Thursday, April 12, 2012

What Kind of Beauty Shopper Are You?

When you shop "in person" for beauty products, what kind of shopper are you? Hit and run? Explorer? Meandering? Interested in listening to sales pitches? I'm curious.

I'll tell you about my "normal" shopping habits. I'm often a hit-and-run shopper. I usually go to a beauty department in a store if I'm looking for something specific, but once I get there, and after I take care of my reason for being there, I'll do a very brief department scan. I am usually looking for new products. I developed that habit long before I started writing Best Things in Beauty. I want to know about and see what's new. Even better, I like to find out what's coming soon. If I can be lured, I will sit down and chat with a product specialist. I'll listen to the marketing information and ask questions. I love it when I find someone who is really knowledgeable. When I do, I'll stay much longer than I had planned. If it's clear I know more than the sales associate, I'll move on.

In many area stores, I'm known now as a blogger, so brand representatives like to show me their new offerings - and I love to see them. That's a benefit to being known. Where I'm not well known, I try to find a sales associate I like to shop the department with me. The SA can run interference for me, keeping all the vultures at bay. I know that's a strong term to use to describe people who are just trying to make a living, but how many times must I say, "I'm fine, thank you, and you?" I wrote a rant last year about one particularly annoying trip to Nordstrom. Unfortunately, I had to leave, even though I had expected to stay awhile that day.

I love to stop at new displays to swatch colors (using the proper, clean implements, of course). I usually want to do that alone. If I need help, I'll ask for it. Most of the time, I don't need or want someone- someone I don't know - to help me, hovering as I swatch. [Can you hear it now? "That bright, frosty blue is perfect for you!"] I've left displays where I really wanted to play after I've been unable to "lose" my "escort." I'll give Sephora credit here; after I tell a sales rep I don't need help, they will cheerfully disappear. The downside of that is that it can be hard to find one when you need help. Feast or famine!

So, after rambling, I suppose I'm a hit-and-run shopper at heart, but a great sales associate or product specialist can grab my attention and even make a sale. Wouldn't it be nice if there were more of them? That's why I often shop online.

What kind of beauty shopper are you?

Photo courtesy of Bluemercury


Evelyn said...

I like to meander around the makeup counters trying out products to see what I like. I really hate when I am being stalked, especially since I don't necessarily like to have makeup applied to my face and prefer to swatch on my arm. I have my doubts about whether their brushes are properly sanitized (as well as the makeup) and I want to avoid problems. I think every once in a while though it would be nice for the sales associate to check in with me if I'm interested in something, especially if I am spending some time there i.e. 30 min or more. :)

That's one positive about Sephora, I can meander around however I like. In department stores however sometimes it feels like the counters are being guarded like there's gold up there instead of makeup! Relax people and let me buy some makeup.

Eileen said...

Although I usually have a specific purchase in mind when I visit a makeup department, I will use it as an opportunity to wander around to see what else is new. The older we get, the more important I think it is to keep our looks fresh and current. Seeing what's out there and playing a bit with the products helps me to keep my look fashionable without being trendy.

I've cultivated some lovely relationships at certain counters and always make a point of spending a bit of time asking about up-coming products and enjoying a bit of beauty talk time. My reward? In addition to having spent a bit of time with some delightful people, I get alerted whenever a new release hits counter or an event is coming up and I receive lots of samples. What is the SA's reward? A loyal and enthusiastic customer. Win-win :-)

As for those times when I'm not a familiar fixture, I'm up-front with the SA regarding my reason for being at the counter: just browsing, checking out new products, killing time, whatever. I also politely, but clearly, make it known that I prefer to be left on my own to test and swatch until such time as I have questions or need assistance. Although I'm friendly and approachable, my demeanor is assertive and confident and so I usually get the kind of service I request.

All considered, I love shopping cosmetic departments and boutiques.

michelle said...

I remember that rant about your Nordstrom experience! You should re-post it! It was great! I feel the same way you do; which is why I've cultivated friendships with key people at my Nordstrom in the cosmetics/skincare and fragrance counters. I always go to them if I have specific questions; if I don't then I go it alone, and I'm the better for it!

pretty addicted said...

