Valentine’s Day: Picks from Lush’s Special Collection

Every year Valentine’s day sees people purchase heart-adorned cards, boxes of chocolate, and bouquets of red roses. The 14 February event is heavily commercialised with retailers competing to entice men and women to buy gifts, flowers and cards. In value terms, British consumers spend more than £500m a year on Valentine’s Day, The Independent has reported

We were interested to check how universal the event is by running a steer to estimate what proportion of the working age population intend to celebrate it this year. As we wanted to obtain a result which was representative for the UK, we applied the national representativeness condition (NatRep) on our single answer steer, and asked consumers whether they would celebrate Valentine’s day:

Nearly 63% of our consumer community confirmed that they will celebrate Valentine’s day in some form, a result covering all age and gender segments in proportions consistent with the statistics from the last Census. This highlights significant profit potential for retailers and brands.

Confectionery, cards and roses aside, cosmetics offer lucrative opportunities for retailers. Soaps, bath bombs and competitively-priced skin care items are attractive for gifting, and natural cosmetics manufacturer and high-street chain Lush is prepared to take advantage. Its new Valentine’s Day collection includes limited editions of funky products, specifically referencing the event by colours, shapes and naming.

To get feedback on these items, we addressed steers to Lush customers specifically. We were able to do this by having previously segmented our consumer community into customers having visited a range of shops in the last three months. Firstly, we looked into the popularity of shopping at Lush by age group:

The graph above makes it clear that the younger the consumers, the more likely they are to shop at the cosmetics chain. With nearly a third of the 18-24 year olds and a quarter of those aged 25-34 having shopped at Lush in the last three months, the efforts by the retailer to offer affordable yet catchy options are justified.

Last year, the retailer marked Valentine’s Day with the launch of a range of emoji-shaped bath bombs, which are featured again in this year’s collection. It includes some eyebrow-raising options, such as a phallic-shaped aubergine emoji bath bomb, which had reportedly caused a storm on social media. But are consumers looking for the unconventional this year? We ran two multi-option steers to Lush shoppers, each asking for their choices out of six products from the current limited edition line-up:

Using the top five products from the two multi-option steers collectively we ran a preference steer, which shows the products in groups of three until all combinations have been exhausted. Vypr’s platform displays the results as both exclusive preferences, where consumers have made consistent choices of a favourite product every time it has been shown, and all preferences, which include inconsistent choices together with second and third choices. Below is the the exclusive preferences result:

These results can inform the retailer about expected sales, so that larger quantities of the top choices and lesser from those with more limited success are produced. This supports better planning so that leftover production is minimised, especially with limited edition lines, which will not be marketed outside a certain period.

The preference steer above can also inform a product’s positioning, if we look into details about who the most likely consumer is. In this case, we were interested in gender profiles, as we expected that both men and women would participate in Valentine’s day gifting, but might have contrasting preferences. Below is a comparison of gender preferences for each of the five products:

Female consumers have expressed stronger exclusive preferences to all bath bomb instances, which suggests that the product type is a safe bet when it comes to gifts for women. Men, from the other hand, prefer soap and shower gel. 

By using Vypr’s multi-option and preference steers retailers can predict sales volumes within a limited edition range, based on the level of acceptance for each product. A detailed demographic view can highlight popularity of a product type among specific consumer subsets.

Sleep cosmetics: which products are winners?

In the beginning of the year many people resolve to change certain habits and accomplish a personal goal. Health and wellbeing are usually seen as the most important areas to be addressed with a New Year’s resolution, as improving them requires long-term commitments.

Using a multi-answer steer we asked a nationally representative sample (NatRep) of 508 consumers whether any of the ten suggested health- and wellbeing-related goals were relevant to them. The positive responses are ranked below:

These results are undoubtedly significant for a number of products and services providers. Sustained interest towards active lifestyles is likely to support sales of gym memberships, sports equipment, food and drink for sport. Commitment to staying hydrated from the other hand could be related to the use of new tracking devices and equipment promoting drinking water. 

As it currently is mid-winter, however, we were particularly interested in the “sleep more” goal. Longer winter nights mean that we get limited light exposure, which makes us feel like we need more sleep. 

