Friday, April 10, 2015

Beauty Gripe: How NOT To Make A Sale

[As published on HERE]
OK, before reading on, could I get you to have a look at the photos in the slideshow above? Take a good look at each of them and process your thoughts.
What do you think?
Well, if you’re anything like me (and I’m guessing many of you reading this are), you’d probably be thinking, “Damn, I wish I was the proud owner of these goodies!”
(Disclaimer: I do not own that many samples, though I sincerely wish I did. The photos are not mine.)
There’s no denying that I have a soft spot for beauty samples. And above all, I’m not a brand snob. I like anything and everything that comes in sachets.
Some of them, especially the ones from mass brands, are not that hard to procure – just sign up for them online and they get delivered right to your doorstep. I’ve received a wide variety of products, ranging from skincare to body cleansers to panty liners to I-don’t-know-what.
But the counter brands – scoring free samples is an art in itself. I’m generally rather non-confrontational (as in I’d rather click and type my way to some freebies in the comfort of my own home without having to deal with face-to-face questions), so I don’t like having to make my way to the designated counter or outlet to pick up my samples and having to endure 10 minutes of explanation by the (often-judgemental) beauty advisor.
Which brings me to my question: If a beauty brand was more generous with its skincare samples, does that make it a better brand? Would you buy their products?
Let me first take you back to when I worked part-time as a counter assistant for a big skincare brand. This was about 8 years ago, when there were considerably less samples to go around. Any sane woman I know out there would never turn down the opportunity to score a free sample or two (whether she gets around to using it or not – that is a different question), so naturally I asked my supervisor, “What should I do if customers ask for samples?”
I asked this because during the grand tour of the counter, I was shown where all the products go. Hidden inside the facial room was a cabinet, crammed full of beauty samples. Everything you could imagine – sachets of every shape and size, and oh, deluxe samples!!! It made me lightheaded just looking at them, and I fantasised myself being surrounded by these lovely samples day in and day out.
(To my credit, let it be known that when I left my job, I did not take any with me.)
This was the answer I got. “If they don’t ask you for samples, don’t give them any. Don’t spoil the customer by offering them samples to try. Let them buy the product, and then throw in a sample or two if you feel like it.”
I was kind of taken aback about how cruel the reality was. Wasn’t it common practice to offer samples to potential customers, so that they could try your products and decide whether they liked it before buying? I wasn’t talking about RM30 moisturiser, either; the face creams sold by the brand I worked for went up to RM700 a jar!
Despite not fully-agreeing with the rules, I abided by them, because I didn’t want to lose my job. But of course, for every super-nice customer you meet, you will also get to encounter mega-bitches who think it’s their life goal to impose their (lack of) knowledge on you and try to wheedle free stuff from you, even though you really don’t have ‘that pink bag that was hanging in the counter when I passed by last week’.
I’m not saying that counter brands should lower their brand position and offer beauty samples to every Tom, Dick and Harry who stops by and looks at the products longingly, but these beauty advisors could really stop being so snobbish.
One of the best experiences I’ve had with receiving beauty samples actually happened last month. Now, I don’t make it a habit to step into skincare outlets unless I have something to buy (and that’s almost never, since I get my stash from drugstores and the trusty 24/7 service known as the Internet), but it was two days before Valentine’s Day and I was with my boyfriend when I walked past Kiehl’s.
There was a sign that said, “Choose 3 samples and we’ll post it as a gift for you!” That sealed the deal for me. And because my boyfriend was feeling exceptionally accommodating that day, he agreed to send me some samples (which I chose, of course).
While he was writing my address on the envelope, I was dreading the moment when the beauty advisor would come up to me and try selling me some product I didn’t need, as was standard modus operandi for almost every counter/premium brand in the market.
True enough, a beauty advisor appeared next to me, and I readied myself with my usual spiel of “It’s ok I’m just looking, I still have toner at home, I just bought one last week”. just get creative here.
But instead of whipping out a new product and forcing me to try it, she just very kindly asked whether I had 10 minutes to spare, so I could step into the outlet and she’d hook me up with more samples that suited my skin type. No mention of buying, no mention of promotions, nada.
Since I’d already had dinner (I’m always in a good mood after a hearty meal), I acquiesced. She asked me a few questions about my skin type, my skin concerns and what brands I was using. I answered truthfully, because 1) she was really pretty; 2) she was not overbearing; and 3) she hadn’t yet asked me to buy anything.
We chatted for a bit, mainly about me trying Kiehl’s products and liking the one I got as a gift from my friend a few Christmases ago, and I filled up a form with my details. She pulled open some of the drawers behind the counter (where the magic stash of sachet samples are kept) and took out quite a number of sachets.
She put all of them into a cute brown envelope, handed it to be and thanked me for my time.
And that was it.
I went home with 8 samples, and I didn’t need to buy a single thing. I didn’t feel pressured, and I didn’t feel bad about having to beg (which I didn’t).
Since then, I’ve filed Kiehl’s as a ‘customer-friendly’, non-discriminative beauty brand in my mental database. I was dressed like a hobo; it was already 9-plus, and yet I still got served by a genuinely friendly beauty advisor who made my day.
So, the moral of the story is: if you treat your potential customers well enough, they’ll come back. PR and sincere customer service is important, because at the end of the day you’re not just making enough sales to cover your quota.


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