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LUSH Research Plan

Published on 27th March 2018

mage result for lush cosmetics

Research Plan

Final Project

MEJO 379    Joseph Cabosky

Created By: Melissa Pearce

Client: Lush Cosmetics

Problem: The two large appeals to Lush Cosmetics are that the products are good for the environment and come from mostly natural and cruelty-free sources, and that the products simply work well or are fun (i.e. colorful bath bombs). Most of Lush’s current emphasis is stressing to potential customers the health and environmental benefits of their products, which alienates potential customers who would notice and care about Lush more quickly if it was shared that Lush products are effective and on-par with any other beauty brand, natural or not. The lack of exposure to this crowd reduces potential clientele.

Research Question: How can Lush showcase that quality is as significant to the brand as its environmental impact, in order to reach potential customers?

Research Plan:

I would first begin my research with finding information about Lush through secondary research because it is information that already exists and is available at a low cost. The data that I will find through this will not be exactly specific to my topic and will lack depth, so I should use this as a starting point to guide my further research. Secondary research is extremely useful when the background on a topic is needed. This will help me narrow my focus and form more hypotheses based on generally known facts before proceeding with my own primary research.

 I would begin with the database Statista because it offers many charts and general market research on many industries, so I would use this database to understand the beauty market as a whole. On this database, I would search for “organic beauty” or “natural beauty” as well as “cosmetic and personal care”. These searches would give me information about the current desire for products in these markets. I would then search for “purchase influence” and “social media influence” to understand what people look at that persuades purchases of products.

I would use Nielsen BuzzMetrics in order to find the overall opinion on the internet about the Lush brand and products to understand the brand’s perception and potential problems. I would search for “Lush” or “Lush beauty” and then I would open up the search to “cosmetics” and “beauty” to understand how Lush is perceived in comparison to other brands. On the Journal of Advertising Research, I would search for “beauty” and then “natural beauty” or “organic beauty” to find past advertising information on these subjects.

            Important to Lush’s current advertising is social media, so it will be important for me to review its Instagram (4 million followers), Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. There is also a Reddit site for Lush which will give great first-hand customer experiences of Lush and along with all of the social media, will help me to understand reasons for choosing and sticking with Lush.

With this research, I am looking for what makes the customers of Lush remain loyal as well as influences that any beauty and cosmetic customer experiences and ultimately drives them to purchase a particular product. I want to understand the differences between the “natural” beauty market and the traditional beauty market and where the two sectors combine or divert. I would use this information to potentially revise my research question if it is necessary, because I am early in the research and still surveying the problem. I would also use this also to gain a general understanding of the varieties of Lush customers as well as potential Lush customers in order to create further research methods that will have the foundation of knowing how to ask about why one customer chooses traditional beauty over natural beauty and vice-versa.

I would then move to focus groups and in-depth interviews (IDIs), because this method begins to narrow and understand the consumers’ interests and put a real face to potential customers. This will be the first primary research which will give a foundation to the current beauty market, because most of the secondary research is not of the most current information.

For the focus groups, I would have eight people in the group, in order to give people enough chance to talk without a large amount of people creating competitions for speaking. The focus group will require a moderator who is able to lead and direct the group in a gentle enough way that presents a friendly environment so people feel comfortable to speak, thus the moderator should also be an active listener to all responses that shows interest so people feel their responses are being valued. The moderator should have some knowledge of beauty care and cosmetic, but not too in-depth so there is not a biased opinion, but just enough to understand how to improvise the questions if a certain topic produces interesting responses. The moderator should be female in order to make the participants feel more comfortable discussing appearance, though there will be males in the group, because those customers are still part of Lush’s market and are important to be understood. For the participants of the focus groups, I will separate participants who are active users of Lush products already, to find why they have remained loyal and what about the products drew them, and then further see if there are other similarities of beauty habits or greater lifestyle habits across the users. The other focus group will consist of people who use beauty and skin care products that have brand loyalty to something other than Lush, which will help to understand what about other products draws people to purchase and use them. The focus group should be held in a setting that brings as much ease to the participants as possible, so comfortable chairs and medium lighting (definitely not fluorescent bright) are ideal. The most important part of the setting though, is that the participants are in a U shape with the moderator in the middle, in order to facilitate an equal discussion where the participants can see each other and the moderator is more approachable than if she was at the front of the room just talking at the group. The focus group would last 90 minutes, enough time for each participant to have at least several minutes talking. There would be 6 total focus groups, with 3 of the focus groups including active Lush users and the other 3 groups including non-Lush users. I would choose this because this is enough focus groups to see if the characteristics per group changes due to the personal characteristics of each person, or due to their beauty product interests (Lush vs. non-Lush).