Based on a NatRep conditioned steer, the result above provides an overview of differences in responses by age and gender. “Sleep more” is only slightly more important to men than to women, however age differences reveal a trend:

The score of importance above is the deviation from the average, measured in percentage points. According to it, consumers aged 35 and over are the likely adopters of sleep enhancing cosmetics, with the youngest within this group scoring highest. As for gender, in spite of the fact that sleep is almost as important to men, we assume that sleep cosmetics are mostly targeted at women, who would typically be shopping for them, even if male family members also use them.

Companies have been targeting sleep-deprived segment of the population with a wide range of solutions, from supplements to aromatherapy, made of sleep-promoting ingredients like melatonin in the case of the former and encouraging melatonin production in the case of the latter. Being interested in cosmetics rather than supplements, we based our next two preference steers on a selection of 13 best pre-sleep skincare products, recently published by The Independent.

We split ten options randomly and published the two steers to women aged 35-64. Each steer presented the respondent with three products at a time until all possible combinations had been shown. The results below show exclusive preferences, where the same product has been picked every time it has been shown:

Around a third of female consumers aged 35+ are not interested in any of the presented products. As the options above are exhaustive of the sleep cosmetics market in terms of product types, we can tentatively conclude that these rejectors may not place importance on improving sleep and are, therefore, not interested in any sleep cosmetics.

With these preference steers we aimed to obtain a sense of the current state of the sleep cosmetics market, rather than test the success of specific products. However, we still chose to show products with their pictures and descriptions, so that our panel can choose from finished products, rather than vague concepts. As a next step we generalised the products by type and obtained the ranking below:

The top two options, sleep mist and facial night oil, are obvious outliers in the category, which leads us to the conclusion that they are the best product choices for companies willing to enter the sleep cosmetics market in the UK and gain a substantial, rather than niche, share in it.

Vypr can inform strategic decisions by establishing the actual consumer preferences. It provides the tools to firstly identify the most likely product adopters and consequently target them with specific questions in order to optimise the validity of the responses obtained.

Airport shopping: what drives travellers’ interest in fragrances?

Travel terminals, airports in particular, have become a booming market for mid-market and luxury brands. Travel retail is now a distinct sector within the retail industry, reported to have the biggest growth opportunities among retail business worldwide. Airport-based shops enjoy a clientele, which is influenced by two factors high street and online retail are unable to take advantage from: a captive audience – consumers having time to spend in a limited space, and the perception that travelling is a break in routine where impulses are allowed. 

With the ultimate goal to gain insight into the mindset of the UK travel retail customer, we firstly ran a demographic steer to establish the part of our consumer community, which has bought products in one or more of the following categories at an airport within the last year:

More than 60% of consumers are recent travel retail customers. Out of the six most popular segments, Cosmetics & Fragrances have enjoyed most sales – a third of our consumer community has bought personal care items at airports within the last year. For this reason we decided to dig deeper and check which beauty products are most popular. We ran a multi-answer steer to personal care shoppers at airports, giving them a choice of six types of beauty products:

Fragrances greatly outperformed all other products, with 72% of Cosmetics & Fragrances airport shoppers having bought fragrances in the last year. Looking into demographic slices by region, we established that Northern Ireland, London, East Midlands, Eastern, North West, and Scotland scored higher than the average for fragrance purchases, with over 75%. This might indicate that airports such as Belfast International, Gatwick, Heathrow, East Midlands and Manchester are likely to perform better than the average in terms of fragrances sales. 

Location aside, it is important for brands to understand what motivates fragrance purchases at airports and tailor their offerings accordingly. In a single answer steer, addressed to the the same consumer subset, we listed seven options of most likely motives and obtained the following result:

Best value is the strongest motive for almost a third of airport-based Cosmetics & Fragrances shoppers. However, media sources have expressed concerns that in the UK some consumers might still consider all airport-based shopping to be duty-free, i.e. exempt from VAT, whereas currently the saving is only available to passengers flying outside the EU. Leaving the EU could mean the return of duty-free shopping for travel to any destination, which would be a great opportunity for brands and retailers to market to value conscious shoppers. 

