Travel-size packaging isn’t just for TSA restrictions anymore.
In the past year, brands like Glossier, Elemis, Drunk Elephant and Farsali have introduced miniature versions of their products, marketed as travel-friendly choices for “on-the-go” women. And while travel-size products are not a recent invention, the offerings have expanded upon the basic toothpaste and shampoo minis available at drugstores and supermarkets to include more specialized products, like facial creams and masks, which can be found on brands’ own websites as well as at retailers like Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom and Anthropologie.
These miniature beauty products not only suit travelers’ needs, but they also offer high-end brands the opportunity to lower the barrier to entry for new customers, attracting them to the smaller, less expensive versions of their full-sized products, in the hopes they will upgrade down the line. It’s a model that’s been used by luxury fashion brands, as well.
Elemis, a prestige British brand currently making a stronger push into the U.S. market, has had a dedicated Travel Shop on its website since March 2016, where 80 percent of its products are available in travel-size, specifically in order to reach new customers. All the products are available as individual offerings, but there are also curated kits for pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight scenarios that range in price from around $8 for some individual products to $150 for some kits.
“Our travel sizes are more about products to take on the go, and that’s how we approach conversion to full size,” said Kelly McDonnell, vp of digital for Elemis, adding that the brand has seen a growth of new customers in the last 12 months, especially older millennials shopping its website.
The category is growing. According to market research group NPD, sales of travel-size prestige makeup products have particularly done well and experienced a 47 percent growth between September 2016 and September 2017.
Travel-size products aren’t replacing free samples, however. Elemis, as well as brands like La Mer, AmorePacific and Clarins, for example, offer travel sizes as well as free samples with purchase. According to McDonnell, the free samples are “available in order to introduce or educate a customer around a specific range of product, or as part of a skin-care story to proactively educate our customers on how the products work.” But travel sizes specifically offer more opportunities for discovery because customers can explore the Travel Shop independently, rather than be limited to the few free samples available. Additionally, the brand offers a “build your own starter set” tool, making it easier to build combination sets to experience a skin-care regimen, without committing to full-size purchases — even though the brand does not aim to drive revenue with them, she said.
“The purpose of travel sizes aren’t about the profit goal of sales of those items. It’s about offering the customer choice and freedom to trial products they choose, versus [what] the brand dictates,” she said. “The return on investment is focused on the percentage of customers who trade up to full-size and their long-term value.”
However, for newer brands that don’t offer samples, such as premium skin-care brand Farsali, travel sizes can be a useful revenue driver. Farsali launched two products in travel sizes — its Rose Gold Elixir and Unicorn Essence — in October 2017 and has seen sales for the 10 milliliter sizes double that of the full-size 30 milliliter products, according to Sal Ali, CEO and founder of Farsali; prices for the mini versions are $22, compared to $54 for the full size. Originally, the brand had expected it would be a one-to-one ratio between the two. Following this success, Farsali will launch a third travel-sized product over the holiday season.
“Everyone wants cute travel sizes during the heavy travel months, but for us, it’s more about driving trial and acquiring new customers,” Ali said. “We are a young brand and currently do not offer samples, so this is an easy entry point into the brand for those who want to give us a try.”