Consumer Watch: Cosmetic changes

By Susan Edmunds

Beauty firms turn to social media to find product testers and reviewers

Andrea Hughes has reviewed a moisturiser and spray-on tattoo. Photo / Hagen Hopkins
Andrea Hughes has reviewed a moisturiser and spray-on tattoo. Photo / Hagen Hopkins

Fancy the chance to try new, free beauty products and tell the world what you think of them? is offering Kiwi women that opportunity, sometimes before products hit the market.

The idea is similar to and numerous restaurant review sites. It is designed to offer consumers authentic reviews of products before they part with their money, says its founder, Merilyn Hawler.

But unlike other review sites, users get to try products, free.

People are more likely to believe a review if it comes from a real person, Hawler says, and businesses are keen to move from slick, expensive advertising campaigns to campaigns that build social media hype.

"Marketing has really changed, it used to be mass targeting and big print campaigns," says Hawler, who worked for the company that owns Nivea for 15 years.

"But now, with social media, it's gone full circle to micro-targeting. Consumers are more sceptical about the claims the brands make."

The site has been live for nine months and so far contains more than 3,000 reviews of more than 50 brands.

Would-be reviewers register to join and fill out a "beauty profile", including their age, skin type and hair type. If a company wants reviews of a product for ageing, dry skin, it can then target the right kind of reviewers to send samples to. Hawler says: "There's no shortage of people who put their hands up for free stuff but it's about targeting the market."

Even within a specific criteria, there are often a lot of matches, so who gets the product is decided on a lottery basis. Products now being reviewed range from $4.95 eye makeup remover pads through to a $160 fragrance. Last week, 250 products were sent out for review. This week, it was about 60. All reviews are posted unedited.

So far, members have been very honest and there have been no cases of competitors signing up to slag off each other's products, Hawler says. accounts are tied to Facebook, so it is easy to keep track of who people are, and avoid double-ups.

Skincare brand Trilogy was one of the early participants in the site.

Spokeswoman Lisa Wilson says six products have had about 120 reviews. "We recognised the importance of peer reviews in influencing buying decisions. Everyone is so much more online savvy, it carries an awful lot of weight."

Try before you buy

Andrea Hughes found out about when a colleague had a package containing beauty product samples arrive at work. "I asked what it was and she said she comments on the site."

She has only been a member for a few weeks but has already reviewed a moisturiser and a spray-on tattoo. She was selected for the moisturiser because it is designed for dry skin, the skin type she selected in her profile.

"It was horrible!"

Hughes said she was surprised by how quickly products started turning up. "I thought I would have had to have waited a lot longer ... I think people put more faith in reviews from everyday users. I find it very helpful, it's always good hearing others' points of view on things you're thinking about buying."

Hughes said she always read reviews of hotels before booking and some beauty products could cost as much as a night away, so it made sense to do the same sort of research.

- Herald on Sunday

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