06 November 2008
It’s the weekend again! And just like everyone else, I always look forward to my weekends. After five long days of hard work; meeting clients, making presentations and preparing proposals, all I want to do is to catch up with my girlfriends over a couple of drinks, exchange gossip and indulge in our ritual of self-indulgent pampering: Facials, manicures, pedicures, massages and of course, shopping!
BY NITA OOI, INTERACTIVE MARKETING CONSULTANT, YELLOW BRICK ROAD

It’s the weekend again! And just like everyone else, I always look forward to my weekends. After five long days of hard work; meeting clients, making presentations and preparing proposals, all I want to do is to catch up with my girlfriends over a couple of drinks, exchange gossip and indulge in our ritual of self-indulgent pampering: Facials, manicures, pedicures, massages and of course, shopping!

If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then shopping must be her therapist. As most women (and quite a few men) will tell you, shopping is one of the best forms of stress therapy. To me, it also happens to be the best form of anger management, self-confidence enhancement, achievement celebration, as well as group bonding and solitary quality time.

I guess you could say I like shopping a whole lot. And while any kind of shopping turns me on (clothes, jewellery, sunglasses, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, fragrances, music, home décor, the list goes on), my absolute favourite is beauty and skincare products.

For me, walking up to a beauty counter is like setting a five-year old kid loose in a Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – my heart beats faster, I feel a little more alive. It’s a feeling of excitement and joy that is rarely matched by any other experience.

I estimate that I spend at least 30 percent to 40 percent of my income on these products. Last week, I went shopping with the girls and visited the Origins and L’occitane counters to replenish my supplies. Here’s what I bought:

1. Origins Have A Nice Day Moisturiser
2. Origins Never A Dull Moment Facial Wash
3. Origins Perfect World Serum
4. Origins High Potency Night-A-Mins
5. Origins Clear Improvement Facial Mask
6. Origins Perfect World For Eyes
7. L’occitane Olive Daily Shampoo
8. L’occitane Lavender Shower Gel
9. L’occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream
10. L’occitane Shea Butter Foot Cream

These items I can easily justify, as they are my basic necessities. I can’t live without them! But there are so many product choices out there, from facial soap bars to shampoos and shower gels to moisturisers and body lotions. Then there are eye creams, hand creams and foot creams. Of course, there are also fragrances, foundation, powder, blushers, eyeshadows and lipsticks. And, oh so many brands to choose from! I also buy different products in different scents, different shades and different packaging, especially during Christmas and the holiday season. They’re so pretty that I often can’t help myself!

Before you start to think that I am a singular shopping addict, my girlfriends are even worse shoppers (or better shoppers, according to them). I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone. I know this for certain because every time we are either at the Origins or L’occitane store, there will be other women with the very same frenzied shopping style! And often, these consumers are of varying age segments. There’ll be a group of young teenagers trying out makeup at the colours bar, as well as working ladies in their 30s and above, getting skin mapping or a make-over done.

However, what surprises me every time is how knowledgeable we ladies are about the products we choose to purchase. Often, I’ve found myself asking a beauty consultant at the store about a specific product I’m considering trying, when in fact I already know pretty much everything there is to know about it. It also doesn’t help that many of the Malaysian retail staff are not as well trained in product selling as they should be, so sometimes asking for help or advice can be a futile and frustrating endeavour.

I believe there are two main reasons for this high level of product knowledge:

1. One of the universal truths about women is this: We are generally smarter than men, and this is especially true when it comes to the fine art of shopping! A large part comes from our inherent nature of being great communicators and information sharers. If you’ve ever observed the difference of behaviour between groups of men and groups of women at a restaurant or bar, you’ll know what I mean. The bottom line: the men are almost always silent except for the occasional monosyllabic grunts of agreement, while the women are talking up a storm, about everything from their jobs to their marriages, their friends to their colleagues, the latest fashions to the best facial toner. We learn from talking to each other, and there’s probably nothing we love talking about more than shopping!

2. Modern women today live half our lives in an online world. As our days get more and more filled with the responsibilities of career and family, we’re left with less and less time for some of life’s simplest (and most fulfilling) pleasures. Hanging out with our girlfriends, the occasional spa session and shopping! Sure, we will always find some time for these things, but gone are the times when we could afford a full day of walking through malls looking for stuff to try on and buy. While we still love our little luxuries in life, we no longer have the one luxury that’s perhaps the most important – the luxury of time.

How we deal with this problem is to take our shopping online. No, like other Malaysians most of us still don’t make the actual purchases online. What we do however is to window shop or browse on the Internet. This is where we discover more about products that interest us, read reviews from other customers, peruse women’s lifestyle websites to find out what our favourite Hollywood actresses are wearing or using, compare prices and gather other information on shopping sites like Yahoo! Shopping.

What this means is that by the time we walk into a store, our minds are pretty much made up. And that decision to buy was not made on the spot, but online.

Speaking from personal experience, I’m no different from these other savvy Malaysian women. Unfortunately, very often as marketers we forget the simple fact that is our target consumers spend most of their waking hours on the Internet, not reading magazines, watching TV commercials or walking from store to store in shopping malls.

And if women like me are shopping for beauty in an online world, shouldn’t that be the first place where your brands and products are marketed?

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