What Do Women Want? 500 Australian Women Talk Beauty & Cosmetics

What Women Want

French fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent once said, “The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” Year-by-year, women around the world testify to Saint-Laurent’s words…with their spending more.

Case-in-point: InStyle magazine reported that the average woman will spend $15,000 on beauty products over the course of her lifetime, including:

  • Mascara – $3,770
  • Eye shadow – $2,750
  • Lipstick – $1,780

Clearly, beauty products in general, and cosmetics in particular, account for a sizable chunk of consumer spending. Beauty, it appears, costs (and makes) money.

What are the Makeup Preferences & Behaviours of Women? Field Agent recently conducted a survey of 500 women across the country. Our purpose was to understand how women shop for and use beauty products, especially cosmetics.

Below we answer 8 pressing questions to help beauty brands better serve female shoppers.

  1. Where do you purchase most of your cosmetics / facial skin care…and why?

Large pharmacy retailers, including Priceline and Chemist Warehouse, dominated the competition with 43% of 500 female respondents saying they purchase most of their beauty products from pharmacies. Department stores, such as, Myer and Target took out second place with 15% taking their shopping to the retail giants. Following closely behind in third place are specialty retailers, including Mecca and Sephora, with 11% of respondents turning to the category experts for their beauty shopping.

graph-q3But why? Women said that their preference to shop in pharmacies is due to competitive prices, regular discounts and sales, reputable brands, available testers, and great advice.


2. And what about specific retailers? Who’s winning women?

 To answer this question we asked, “Which retailers do you purchase beauty products from?” They were allowed to choose multiple options. Please note that this question asks about beauty products in general, not cosmetics specifically.

A staggering 72% of women cited Priceline as their main retailer for beauty products , followed closely by Chemist Warehouse (60%). Major department stores and supermarkets are also a popular choice for beauty shopping including Myer (43%) , Coles (41%), Woolworths (38%), Kmart (35%), Target (34%) and Big W (32%). Departments stores and supermarket shoppers state the convenience of shopping for beauty products whilst doing other essential shopping, trumps. In addition, the brand names available are generally well known at an affordable price point.


3. Why aren’t online retailers performing better among women?

Field Agent specifically asked women, who weren’t enthusiastic about shopping for cosmetics online, what barriers prevent them from purchasing more of their makeup and facial skin care from online retailers.

We presented them with eight potential reasons why online shopping may not be ideal for purchasing cosmetics. More than half (62%) said they need to be able to match their skin tone (or other cosmetic shades) when buying makeup and 52% stated they prefer to see/touch the product before buying it. A third significant barrier is the added cost of shipping, with 44% of respondents stating that it can make the product more expensive than when shopping at a bricks and mortar store.


4. What label claims do women really look for when purchasing cosmetics?

Few products are as full of marketing messages as beauty product packaging. But which label claims truly resonate with female shoppers? We presented our sample with 25 common makeup label claims—from “all natural” to “anti-aging” to “hypoallergenic.” Over half (56%) of the respondents mentioned sunscreen/SPF as an important ingredient in their decision making, closely followed by No Animal Testing, with 49% choosing to ensure their products are cruelty free. See the graph for results on other label claims.


5. Which cosmetic brands are winning the affections of women?

We pitted 25 popular makeup brands in a head-to-head competition by asking women, “Which brands of cosmetics do you use?” Here are 10 of the brands which came out on top:

  1. Maybelline (65%)
  2. Revlon (52%)
  3. L’Oreal (49%)
  4. Rimmel (39%)
  5. MAC (36%)
  6. Cover Girl (31%)
  7. Max Factor (31%)
  8. OPI (30%)
  9. Clinique (28%)
  10. Sally Hansen (26%)

Interestingly, two of the top-ten brands specialise in nail/hand products (OPI & Sally Hansen) suggesting that Australian women prioritise hand care just as much as facial products. Of the remaining eight of the top-ten, only two brands are considered to be ‘luxury’ brands (MAC & Clinique). The remaining six of the top-ten brands are ‘pharmacy’ brands, which supports the earlier statistic of 72% of women choosing to shop for skincare & cosmetics at Priceline due to their range of quality, reputable brands, affordable prices and good range

6. What matters most to women shopping for cosmetics?

Now we get into the critical value-driven questions. Where 1 was most important and 5 least important, we asked women to rank five potential priorities when shopping for cosmetics. Quality and Price/Value distinguished themselves as the most important priorities among women. In all, 27% of women ranked Quality as a #1 priority, while 26% ranked Price/Value as #1 priority.

Here is the full listing by percentage of #1 & #2 responses:

  1. Quality (56%)
  2. Price/Value (51%)
  3. Colour (to match skin tone, wardrobe, season, etc – 45%)
  4. Brand (26%)
  5. Specific Label Claims (ie, organic, hypoallergenic, SPF, cruelty free, etc – 24%)
  6. Name (1%) 

7. Why do women shop for, buy, and wear cosmetics?

Women buy and wear makeup, primarily to feel good about themselves. We asked them to rank potential reasons for wearing cosmetics on the same 1-5 scale used for the previous question. Resoundingly, respondents put “feeling good about myself” at the top of the list. Here are the reasons presented as a percentage of women who chose the subsequent reason as their #1.

  1. Feeling good about myself (53%)
  2. Presenting a polished/professional image (22%)
  3. Covering up defects or times I feel/look poorly (19%)
  4. Being attractive to others (4%)
  5. Out of obligation (2%)    

It’s encouraging to see that only 4% of respondents cited ‘to be more attractive to others’ as their primary reason for wearing cosmetics, perhaps showing the generational shift in body image. That is, it is more important to place emphasis on how one feels about themselves, rather than how one looks to others. 77% of women ranked the ‘wearing cosmetics out of obligation’ as ‘least important.’

8. What role does brand loyalty play in cosmetic purchases?

It all depends on the makeup category. For example, exactly half (50%) said they are loyal to a specific brand of foundation, while only 13% said they are loyal to a particular brand of eye shadow. The graph shows loyalty measures on other makeup categories.


Field Agent is the leader in mobile research and on-location audits. Through mobile technology, we allow companies to be with their customers…wherever they are. For this survey we asked 500 women to take pictures of the inside of their makeup drawers, as the sample photos below illustrate.

sample-agent-photos-of-makeupWhether you’re in need of shopper/consumer ‘in-the-moment’ insights, display audits, price checks, mystery shops, shopalongs, or a wide range of other compliance and research or competitor intelligence, we’ve got you covered.

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