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The End of Makeup Testers? The Way Forward for Retail

Author: MMM Team

23 May 2020

Color Cosmetics

With restrictions at various stages all over the world, cosmetic retailers are looking at how they operate moving forward - and some major players have taken the first steps in changing how we engage with products in store and exploring online colour shade finders.

In Australia, department stores are working on a brand by brand basis with some brands electing to remove and destroy all makeup testers, while others keep them on display while discouraging customers from using them. A temperature check is required for both staff and customers prior to entering Sephora, with testers unavailable for use. 

As Sephora stores reopen in some parts of the US, testers remain on display however are unable to be used. The US at this time doesn’t have a nationwide COVID-19 policy on retail stores, so while some states are keeping many retail stores closed, others are open for business.  In the places where makeup stores have remained open, they are adhering to strict rules including operating at a maximum of 25% capacity.  Many points of sale in stores now have a plexiglass barrier to protect both staff and customers, a protection that we have seen pop up all over the world. 

Many retail matte lipsticks

Minimising the contact between staff and customers is creating not only a safer environment but is also providing a more comfortable experience for shoppers. Over the last few months in Korea, many stores have implemented a coloured basket system – if you carry one colour, you would like staff to approach you with assistance. If you carry the other colour, you wish to be left alone. 

This is an affordable and practical way ahead for retail environments – I don’t know about you, but we wish floor staff could read our minds about needing help or not! Another easy way to protect people in store is by paying with Tap and Go/payWave/PayPass or could be by paying with cash via a small money tray, a system that has been used in Japan for hundreds of years, to minimise physical contact between customers and staff. 

Although it is still unclear how or when things will go back to normal for makeup stores, this could finally be the end of makeup testers as we know them. Dermatologists have long bemoaned the use of testers by trying to highlight the risks of contaminated products and bacteria growth, but COVID-19 could be what pushes permanent change. According to a 2019 study, at least 79% of used makeup products are contaminated with bacteria, and while that number is scarily high, it mainly focuses on used makeup – the contamination levels of makeup testers could be potentially much higher due to the simple fact that a higher volume of people touch them daily.  

It seems obvious that makeup testers should be removed from shop floors, however a survey conducted by the Base Beauty Creative Agency (BBCA) indicated that 86% of people test makeup before purchasing – so how will the retail sector keep the customers happy without risking the health of consumers and staff? 

Retail color cosmetic stand

The BBCA recently held a digital workshop to explore the ways in which beauty retailers could provide customers with testers and samples while minimising the risk of contamination. 

They looked at the idea of having a plexiglass enclosed staffed counter in department stores where people could order free samples from a variety of brands via an app and then collect them safely after the “bartender” has fulfilled the order. 

The BBCA also looked at creating a tester distributing machine that uses a motion sensor to release a small amount of product into a disposable cup (for liquids like foundation) or onto “single-application perforated sheets” for things like eyeshadow and lipstick. However, all of this goes against sustainability minded practices that have been adopted by many companies for some time now. 

Different foundation shades, displayed like an espresso machiene

Concept art by Base Beauty Creative Agency

Another option could be the further development and implementation of digital ‘try-on’ screens for things like blush and lipstick – it would be like the makeup version of Cher’s closet computer in Clueless

Since most makeup counters have an iPad or tablet, here at Match My Makeup, we have developed a tablet version of our service for in-store retailers to use so that customers will be able to find their colour match in store without having to try a variety of potentially contaminated testers. 

It can be daunting finding the perfect foundation match or a flattering lipstick shade without physically trying them on, but it is 2020 – we have foundation shade finder technology and makeup shade finders so we don't need to put ourselves at unnecessary risk. 

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