The remaining two factors having exceeded 15% of single choices are promotions and search for entertainment while waiting for a flight. These two motives make marketing activities at airports by fragrance brands particularly important. A comment published last year by Essential Retail Magazine envisaged that travel retail would soon belong to brands that explore value in more creative ways through the lens of experience, by becoming a delightful part of a traveller’s journey.

One brand is leading the way. Beauty manufacturer Estée Lauder has been praised for creating consumer experiences in its quest to improve brand love, awareness and engagement. In line with this strategy, its niche fragrance brand Jo Malone has created a gifting campaign at London Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham Airports. The brand’s ‘Scented Spectacular’ sites aim to create an immersive experience, in which visitors can twin their favourite fragrance with another, as well as personalise their purchases with charms and calligraphy services.

Whilst some customers will be looking for a specific item from a specific brand when they shop at airports, many will enter with a more general need in their spending, or make impulse purchases. In a preference steer we trialed five female fragrances with the aim to compare exclusive preferences with all preferences of female consumers having bought cosmetics and fragrances in travel retail in the last year. Exclusive preference results only take into account consumers’ consistent choices of their favourite product every time it has been shown, while all choices include the choices made by consumers who didn’t express a clear exclusive preference for any given option:

The exclusive preferences on the left highlight Jo Malone as a leader where it comes to conscious purchase decisions. This reveals the strong potential in niche fragrance retail at airports, where consumers are likely to be looking for exclusive products and are inclined to treat themselves with luxury items.

All preferences on the right, however, draw a different picture. We have three winners, without significant difference between them. These results are somewhat representative of impulse purchases, which could be influenced by a pleasant shopping experience.

There are several factors making airport shopping different from other forms of retail. While important, value could be outweighed by a couple of psychological factors. Travellers look for entertainment when they have time to spend before their flight and are more inclined to treat themselves with luxury products as part of their travelling experience. When it comes to fragrances, the best-selling products in UK’s airports, marketing campaigns and personalisation can address both factors.

Elections 2019: are the youngest voters thinking differently from everyone else?

Low turnout of young people at elections has been problematic in the past. In 2017 The Guardian wrote that since 2005 youth turnout at UK general election had hovered around the 40% mark. Reasons discussed include distrust towards elites and politicians, as well as passion about an issue rather than a specific party. The article states that when meaningful change is at stake we can expect higher youth turnout.

As the date of 2019 general election is fast approaching, we attempted to measure young people’s intention to vote this time. We ran a single answer steer asking 501 18-24 year olds whether they would vote and obtained the results below:

An overwhelming 70% of young people stated that they would vote, while only 19% would definitely not vote. Interestingly, a quarter were uncertain who they would vote for, but would still vote.

Consumer brands have actively been trying to encourage young people to vote in the past, keen to be seen as relevant and socially engaged. For example, since 2017 cosmetics brand Lush has supported campaigning organisation Rize Up, which aims to convert young non-voters into voters.

For this election Rize Up has seen support from craft beer brewery Drygate, which designed a product dedicated to encouraging young people to vote. A pale ale called #RizeUpUK is sold online with profits from the sales donated to the campaign. In order to understand young people’s attitude towards this approach, we ran a Vykert steer, asking alcohol consumers aged 18 to 24, how appealing they find the product on a scale of -7 to +7:

The result above shows that young consumers are not hugely enthusiastic about the concept, with a median response of +1, meaning that half of the responses were higher and half lower than this value. While around 30% of respondents loved it, 16% hated it and around 27% were mostly neutral.

Having run this test we are sceptical about the effect of this form of consumer brand participation in convincing younger people to vote in this election. As mentioned above, these voters are likely to get involved where key issues are at stake. For the industry, current key issues are mostly related to the environment as well as consumers’ health and income.

The government gets involved in consumer affairs via regulation. The deposit return scheme on drinks, for example, addresses reduction of plastics use and recycling. The tax on sugary sweets is meant to fight obesity but is likely to cause price increases within the segment.

It is interesting whether younger voters think such issues need to be discussed within pre-election campaigns and how their view compares to the view of their older counterparts. We ran two multi-answer steers aiming to measure the relevance of five consumption related topics in the elections, one targeted at 18–24 year olds and the other at 25 years old and up. The graph presents a comparison of the results:

The results show that the youngest voters have quite a typical attitude to current consumption-related problems, if we measure this attitude by the judgement of the remaining, older voters. In both groups’ view reduction of plastics use is the most important issue, with around half of our panel expecting the political party of their choice to address it within its election manifesto. Overall, environmental issues take the top three places, while stability of food and drink prices, which directly affects people’s finances, is only considered as relevant by a third, and even fewer people in the group of 18-24 year olds.

