NEW DELHI: Lakpa Yanki Bhutia is often tentative when making her beauty purchases. Usually, the 25-year-old’s shopping list includes mini-sized face products from Korean beauty brand Laneige which suits her skin. Recently, she’s had a hankering to try a night cream that is priced on the higher side. At Rs 7,900 for 50 ml, she saw the night repair serum as unaffordable.
But Estée Lauder’s decision to bring it in a miniature, 7 ml bottle at Rs 1,250 came in as a saviour. Bhutia said she preferred trying mini-sized versions, so as to see if they work for her skin before spending “an obscene amount of money on them”.
In a country where consumers are culturally accustomed to buying products in small quantities — a single stick of cigarette, for instance — the phenomenon is gaining ground in high-end cosmetic products as well. Companies say the trickle of selling beauty products in mini size is now becoming a flood, as bottle by bottle, brands are cashing in on the millions of Indians graduating from mass branded cosmetic products to high-end international brands.
“Today the consumer is upgrading very frequently as she is now in the workforce, earning well and wants to spend on herself,” said Vivek Bali, the chief executive of LVMH-owned chain Sephora. “More and more buyers are now upgrading from mass to premium” and the small packs give them the options to try a product that they would otherwise not buy, he added. The strategy works especially well to lure in commitment-phobic millennial consumers.
“Young Indian buyers are too scared to make a long-term commitment to beauty and hair products,” said Latha Sunadh, the deputy editor of Burda Media that runs the Lifestyle Asia magazine. “And this strategy of pushing mini sizes on to them is the best way to get them to try newer, more luxe products … much like what Louis Vuitton did with its entry-level bags and keychains.”
At L’Occitane store in Mall of India in Noida, a mini shower gel and body scrub combo of 75 ml each would cost Rs 1,660, compared with the standard 250 ml packs that would each set the consumer back by Rs 6,050. There is strong demand for the small packs, of these and other products. Almost 40% of the products sold there are in mini sizes, said a store executive.
Beauty labels say a sizable segment of consumers — Bali of Sephora put it at 10-12% — tend to graduate to buy larger packs after trying the miniature versions. Currently M.A.C, Clinique, Estée Lauder and Smashbox, Sugar Cosmetics, Laneige, The Face Shop, The Body Shop, Benefit and Sephora among others sell a number of products in mini packaging. At Laneige that retails online, mini-sized products contribute an average of 45% in the total sales every month.
“While the Indian market has a long and deep affinity with beauty, luxury has not always been accessible to the Indian consumer. Rapid expansion of social media has driven awareness of beauty trends and created desirability; the mini sizes offer accessibility,” Estée Lauder Companies-India general manager Rohan Vaziralli said.
Indian brands are also taking a leaf out of the global giant’s books. Home-grown luxury brand Forest Essentials has an entire range on offer in mini sizes. “When a new customer is being introduced to the brand, giving her a trial of the product texture and effectiveness helps,” founder Mira Kulkarni said.
Forest Essentials has seen double-digit growth in its mini portfolio, Kulkarni said, adding that some of its brands had doubled their consumer base and attracted more customers from small cities.
This trend draws from a larger global one, said beauty retailer Nykaa’s chief business officer, Nihir Parikh. “Luxury brands are using this customer-focused strategy in the hair and beauty segments. This trend isn’t going away any time soon.”
Most brands don’t employ this strategy for all of their products and limit it to new ranges or best sellers, Parikh said. Some luxury brands have seen a 30-40% surge in sales of these subsets on Nykaa, whose website has a dedicated section for ‘luxe minis’.
“Small pack sizes work much better on our ecommerce platforms where customers are looking to try a new product and are not willing to invest in a full-size product,” said Vivek Sahni of Kama Ayurveda, which sells rose water and a hair treatment oil in small packs.
“These work wonderfully in this ‘trial’ generation,” said Manish Taneja, the founder of beauty website Purplle.