First impressions: Which packaging details matter to beauty consumers—and which don’t

May 13, 2016

6 Min Read
First impressions: Which packaging details matter to beauty consumers—and which don’t
What packaging features make shoppers of beauty care products buy one product over another?

Denise Herich

There’s no denying that designing packaging for your new beauty or skincare brand is one of the most exciting parts of the development process. Which colors will you pick? What bottle shape and what weight of paper for the carton? Obviously, all of these details add incrementally to the personality of your brand. But before you start down the packaging design rabbit hole, take a minute to find out which details matter to consumers—and which don’t.

Original research in February 2016 by The Benchmarking Co. related to beauty product packaging—with more than 1,000 U.S. female beauty buyers participating—revealed these three insights.

1. Size matters…

Of all the details that a consumer could see when she first looks at your brand, the actual design of your box and bottle/tube/jar are still what she notices first (33%), followed by the color of the box/product (24%).

But don’t let these big details cloak the most important issue, which is readability and clarity of the writing on your packaging.  Above all else, consumers must be able to see and read the name of your brand and product easily. Forty percent of women say the most important aspect of secondary packaging (or primary, if your product has no unit carton) is that the name is easy to read, followed by 36% that the box is easy to see on the shelf.

She also values usage instructions so don’t leave them off of either component: 43% of women say it’s very important that directions are on the box.

Interestingly, factors that do not impact her decision to pick-up your product are those that, often, we in the industry tend to think are the most powerful. Decorative accents such as crystals or gems are most important to only 8% of beauty consumers, and only 6% care about boxes made with thick, luxurious paper.  

2. …and so does your product’s DNA

Functional factors of your packaging are influencing your customer’s decision to pick up your product more and more—and it’s influencing her continued interest in using it. In particular, consumers really want to be able to get every last drop of product out of the bottle, tube or jar (62%); they want durable packaging (37%); and they want it to be easy to open (36%). 

Fancy designs have their time and place, of course, but relative to products she’s using regularly—her daily skincare and haircare products—consider carefully how user-friendly your packaging is and go from there. Consumers don’t want to struggle to figure your product out or to use it.

Other factors that influence her include that the box somehow relays that the product is for someone like her (25%) and independent results from consumer studies are relayed on the packaging (25%). Given that most consumers make their decision to purchase in three seconds, for products that don’t have a lot of space on packaging, like an eye cream or nail care products, consumer testimonials are an ideal way to alert consumers that your product is for someone like her, and will answer her beauty concerns.

3. The devil in the details

Although overall preferences for packaging are similar, when broken down by category (skincare, color cosmetics and fragrance), certain aspects stand out to consumers more than others—and influence them.

For skincare and color cosmetics, the factors that most influence a beauty consumer to try a new product or brand aren’t always those relayed on the packaging. Top factors include: promised benefits (94% skincare, 80% color); independently conducted consumer studies that show your product is the best for her (89% skincare, 76% color); an existing awareness of the brand—she had heard of it before (84% skincare, 83% color); and finally, it was recommended by a family/friend (79% skincare, 76% color).

In addition, for color cosmetics, seeing the brand on social media was also a strong driver; 79% decided to try a new product based upon seeing it online.

For fragrances, the appearance of primary and secondary packaging matters a bit more, with 85% of consumers saying the appearance of the bottle or box impacted their decision to purchase a new product.

Other factors that matter to fragrance consumers include: she likes the name of your product (74%); she had heard of the brand before (59%); and finally, a family/friend recommended it and she saw it on social media were tied at 55%.

Overall, even though the appearance of primary and secondary packaging matters, to some degree, to all beauty consumers, it seems to matter most to fragrance consumers in particular. Forty-four percent of fragrance consumers say the appearance of the bottle, and 41% the appearance of the unit carton, impacts their decision to purchase a new product or brand.

The good news is, even if she absolutely doesn’t like the look of your bottle or box, 76% of beauty consumers agree that they would, of course, still purchase the product if they felt it was for them on a variety of other levels.

All beauty brands, however, can take a few steps to increase their appeal with consumers. To start, include consumer testimonials or testing results on your packaging—92% of women say this information would make them more inclined to purchase—and avoid her major packaging frustrations. Not being able to get all of the product out of the tube and having to throw product away is the biggest peeve for 70% of women, followed by: packaging that is difficult to open and pumps (or other mechanisms) that are difficult to use (tied at 55%); caps that are flimsy/breakable (54%); and product that dries out around the bottle or tube opening and, consequently, goes to waste (51%).

By targeting your primary and secondary packaging design to speak to these issues—and by thinking of creative ways to use data to help guide your decisions, such as through a packaging concept test—you set your brand up to be the product that stands out on the shelf, captures her attention and, ultimately, earns her loyalty again and again.


Based in San Diego, Denise Herich is co-founder and managing partner at The Benchmarking Co.  The company provides marketing and strategy professionals in the beauty and personal care industries with need-to-know information about its customers and prospects through custom consumer research studies, focus groups, its annual PinkReport and consumer beauty product testing for marketing claims.


Learn about the latest developments in beauty care packaging at EastPack 2016, June 14-16, in New York City. The 1-day conference on "Packaging Design for Health and Beauty" includes a case study from The Clorox Co. on "Achieving Natural-Looking Packaging for a Truly Natural Brand."

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