Premium Lipsticks To Eyeliners Are Coming In Tiny Sizes. Not Why You Thought.
Makers of premium cosmetics and skin products have been borrowing from a decades-old affordability playbook—the sachet revolution. But for a different reason.
Estee Lauder to Sugar Cosmetics are increasingly coming out with lipsticks and serums to cleansing butters in tiny sizes. More than ever during the pandemic.
Selling things in bite-sized helpings isn't new. Consumer goods makers offer everything from shampoos to chips and cereals in such smaller packs. They are aimed at driving demand among hundreds of millions of people using lower-cost alternatives.
For premium cosmetic brands, that’s not the key objective. It’s more to nudge some of those purchasing minis to full-sized costlier packs. Almost like teasing them to want more of something good.
That saves these companies from burning cash on discounts, a go-to strategy to widen the customer pool.
“Brands not accessible because of high price points have been looking at ways to make themselves more accessible without losing market share and discounting,” Kaushik Mukherjee, co-founder of Vellvette Lifestyle Pvt., the owner of brand Sugar Cosmetics, told BloombergQuint. “They have found minis as a smart answer to their problem.”
The company started offering mini liquid lipsticks as early as 2018. A pack of four smaller units costs Rs 799 compared with one full-sized stick priced at Rs 499.
Kama Ayurveda offers similar affordable packs. Vivek Sahani, co-founder and chief executive officer, said the brand hasn’t reduced its price but cut quantity in the mini range. “The mini has enough for a customer to experience the product.”
Kama Ayurveda’s Kumkumadi serum is priced at Rs 2,995 for a bottle of 12 millilitres.
Unless absolutely sure that the product will work on their skin, customers won’t try it, he said. But a Rs 845 mini pack of 3 ml removes that barrier. “If it works, then the customer buys the bigger bottle.”
“In skin and hair care, there is a resistance to change and if the customer has heard good reviews about a product from family or friends and enters the shop to buy it, the high price point makes it inaccessible to even try it,” Sahani said.
Younger consumers try out smaller SKUs before adopting the products, he said. “Companies around the world have moved to minis to appeal to a larger audience and increase trials.”
And more brands took to minis during the pandemic. MAC introduced its smaller kajal and eyeliner at Rs 675—about half the price of the regular size. Kama Ayurveda launched its range of mini skin and hair care products in February. Dermalogica launched face exfoliant, cleansing gel and moisturiser, among others, while Kiehl’s introduced Vitamin C serum, face cream and face cleanser in smaller packs.
“Brands typically look at such strategies when they have to expand their footprint or maintain their positions and I think Covid is a once-in-a -century event which has prompted a lot of brands to look at ways to sustain their business hence the launch of minis is more pronounced,” Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer at Third Eyesight, a retail consultancy, told BloombergQuint.
Occasions of consumption of such items are lower now, he said, as people are not socialising as earlier and the barrier to spend is on their mind. “These kind of opportunities stoke demand.”
Beauty and personal care online retailer Purplle.com, which gets significant business from tier 2 to 4 markets, has seen smaller packs work.
There has been traction for mini SKUs among younger audiences, students and as well non-users, according to Nippun Aneja, chief business officer at the e-commerce company, said. “For them, it’s about indulgence, trial and then upgrading to premium packs. Smaller pack sizes have enabled us to widen our reach by further driving penetration to build brand loyalists.”
But such tiny packs don’t contribute much to revenue.
It isn’t a very high number as Kama Ayurveda has introduced small sizes on key products and not the entire range, said Sahani. But they help build a habit and a loyal return customer.
In 2019, 15% of Sugar Cosmetics overall sales came from the sale of minis. It has now gone below 10%, according to Mukherjee. But 30% of the buyers of a mini product come back for full-sized pack within 90 days.
“The brands that have launched minis have been delightfully surprised with new revenues as they have been historically inaccessible at a higher price point.”