Shoppable Samples Are the Newewst Way to Buy Beauty

Indie beauty companies hope samples will be gateway drugs

As anyone with a Birchbox subscription knows, beauty samples are the gateway drug into exotic full-size cosmetics purchases. But what about the dozens of quirky, independently-owned cosmetics companies that only sell online only and most likely won’t ever see the inside of a subscription box or a Sephora? How do they market their products on small budgets, without the backing and resources of a corporate owner?

In fact, in the world of independent cosmetics, most companies proactively offer samples of as many of their products as possible, selling them to consumers for very low prices. Samples of all of the independent brands mentioned in this story are plentiful and cheap, and you can procure a healthy array of colors by the fistful for less than $10.

“I think it’s especially important for online-only shops like ours to offer sample sizes, because you can’t always convey through a computer screen what a product will really be like in person,” says Caitlin Johnstone, founder of the Portland-based vegan brand Shiro Cosmetics.

Customers get to try out an array of products and colors from an enticing but untested new brand without investing much money. And for the companies, allowing customers to try before they buy – even if the cost is making up hundreds of samples – often results in full-size sales.
Sophie Broadbent, the owner and founder of Australian brand Femme Fatale Cosmetics (they also have a U.S.-based site) understands the importance of try-before-you-buy in the online-based, no-returns landscape of independent beauty companies. “A lot of people can be hesitant about or unfamiliar with handmade cosmetics,” she says. “I honestly feel consumers can be wary of — and rightly so — of new companies whom are mixing pigments out of their home.”
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