Brick-and-mortar Still Tops for Personal Care Consumers: Poll

According to a recent Harris Poll examining Americans’ shopping habits with regard to personal care items, while online shopping certainly has made inroads, many such products are still purchased at brick-and-mortar stores.

Since 2014, in-person merchants have remained the most common purchase location, with around nine in 10 purchasers shopping in person for hairstyling products (91 percent), shampoos and conditioners (91 percent), cosmetics (90 percent), non-sunscreen products with SPF protection (89 percent), and sunscreen (87 percent). Mass merchandisers are still the top purchase location for all of the cosmetic and beauty products surveyed, with a majority of purchasers of hairstyling products (59 percent), shampoos/conditioners (59 percent), non-sunscreen products with SPF protection (57 percent), sunscreen (56 percent), and hair color products (51 percent) turning to this retail channel.

Retail stores are additionally the top channel for cosmetic (50 percent) and facial/skin care product (49 percent) consumers. For almost all products, pharmacies and grocery stores round out the top three purchase locations for such items as shampoos/conditioners, facial/skin care products, sunscreen, non-sunscreen SPF products, hair color, and hairstyling products.

Overall, online purchases are most popular for cosmetics (40 percent) and facial/skin care products (34 percent). Around three in 10 consumers also go online to buy hairstyling products (29 percent), hair color products (28 percent), and non-sunscreen SPF products (28 percent). Less popular items purchased online are sunscreen (22 percent) and shampoo and/or conditioner (17 percent) purchases.

Respondents chose online mass merchandisers as the most popular online channel for the majority of products surveyed, with the exception of cosmetics, which were most often purchased from online specialty beauty products merchants (22 percent). Sixteen percent of product purchasers said they’re buying more from online mass merchandisers than they were two to three years previously.

For new products, however, in-person purchasing continues to be popular, with 66 percent saying that they’re more likely to buy health or cosmetic products in-person when they want to try new products. Moreover, 57 percent agreed that since computer screen colors vary, it’s important to buy products in person when doing so for the first time.

Some products are better suited to in-person purchases, such as cosmetics. Three in 10 respondents said that they like to have an associate show them how to use a cosmetic product properly when shopping in person (30 percent). Online still plays a role in such purchases, however, since nearly six in 10 said that they like the ability to peruse grooming and/or cosmetic product reviews online (57 percent).

Despite preferred purchasing locations, ultimately price is the determining factor in where a personal product will be purchased, as almost nine in 10 Americans (87 percent) said that once they find a product they like, they’ll buy it wherever they can get the best price.

The poll was conducted online between Sept. 19 and Oct. 3, among 2,223 U.S. adults age 18 and older, including 2,088 purchasers of cosmetic and grooming products.

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