These results highlight the consumption-related issues political parties need to address but can also serve as guidance for brands and retailers in their strategy of building a relevant and positive profile. Ultimately, government and industry should join forces in the common goal of resolving these issues, prioritising what voters see as most important, with age having little relevance in this judgement.

Mugler’s new fragrance format: does the perfume brush have staying power in mainstream perfumery?

The latest from mainstream fragrance brand Thierry Mugler is a line of perfume brushes that are used to paint a scented gel on your pulse points. The line includes Mugler’s three bestselling scents – Alien, Angel and Aura – and follows last year’s world-first from Jo Malone, named Jo Loves. The latter contains a trademarked clear gel that dries on the skin “in seconds” and is marketed as a handy fragrance option for consumers on-the-go. The formula contains alcohol and works in a similar fashion to liquid perfume, by releasing top notes first, followed by middle and base notes.

In retrospect, the gel perfume brush was developed as an improved version of its fragranced powder-containing predecessor, an example of which is niche brand Byredo Kabuki’s line of brush-ons.

Having been taken on board by a mainstream brand, could the gel formulation provide a better chance for perfume brushes to enter the mass market? We ran a split-by-description steer showing Mugler’s new Angel perfuming brush to two unique subsets of fragrance using women, one described as a gel brush and the other – as powder brush:

The question consumers are presented with is “Would you buy this product?”, which causes a “yes” bias (acquiescence bias), i.e. much more consumers respond positively without necessarily being likely to buy the product, due to a psychological tendency to agree rather than reject. However, in this case we are interested in the difference between the two results, which is 3.2% in favour of the gel formulation. Despite not being statistically significant , this difference might be a signal to do further testing, and at least suggests that gel would not perform worse than powder.

It remains unclear how much influence this innovation will have on mainstream perfumery. Combined with the novel application method, how likely it is to disrupt the on-the-go/top-up fragrance market? To provide an answer, we ran a preference steer to female consumers who have confirmed in a Vypr demographic that they use fragrance as part of their personal care routine:

Nearly 80% of our panel had an exclusive preference, which shows a high level of confidence in consumers’ choices. Overall, there is a strong preference towards the old travel size versions. Angel’s 15ml bottle is a definite leader with over 44% of the exclusive preferences and 47% of all preferences. Being Mugler’s first perfume, launched in 1992, Angel is an established popular fragrance. Its perfume brush version also performed better than its Alien counterpart but only managed to attract 13.5% of exclusive preferences – more than three times less than the original travel size.

Alien’s original 15ml travel size attracted a tad over 20% of exclusive preferences, and its perfumed brush version failed to reach 8%. The ratio of preferences towards the bottle and brush, respectively, is similar to Angel’s – the original travel size product strongly outperforms the new option.

In an attempt to establish consumer’s motivation for leaving the perfume brushes behind, we launched a single answer steer to the same demographic subset of female fragrance users, asking them to select a most important feature of the Angel perfuming brush. The options in this steer represent the marketed characteristics of the new format, with the aim to establish which of these are most likely to trigger purchase decisions:

‘Travel size’ greatly outperformed the rest of the features, having gained more than 37% of responses. ‘Non-spill format’ was also a top pick, chosen by a fifth of the panel as most important. ‘None of these’ was the choice of another fifth of the panel, which highlights the existence of a large group of immediate rejectors. The remaining three features can be viewed as unimportant, having become top choices of relatively small subsets of consumers. ‘Precise brush application’ and ‘gel formula’, in particular, were seen as the most important by very small groups – less than 7% and 5%, respectively. This suggests that the most distinguished and innovative features of Mugler’s new format don’t work for consumers.