I had an experience at my local Neiman Marcus where I left because in the time it took me to walk from the entrance to the Chanel counter, I was accosted by no fewer than 8 SA's asking me what they could help me find, and if there was anything I wanted to try. This is not an exaggeration. One of them even commented on how he knew I'd been approached by several other SA's and I probably hadn't even had time to look at anything yet. Once I made it to the counter, they started hovering over me and it got to the point where I just put down the lip gloss I was looking at and left the store. I was the only customer in there, and I realize the SA's were extremely bored and trying to make a commission, but they lost me that day and I have been reluctant to go back since then.

I don't know why it is, but even when I say "Thanks but I'm just browsing for now, I'll let you know if I need any help," SA's still don't seem to get it. Sephora is good about it, but my local department stores just don't seem to take no for an answer (though none is as bad as Neiman's that day). It's a shame, because they lose my business when they do that.

With that in mind, I would say I am a hit and run shopper. Most of the time I go in for something specific, but sometimes I do like to just take a look at the new collections and soak in the beauty. I do a lot of my own research because I like to make informed purchases, so by the time I get to the store I find that more often than not, I know more about a product than the SA. In that case, I really would prefer to be left alone. When I have questions I ask them, and sometimes I do find an insightful SA who is of great help to me. This is probably why I prefer to shop in Sephora than department stores. I wish Sephora would carry Chanel!

Anonymous said...

I too wish Sephora would carry Chanel!
I don't like to meander the counters especially at Nordis.
I usually have q's regarding ingredients and have yet to find really knowledgable SAs.I seriously learn so much more from my blog reading and then can go armed to a counter to purchase something specific...and usually to swatch I guess I am a hit and run.Although I would really like to feel like I could meander without being stalked! I guess I do my meandering online!

Nemo said...

I live 100 miles from my nearest Neiman Marcus and Saks, my go-to makeup stores. So I rely on this blog, top notch sales assistants and online shopping. I like to think about items (whether I really need them--never or whether I really want them) and then make a decision. Usually my initial impulse to buy vanishes within a reasonable time. I do not like to be pushed and I have been known to walk out of a store that has a pushy SA. I think beauty blogs like BTIB are a blessing.

Walls said...

I am probably not a sales associate's dream customer because I shop with a very specific agenda and am not sold on pitches. Like you, I enjoy being able to swatch and browse at my leisure without surveillance. Since I read several beauty blogs, I typically have an idea of what will work for me. It may sound painfully dull, but I am not a spontaneous beauty shopper, but not for lack of wanting to be -- because my budget doesn't permit it! I indulge in great products by Chanel (one of my favourites), LMdB, Armani, Dior, et al., but buy sparingly and make do with basics and a few extras.

CGirl said...

I am a hit-and-runner. I do a ton of research online before because I hate going to the mall. I just want to go in, get what I want, and get out. If there's a new collection, I may stop and search, but I usually already know about from the beauty blogs.

Deb said...

I would classify myself as an "independent" shopper. I do my research and know exactly what I want to look at before I set foot in a store. If I am interested in a particular product and can't find it in the display, I will ask an SA if they carry it in store. If they don't, I may browse that particular line a few minutes more...or not. But I want to be left alone until I ask for help. Yes, Nordstrom, I'm talking to you. I rarely shop in store mainly because of the pushy SAs but I had a couple of products to return and I was near Nordstrom the other day so I decided to return in the store rather than mailing the items back. One of the items was a Shiseido eye shadow and the SA that helped me was a Shiseido rep. She could just not accept the fact that I didn't like the shadow and went on a tear about how she was wearing it and wasn't it great and what was wrong with me.....I just wanted to basically punch her out to get her to stop. They took the item back but not until they made me feel like I was murdering puppies and kittens in front of everyone. WHEN will these people learn that that is the fastest way to lose a customer?

grlnxdor said...

