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Caught in the Clutch: Beauty Packaging On the Go

By: Kelley Styring
Posted: November 28, 2012, from the January 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.
Products falling into an open purse
  • According InsightFarm research, 95% of women 18–64 carry purses, and in those purses are an average of 67 products—many of which fall in the beauty category.
  • All the innovation and effort that can go into beauty packaging can be easily destroyed once it is carried around in a purse.
  • Important attributes for a beauty product carried in a purse include that it is findable, durable and clean.
  • Smaller or travel-size beauty products have a lot of opportunity for in-purse beauty options, as they are far easier to carry and often are created with mobility in mind.

She stands at the glittering cosmetics counter, under the bright, shining lights. Holding the jewel-like lipstick case in her hand, she removes the cap and a cylinder of rich color rises to greet her. Its asymmetrical top beckons to be swiped across her lips for a bloom of color, and after applying the engaging shade, she twists the lipstick down into its protective chamber. She replaces the cap, reassembling the perfect, beautiful package—then tosses the lipstick into the dark, dirty, mobile junk drawer that is her purse.

Beauty brands and companies invest a significant amount of money into developing their products, their packaging and their marketing. Yet, as this article's opening vignette demonstrates, all that effort to develop a glamorous, sexy product can be destroyed by one simple action—putting that product into a purse.

A purse may be a woman’s most important accessory, holding all manner of vital and precious things. But it is also a disorganized pit, mixing the tools of daily life with the trash created by daily living. Having analyzed the contents of 100 purses in their natural habitat (shopping malls in Dallas and Portland), research by InsightFarm uncovered that consumer product companies in general, and beauty companies in particular, could learn a lot from the humble handbag.

A Peek Inside

From a marketing standpoint, the purse is a billion-dollar opportunity. Look at the numbers: Ninety-five percent of women aged 18–64 carry a purse every day, and those women use an average of two to three purses on a regular, rotating basis. Inside those purses, they carry an average of 67 objects.

Doing the math, an estimated 88.5 million women are using more than over 212 million purses at any given time. Multiply that by the number of times a woman could purchase one of your products for regular use (and storage in her purse), and you are talking about billions of dollars in purchasing opportunities.

But it’s not just the volume of purchases that should be important to the industry; it’s also what happens to those products once they enter the hostile environment that is the purse.

Beauty in the Bag

InsightFarm research showed the beauty/ hair care category is one of the most extensive categories represented in the average purse, ranking in the top five of all the categories. This category consists of color cosmetics, cosmetic accessories, fragrances, moisturizing lotions and skin care products, and hair care items. Overall, 91% of purses contained at least one beauty care item.

Here’s a breakdown.

  • Lip care: Lip beauty products lead the way in terms of beauty care items in the purse. There were very few bags without a lip product of some type (only 14% without). Typically, even the smallest bag included at least one lip product.
  • Hair care: Hair care items and accessories closely followed lip care. One in five women carried a brush and/or comb for grooming. However, importantly, there were no hair styling products in any purses researched.
  • Lotion and skin care: One in three purses contained a moisturizing lotion, principally for hand and body use. Very few facial moisturizing products were observed.
  • Color cosmetics: Nearly a third of all purses contain some type of foundation or skin-related cosmetics. Powder/compacts top the list with nearly one of every four women carrying it in her purse. Foundation, concealer and blush round out the other top cosmetics in the bag. These items are often considered “touch-up products” for use throughout the day. Also, one in four purses contains at least one eye-specific cosmetic product. Eyeliner/pencil and mascara are common to one in five bags, with eye shadow slightly less prevalent.
  • Nail care: A mere 4% carry nail polish, but more bring along nail care items such as clippers and files (19% and 16%, respectively).
  • Fragrance: Only one in five women carries a fragrance in her purse. Most notable, however, was the fact that many of the fragrances observed were in full-size containers, not smaller travel sizes. The fragrances carried in purses tended to be light in potency, like body mist or spray, and very few high-end, designer fragrances were observed.

Key Product and Packaging Issues