As a final step we ran an overt test showing our fragrance-using female demographic the travel size perfume and perfume brush, both from the Angel line-up, along with size and price:

As expected, the majority of female fragrance users opted for the 15ml perfume bottle, sold at £28. Along with being better value-for-money, the bottle is easily recognisable due to its unique shape and the fact that the original perfume has been on the market for 27 years. However, the perfuming brush also had a good level of acceptance – almost 27%, and slightly higher in the more mature 35-54 age segment (31.5%). Consumers in this age group are likely to have higher disposable incomes than their younger counterparts, and are, therefore, more open to try a pricier novel product. 

Despite this, based on the steers we ran, we think that Mugler’s new line of perfume brushes will struggle to overtake the traditional travel-size formulation. It could enjoy a moderate initial uptake, perhaps in travel retail and as a complimentary add-on to full-size Mugler perfumes. This success would be sourced from wealthier, middle-aged consumers, willing to experience novelty. In the long term Mugler’s perfume brush will have to outperform these expectations to avoid the fate of Mugler’s perfume pens, launched last year but now hard to find.

According to Nielsen, approximately 80-85% of new consumer goods launches fail. Vypr’s mission is to help brands prevent possible failures by providing the tool to quickly identify the risks and confront them throughout the stages of the innovation process—from initial concept testing to optimising price and product line assortment.

The trouble with wet wipes: will the “Fine to flush” certification help consumers and brands?

Plastic pollution has stirred up the public in the last few years and has become an issue consumers are genuinely concerned about. Wet wipes are a major part of the problem, as they contain plastic, which ends up in the ocean. Their widespread use can also seriously affect the sewerage. Last year BBC cited Water UK, which had measured that 93% of blocked UK sewage pipes are caused by wet wipes

Wet wipes are a hugely popular product. Using a multi-answer steer we asked 508 consumers what kinds of wet wipes they had bought in the last six months, according to application:

The results make it clear that wet wipes are widely used for both cleaning and personal hygiene purposes. Manufacturers and retailers have been exploring solutions to the environmental proble, which would allow consumers to keep using the convenient product. In their efforts to preserve sales, some brands have used claims that their wipes are “flushable” but failed the water industry’s disintegration tests last year. As a result many consumers distrust “flushable” claims. In a simple choice steer we asked 510 consumers to choose between two identical packs of wet wipes, each accompanied by a different claim:

There is a 26-percentage-point preference for “biodegradable” over “flushable” wet wipes, likely due to the latter claim not seen as reliable.

In response to both water industry’s and consumers’ worries, this January Water UK introduced a standard to regulate “flushable” claims. Subsequently, only one branded product on the market managed to secure itself the “Fine to flush” logo – a mark for passing Water UK’s test.

Coming next, a line of wet wipes by Waitrose became the first private label product to be certified in August. The retailer has announced that the products will soon carry the “Fine to flush” logo, which we were interested to test in terms of influence over shopping decisions. We ran a split-by-image steer showing two different images accompanied by an identical description to two distinct groups of respondents. One of the images featured the ‘Fine to flush’ logo, while the other did not:

With the certified product scoring five percentage points higher than the uncertified one, it appears the logo puts some shoppers’ mind at ease. Waitrose should aim to display the “Fine to flush” logo on packaging as soon as possible to take advantage of a more sustainable positioning.

Could this, in turn, justify a price increase? We asked 501 Waitrose customers, who had confirmed they buy wet wipes, how much they would pay for the flushable wet wipes, not featuring the certification:

The profit maximising price at a unit cost of £0.60 is £1.10. Slightly below 70% of Waitrose shoppers would buy the product at the price. This corresponds to the current retail price of the product, confirming that the retailer has priced it appropriately. To find out whether consumers would accept a price increase if the logo is in place, we ran another Qualified ‘Would Pay’ steer, asking Waitrose consumers how much they would pay for the flushable wet wipes, featuring the logo:

The profit maximising price remained £1.10 after adding the certification mark, however the proportion of consumers who would buy the product increased to about 76% from 69%. It is likely that the retailer would manage to offset certification expenses by boosting sales figures rather than increasing the retail price. 

To confirm these findings, we ran a reference pricing steer, aiming to determine the best price for the newly ‘Fine to flush’-certified wipes, based on a competing product. We used for a reference product the Natracare branded ‘Fine to flush’ certified moist tissues, sold in Waitrose for £2.00:

The profit maximising price has increased to £1.40 but fewer consumers would buy the product – under 50%. As Waitrose stocks Natracare’s flushable wipes, it is likely that the retailer could lose some of the potential private label sales to this familiar brand.