I'm the planned purchase type of shopper. I'm a natural born researcher(Virgo/Libra cusp). I read several blogs to determine what I might be interested in. I really have no patience(or budget) for long-winded SA's that might tempt me with a sales pitch. Don't really have a major dept store nearby so in some ways that is a good thing. I really love going to Sephora. They are friendly and helpful and I never feel any pressure. This past weekend I was at the one in Milwaukee and everyone was just so nice. When I mentioned that I would like a sample of the new Nars tinted moisturizer the girl practically ran to get me a very generous sample. I mentioned that my daughter would probably be the "Finland" shade and they brought me a sample for her too!

Christy said...

With two little kids, my make-up shopping alone is very fleeting, so I like to wander around to look at new lines and enjoy swatching at leisure. I rarely make purchases, but I do make long lists of things I want when the time is right.

I don't do much online shopping. Just if I need something that has been dis-continued or if it's much cheaper on ebay etc because the mark-up on prices in Australia is insane!

Beauty and the Scientist said...

I don't like shopping in store, I only do so when I absolutely cannot find it online or I need to smell a fragrance (before buying it online). I usually read a lot of blogs, watch YT videos etc especially of women with complexions similar to mine. I've never had a pleasant shopping experience at my local Sephora, and go to drugstores when the sales are good.
Even now shopping online is so easy as many major brands/stores e.g Estee Lauder, Chanel, Lancome, Nordstrom usually have free shipping, free returns by mail, some even use Paypal. These incentives are attractive to me so I'll be speared the unpleasant sales staff.

Mary Ann said...

I prefer to shop in a store, however with our local Saks closing I cannot do that anymore. My friend from work would go with me, we would research make a list, overspend, hide things from our husbands and the SA's would load us up with samples and you could touch and smell things. There is a Nordstroms close by, but not quite the selection and the service is terrible. Now we depend on magazines and blogs, {this one is great} and have to order online or from NYC or King of Prussia. Sometimes the SA's have shown me things I would have never looked at or thought about. I know which ones are pushy at Macy's and if I'm just on a quick mascara run, will just avoid them and go back another time.

Pearl said...

I'm like grlnxdor, someone who plans her purchase (esp. makeup) before going to the mall. I need to do some in depth research on the product first before buying it. I need to look at the ingredients and reviews to see if there are a lot of breakouts from using it (my skin is sensitive and acne-prone).

In addition, I need to check my makeup stash and see if I already have something similar or not. And yes, I'm a virgo as well :)

I don't like to linger and have SAs recommend me anything. I have a general mistrust towards them because (i) they can be intimidating and (ii) I perceive them as 'just' trying to make a sale.

There is one exception, however - a Macy's Chanel SA who is very nice, understands my shopping habit, and does not pressure me. When I need to swatch or buy Chanel makeup, I always go to her despite there's another Macy's much closer to my house. She has recommended me quite an interesting array of products: some within my comfort zone (neutrals) and some that is new but surprisingly comfortable (ex: Chanel Spark glossimer. I didn't think I would look good with red lips).

One last note. Thank you for consistently sharing us your makeup swatches and opinions. I've been lurking around this blog for a while but never had the chance/time to comment.

Wendy said...

It depends. Most of the time, I have a specific list gleaned from blogs. I don't want to waste time and will ask the SA to show me the specific items.

Other times, I want to explore with a SA to help guide me towards my makeup specifications (type of lipstick, coral color, products for combo/oily skin, etc). And, I'm not all that knowledgeable. So, their advice and help is appreciated.

I love the SA at the Nordstrom Chanel counter. She has taught me so much about makeup application. She understands my conservative style and will recommend other brands that will better flatter my skin color if needed.

The SA for LMdB at my local NM does not work on commission. Yet, she goes out of her way to help me. She even became one of my clients. Networking and sharing ones passion truly is beautiful.

I like shopping at Nordstroms and NM rather than Sephora and Ulta. It just feels more sanitary knowing that the SAs are maintaining products cleanliness. Sephora feels like a giant petri dish... yet I will still swatch and buy there. lol

Leigh said...

