers are in-store. For instance, subconscious perceptions of certain products — e.g., a woman shopping mainly for toilet paper or tampons might be attached to specific feelings or perceptions — can actually influence how many other products they’ll shop for and how much they’ll pay. In the case of perceptions, it can diminish browse time, cut down on the number of additional products purchased, and increase the cost of the additional products that are purchased. Most women buy cosmetics to make themselves feel good (75%), although just under half (48%) do it to cover up the fact that they’re feeling poorly or to disguise defects. That means positive associations will probably sell more product than those generally considered to be negative (e.g., sadness, dissatisfaction) but the latter shouldn’t be dismissed entirely. That’s probably why many stores put feminine products near cosmetics, but they don’t actually share the aisle.
Other environmental factors can have psycho-emotional impacts as well, especially ambient atmospherics. Colors are one key element that inspires emotional response — warm colors are considered more exciting while cool colors are calming. This isn’t generally in the shop’s control, since the merchandising tends to be associated to product branding and marketing campaigns from the cosmetics brands themselves. However, lighting can have a bold influence on behavior; adjusting luminance, warmth or coolness, and the direct or indirect nature of lighting can make the atmosphere seem cheerful, luxurious, safe or romantic. This would only be restricted by the physical limitations of the store location.
- First, develop customer profiles and understand what beauty shoppers buy in conjunction with cosmetics. If possible, polling about their emotional state (both when they shopped and what they expected to feel when they shopped) can illuminate goals.
- Coordinate categories according to market-basket analysis to lift the likelihood and price paid for additional purchases.
- Put an emphasis on your best selling cosmetics brands. This could be featuring them on end caps or placing them toward the back of the store toward other frequent desirables to increase browsing.
- If your store appeals to a niche market, capitalize on that. Promote the products that suit the lifestyle of your beauty shoppers.
- When possible, deploy anchor decoys to make premium sales (i.e., new product lines, “expert” product lines) stand out.
- Deploy as many atmospherics to lift mood as possible. The more the customer feels like they’re treating themselves, the better.
It’s clear that consumer psychology and the perception of value and attitudes need to have major consideration in retail marketing and in-store merchandising. They should help to define product categories and category organization at retailer locations, providing stores a means to avoid positioning products ineffectively and emphasizing products that will make profit.