Redefining traditional retail kiosks : A need for innovation in the post-COVID world

Haven’t we all gone up to the “free trial” counter at a beauty store at some point? Multiple marketing studies have proven that product sampling through retail kiosks is one of the most effective ways of getting customers to buy a product. 
A study by Arbitron and Edison Media Research, for example, found that 35% of customers who try a sample are likely to buy the sampled product within the same shopping trip – a number that cannot be ignored by beauty brands fighting to capture customer share-of-attention in the competitive arena of beauty stores.

Retail Technology vs. Traditional Retail Kiosks

The resurgence of e-commerce over the past few years has prompted several brands to invest in digital and other retail technology solutions to complement traditional in-store sampling and retail kiosks.
Augmented reality, for example, allows customers to virtually test products and experiment with different looks, while providing detailed information about the products themselves. Brands like L’Oréal, Benefit, and Smashbox to name a few, have already released mobile apps or web-based solutions that allow customers to test their products virtually. Some brands even offer e-consultations or chatbots to give customers personalised recommendations for beauty products. Retail technology has, to some extent, been successful in driving online purchases.
However, what digital solutions failto account for is that the vast majority of beauty sales still take place in-store as opposed to online. Data from the NPD Group indicates that as of February 2019, e-commerce only accounts for 22% of all sales in the prestige beauty market, while brick and mortar businesses still represent 78% of the market. While the trend towards digital is increasing year-on-year, the transition to a fully online purchase environment will take some more years, during which brands still need to find ways of capitalising on customer interest in stores.
Additionally, while retail technology has a higher rate of adoption among younger groups like millennials and Gen-Z, it is yet to be embraced by older demographic groups like women above the age of 50, who represent the biggest purchasers of beauty products in the UK. For this audience, “try before you buy” is a major purchase driver, and brands need to elevate the experience of product sampling in order to capture sales from this segment. 
A solution that enables brands to harness both, the power of in-store sampling, as well as the personalisation of beauty tech, is the path towards success in the future of beauty marketing.

An increased need for safe product sampling solutions

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the future of retail kiosks in stores. Beauty retailers will have to think of alternatives to the traditional beauty swatches and shared product samples, which, while effective in driving purchase behaviour, could also be a potential infection risk for customers. Additionally, customer perceptions regarding product sampling are likely to change as a result of the pandemic, so brands need to change their approach towards sampling in order to stay ahead of the curve.
This is where contactless product sampling serves as a perfect hybrid of traditional retail kiosks and modern retail technology, allowing stores to adhere to health and safety regulations.

How does contactless product sampling work?

Odore’s sampling device is placed in a store and invites customers to receive free beauty samples for participating in a bespoke brand experience. Experiences can be customised, and range from gamified activities such as quizzes, to profiling activities that allow customers to learn more about the types of beauty products that would suit them. Upon completing the experience, the device dispenses a free beauty sample to the customer.
A unique feature about the device is that is has a recently introduced contactless functionality, which is particularly relevant when addressing how brands can continue to dispense beauty samples while keeping the safety of their customers in mind. Contactless sampling lets customers engage with the device via their mobile phones, by scanning a QR code that enables them to participate in the experience without having to touch the device screen. 
Contactless product sampling devices such as the ones provided by Odore can be used by brands to harness the power of in-store sampling as a stimulus to drive purchases, while giving them an opportunity to gain deeper insights into their customer base. It also enables brands to retarget customers with meaningful advertising well after the customer has left the store, which could lead to additional sales in the future, as well as building a loyal customer base. 
So even in a future in which close contact may be off-limits for beauty retailers, contactless product sampling stands out as an innovative retail technology solution that enables brands to continue to leverage the power of the traditional retail kiosk while delivering rich and relevant experiences for customers.