This is a fun question. I shop almost entirely online (makeup, skincare, clothes, shoes, etc.) as I like the convenience and the delight of waiting for a package, then opening it. When I do shop in person, it's at the same few locations and it's with a specific selection in mind. I tend to meander down the aisles for the first few minutes, getting my bearings, then close in on the counter in question. Invariably, another product at the same counter will catch my eye and I usually leave with both my designated choice and my impulse purchase.

As for SAs, my interaction with them is simultaneously buffered and intensified by the fact that I'm deaf. They approach me assuming I'm hearing (and I hate the ones who sneak up behind me!) and I will either smile and shake my head in the universal "no thank you, go away" gesture, or point to the product that I want to try. Some of them become nonplussed and simply hand me the item without a word; I'm left in relative peace. Then there are a few wonderful SAs who take the revelation right in stride and cheerfully start swatching products on me as if I'm an old girlfriend. If I need to ask questions, we type back and forth on my iPhone. This entire setup spares me many long sales pitches! On the flip side, we can only have brief exchanges and I may not get all the information I want. But that's what the Internet is for!

sunnyItaly said...

one word: compulsive!

toughdoc said...

Oh Charlestongirl, thank you for your blog and this particular question stirs up strong feelings! I love makeup, but I read and research the web, your blog, magazines, and even medical journals to research anti wrinkle or moisturizing ingredients. I am an internet shopper but I'll do a "hit-and-run" trip for things like foundation and blush colors if the web doesn't have good representations.
I have an excellent Laura Mercier sales rep at a Saks about 50 miles from me, who is so cool that she'll actually go to other makeup counters and show me a Chanel eyeshadow or an Estee Lauder gloss. ANd if I buy one thing only she won't give me the glacial glare that others do. I know they have sales quotas where their goal is to sell 3 products percustomer. Otherwise SA's don't care one whit about their job. Hence the rapid turnover, it seems as if every time I go I see completely new faces in the makeup dept.

My experience with 99% of other SA's is pretty bad. Pushing the wrong colors, getting the wrong products from the shelf and then I get home to find she threw in the turquoise eyeliner not the black one, or simply insulting comments like, "What's wrong with you, don't you like Kiehls"--this was verbatim at another dept store....I will turn around and walk out as I have done many times when the sales staff are this pushy, aggressive, and will not let me browse or swatch colors in peace. What are they guarding, emeralds and rubies? They act as if we're all going to rob the countertops, of what, dirty pans of makeup? Sephora is a joy, as is Ulta, because you can browse and test in peace. Thank the lord for the web, I can always find free shipping, can return products without harassment, and don't have to fight the pressure pitch at the mall.

mamavalveeta03 said...

My family hates to go to the mall with me, because chances are, I'll make a stop at at least one Bobbi Brown counter and stay there chatting them up for a long while. Plus, I'll end up "just running into Sephora" for something I need, and an hour and a half later, they have to literally DRAG me out of the store! My favorite way to shop is browse my bookmarked beauty websites, make a list, and then go shopping at an actual brick and mortar store. But the best experience is shopping at an independent beauty boutique (such as Blue Mercury,CosBar etc.). They are just SO cool!!!

Zuzu*s Petals said...

I am a very independent and targeted shopper. I go with a list but I will browse if I feel like it.

I am surprised by the negative sentiment for Nordies ... I have found them extremely helpful but not TOO helpful at my local counter, but because I am so private, I haven't done much cultivating; maybe that's because I don't love any one brand over others, though I suppose I buy enough Chanteaille, Chanel, and Laura Mercier.

Sephora is convenient, but I find the stores to be filthy. and I only ever try product on the back of my hand, never of my face of, god forbid, my eyes or lips. They also don't carry the brand that interest me, and their LM selection is really skimpy.

I actually prefer doing my research online first, reading other blogs and reviews and swatches in the comfort of my own home with an espresso or a cat on my lap ... only then do I venture into stores, but I kind of miss that lovely sense of excitement, possibility, and wonder from my shopping days pre-Internet. Then I did have good relationships with counter people.