Vypr can gauge the potential of a product claim, based on measuring consumer attitude and awareness by testing purchase intention rather than asking attitudinal questions. Discovering consumer preferences indirectly by comparing products is Vypr’s way of obtaining objective answers and revealing insights into consumer behaviour.

Dry shampoo: how to optimise innovation for a better product

Dry shampoo has been going strong for the last few years and is expected to retain its popularity in future. A recent industry report suggests that the global dry shampoo market will grow at a CAGR of 6.10% over 2018-2024. We ran a steer to gauge the current UK market, asking our panel whether they buy dry shampoo. The results showed a high level of interest, skewed towards the 18–34 age range.

Consumers buy dry shampoo for different reasons. Understanding consumer motivation could help brands perform better in an increasingly competitive environment. In the last few years hair care experts have been highlighting that daily shampooing could damage hair, which resulted in an increased dry shampoo uptake. Additionally, consumers with eco-friendly mindsets realise that this waterless product supports preserving water. To make the most out of a product launch, brands have to make a decision how to balance such factors in formulation and positioning. We ran a multi-answer steer in an attempt to determine the level of influence of potential benefits that dry shampoo provides:

Time scarcity seems to be the leading factor, with almost 45% of consumers selecting ‘saves time’ as a top benefit. Busy lifestyles have indeed justified the trend, as dry shampoo application only takes a few minutes as opposed to a full hair washing and styling session. Dry shampoo has evolved over the last few years, with newer formulas also containing styling ingredients that add volume, thickness, and texture. As a result, 17% of UK consumer see dry shampoo as a hair styling agent, an added functionality that could potentially allow for premiumisation. 

Long lasting scent is important to another 17% of consumers, with men slightly less interested in this benefit. Diversifying scents is a relatively straightforward approach to dry shampoo NPD, therefore we decided to explore what scents are currently on the market and whether they make a difference for consumers. We ran a multi-answer steer to determine which scent types, from a choice of 10, are currently favoured by consumers:

Nearly 38% of consumers expect a ‘clean’ scent from dry shampoo, and nearly 29% are attracted to ‘fresh’, which suggests that functionality, rather than scent, matters most. Consumers want their hair to look and feel clean and fresh after dry shampoo application. Beyond this, ‘tropical (e.g. coconut)’ attracted a substantial subset of consumers, which is a fragrance associated with beach and summer, potentially inspiring seasonal innovation.

Standard shampoo choices are usually influenced by hair type. In order to determine whether dry shampoo choices reflect this, we selected eight hair type references, seen on existing dry shampoo products, and tested buying intention for each in a multi-answer steer: 

‘All hair types’ was the only claim attracting over 30% of consumers, which shows that the one-size-fits-all approach is still relevant in dry shampoo. However, the fact that ‘volume enhancing’, ‘smoothing’ and ‘coloured hair’ have managed to score over 20% each, suggesting that the segment is moving towards more specificity. These three claims proved to be sought after mostly by women, each scoring roughly 10 percentage points more with female consumers than male consumers. 

Finally, we ran a multi-option steer to figure out how likely consumers are to buy dry shampoo in view of its format – spray, powder, gel or paste:

The spray format has been most widespread and likely to remain most popular in future, as almost 80% of consumers would currently buy into it. ‘Powder’ is also established, being the original and simplest form of dry shampoo. Gel and paste are novel forms of dry shampoo, which consumers are less familiar with. Interestingly, male consumers are more inclined to buy gel and paste by 4-5 percentage points when compared to women. This is likely due to a resemblance of these products to popular male styling cosmetics, such as hair gel and hair paste. 

Dry shampoo is an established trend in personal care, with strong staying power. The market is currently saturated with plenty of options, offering various benefits. While innovation is possible in several aspects, it is recommended that decisions are made in line with a product’s target group of consumers. Women increasingly require functionalities that match their hair type, while some men are attracted to dry shampoos with styling properties and innovative formats. Figuring out how to position new products best could help brands not only sell more, but also market at higher prices.

Male skincare: do ingredients impact purchase decisions?

Men increasingly use skincare products as part of their daily routine. In April, a Vypr data showed that almost 72% of male consumers in the UK use skincare products, a result based on 8354 responses. It is interesting that this ratio is consistently high across all ages, with Millennials aged 25-34 scoring highest with almost 75%.

Skin care solutions for men are becoming more sophisticated, catering for different skin concerns and benefits. Brands strive to improve performance, aesthetics and marketing claims for products marketed specifically towards men. Products become more specific in targeting take both the changes that occur with age and the difference between male and female skin, such as thickness of skin, rates of sebum production, collagen levels, proneness to acne.

Using a multi-answer steer, we asked male consumers who confirmed that they use skincare products, whether they would buy a skincare product, addressing one or more of six skin problems. The ratio of consumers, giving a positive answer, is shown below:

Dry skin is a top skincare concern for men, which they are keen to address with skincare products. This is relatively consistent across age groups. Skin ageing ranked second with younger consumers scoring lower in their propensity to buy related skincare than their older counterparts. Irritation, oily skin, acne and blemishes scored between 19% and 27%, meaning that related claims are influential purchase triggers, despite the fact that each of these particular problems only affects a smaller group of consumers.

Skincare products aim to prevent or treat skin problems by featuring specific ingredients, which brands strive to position as effective by investing in scientific research. Vypr attempted to determine the current level of men’s awareness of and interest in six ingredients and to establish whether ingredient-related statements can influence purchase decisions. In a multi-answer steer we asked 439 male skin care users which of six skin care ingredients would convince them to buy a skincare product:

27% of the panel did not choose any of the ingredients, which suggests that a substantial proportion of the male skincare users are not influenced by ingredient claims in their choices. It is likely, however, that men will be increasingly interested and informed about ingredients in future, as the awareness of substances in consumer products, harmful or useful for human health, is growing.

Collagen was the only ingredient that topped 30%. Naturally available in the human body, this substance is responsible for skin strength and elasticity, and its degradation leads to wrinkles that accompany aging. Although it is disputed whether skincare with collagen can counteract this process, the ingredient remains one of the most popular anti-aging agents.

Probiotics attracted 28% of our panel. Defined as “micro-organisms that can benefit their host” they can target a variety of problems, from dry skin and irritation to the normal signs of aging. Most often taken as a supplement for gut health, the use of topical probiotics for skin health is relatively new.

We attempted to establish whether information about the functional ingredients of a product could enhance its market success. We ran a “split by description” test showing an identical product with two different descriptions to two separate sets of male skin care users. Both descriptions highlight an identical targeted problem, however, only one gives details about the active ingredients used:

The result is encouraging for brands marketing to male skincare users, as whether or not information about active ingredients is clearly stated, around 77% of potential shoppers say they would buy an anti-aging moisturiser. Communicating the active ingredients does not seem to make much difference, especially for younger consumers under 35. The interest towards them slightly rises for their older counterparts.

Currently men are active skincare users, willing to address common skincare problems, such as dry skin, but also looking to improve the appearance of aging skin. This demand encourages innovations in skincare products, with male customers expecting ever-increasing choice and effectiveness. Awareness about active ingredients is not yet ruling the male skin care category, but including related information on the front of packaging could boost sales of anti-aging products, targeting older consumers.

Female fragrance gifting trends: what do consumers want?

UK consumers see fragrances as a great gifting option. A survey from 2016 has revealed that 72% of respondents like receiving fragrances as a gift, while 65% of those who have been in a relationship have purchased a fragrance for their partner as a gift. Perfume being very personal, many shoppers feel uncertain what to buy.

We attempted to find out which female fragrances consumers are currently most likely to choose when shopping for the perfect gift. In our steer we used ten perfumes from 2018, which were picked by Cosmetics Design Europe as top performers in late spring last year, based on data from an online fragrance retailer. The leading themes in this selection are pink designs, sweet accords and new twists of famous brands.

The Chanel fragrance stood out as a top choice in our multi-answer steer, which gave the respondents ten options and the opportunity to choose multiple answers. It seems that both men and women opt for classic fragrances when shopping for gifting occasions. Classic should not mean old, as brands update their line-ups with new exciting versions which are close enough to the originals to be easily recognisable. Coco Mademoiselle, for example, has been a favourite since its 2001 launch and its 2018 update “Intense” has continued the popularity of this line.

It is interesting whether men and women make different choices when buying perfumes as gifts. As the panel was comprised by an equal number of men and women (50/50 gender split) we were able to examine the result for gender-based differences:

As shown in the two graphs, there are not major differences between men’s and women’s choices, however, men are around 10% less likely to buy any of the options as a present. This could be due to men feeling uncertain in choosing a female perfume, therefore readily available advice could boost sales when it comes to this consumer group.

We picked the five options that performed best on average for both genders and ran a preference steer to ask the panel for a single choice. 502 consumers were shown three options at a time until all combinations had been shown, and the results below show the exclusive preferences made (i.e. where the consumer chose the same option every time it was offered):

The results were consistent with the findings from the multi-answer steer: Chanel’s perfume stood out significantly from its competition, with almost a third of consumers making it their exclusive choice. The second preference was again Gucci Guilty Absolute, with an average result of 16%. This fragrance scored better with men, 19.5% of whom made it their exclusive preference. It is the only one in our top five, featuring a darker pink hue and a more masculine bottle shape, due to the brand using a signature bottle for both the male and female versions of the perfume.

According to Cosmetics Design, 75% of women’s perfume bottles were pink in 2018. This fact goes against a supposed increasing popularity of unisex fragrances and contradicts the trend for ultimate transparency, seeing upscale niche brands present their fragrances in simple apothecary bottles. We ran a split test showing two mock-up images of a fragrance bottle to two separate groups of female consumers, with the only difference being the tint – one version was pink while the other colourless, featuring a transparent bottle and simple metallic cap:

Out of the two-thousand-strong panel of women aged 18-44, half were shown the pink version, and half the transparent version, with the pink version scoring 7 percentage points higher. Shoppers are looking to be excited by fragrances but niche concepts have not yet overtaken what consumers perceive as classic and feminine. Manufacturers and retailers need to be in line with current shifts in perfumery, especially when it comes to attitudes towards sustainability, transparency and gender. However, the mass market remains lead by well-known brands, familiar packaging and branding.

Trending fragrances in personal care: what do consumers want?

We picked ten trending shower gel fragrances and determined the five most favourable current choices for UK consumer. Out of the five, coconut stood out as a distinct preference by attracting over 35% of respondents, who made it their exclusive choice.

Scent innovation is key in shower gel new product development. Bath products are relatively affordable, which encourages consumers to make impulse decisions when shopping for them. This means experimentation is high in the segment, with manufacturers and retailers competing to come up with interesting fragrances by using various sources of inspiration, including cocktails, desserts, and upscale perfumery.

The changing consumer preferences in shower gel also reflect factors such as trends in other personal care segments and seasonality. We researched recent product launches to establish ten currently trending fragrances and asked consumers whether they would buy shower gels featuring them. The result is summarised in the graph below:

Coconut and grapefruit scored highest, with over 80% of the panel responding positively, closely followed by mint & lemon, a fresh scent, featured in the most recent launch by Lynx, named Ice Chill.

Argan oil and lavender are the next two options in terms of popularity, both related to perceived functional benefits, i.e. healthy skin and relaxation respectively.

Interestingly, foodie scents, such as marshmallow, mojito and doughnut could not make it to our top five, suggesting that consumers are currently not strongly prioritising food-based indulgence when shopping for shower gel.

Perhaps not surprisingly, tomato was last with only 25% of the panel responding positively to it, although its popularity in other cosmetics items, such as face masks, is on the rise.

The next step in our research was to establish which option consumers would pick if they only have to choose one. We used a steer to ask the panel for a single preference out of the top five above. 524 consumers were shown three options at a time until all combinations have been shown, and the results below show the exclusive preferences made (i.e. where the consumer chose the same option every time it was offered):

Our clear winner was coconut, a relaxing beach fragrance that appeals to both men and women, currently enjoying high popularity in skin and hair care. Mint & lemon moved up to second position, which highlights that with weather warming up consumers will increasingly look for “cooling” scents in shower gels. 

Much more insight could be obtained by using a combination of steers to discover preferences by gender, as well as reactions to packaging design and pricing when developing new shower gel options.