The IDI moderator should be very probing but have an ease that participants will be able to trust, more so than with the focus group, because this is a one-on-one conversation. Participants of the IDI should not be too shy in order to receive a lot of information out of the respondent. It would be okay for several people interviewed to have this personality trait in order to understand this type of consumer, but most participants should be willing to speak up and share their feelings. To match the amount of data from the IDIs to the focus groups, I would interview 15 people, because two or three IDIs is equivalent one focus group. The IDIs will take place in a familiar environment to the interviewee, that is also relevant to the research. This will be a shopping mall, where Lush and other beauty products are sold, and in general a mall will bring shopping and purchasing to the forefront of the mind. The importance is to make the setting as comfortable as possible for the interviewee, and most people have visited their local mall before, and quiet corners of a mall exist. For the IDIs I would schedule interviews for 45 minutes, to allow enough time in the beginning to acquaint the interviewer and the interviewee so that by the end the two are comfortable and personal information is shared more willingly. To reach as many areas as possible of the country, some interviews will be conducted through Skype.

For analyzing the IDIs and focus groups, pulling strong quotes that show emotions or motivations to personal anecdotes are the most useful. Personal accounts will reveal subconscious associations that people have with the products that can later be used to remind customers that the product is in that realm of associations. The focus of the quotes is find when participants reveal the most relevant, unexpected or personal information. For the focus group, it will also be important to note which situations were more influenced by groupthink by seeing when people changed their minds when others disagreed, or when people chose to be quiet after previously speaking up to an argument that was rebutted by another participant. The amount of groupthink during certain topics can inform how much influence about certain aspects of purchasing are influenced by another person’s influence.

The questions in the focus groups and the IDIs will be mostly the same. The flow will be from general questions that will then follow with more specific and more sensitive questions. With the IDIs there is more time for the participant to speak, so the moderator should expand on topics that the interviewee seems to feel most comfortable sharing and probe as deep as possible. In the focus group, the moderator should also be spontaneous but there are many questions and many people to answer, so less depth will be achieved. Examples of questions I would ask are:

How often do you try new beauty or skin care products?

            How do you find out about new products?

                        What influences you to eventually purchase an unknown product?

What would make you go back and repurchase that product?

What is your favorite beauty or skin care brand? Why?

            Tell me about when this brand became your favorite.

                        What would make you like this brand even more?

I would then move to a participant observation because I can compare what people in the focus groups and IDI’s said they did, and verify or refute the statements. I would do this participant observation as a shop-along because I would be able to watch the purchasing behavior and specifically the extent to which people test products before buying, their comments while trying out the products and then the final result to what was purchased. I would complete the shop-along at an Ulta, a beauty store, because this is a store that has both traditional beauty products as well as environmentally-focused products, and also sells products in high and low price ranges. At this store, I will be able to compare shoppers from environmentally focused or traditional beauty product purchases within all price ranges, to see if one type of consumer is more likely to test products, shop in a group or ask for help as opposed to another type. I would specifically focus on people who test or look through the environmentally conscious products but do not end up purchasing as well as consumers who really enjoy the testing of products, because that is a large part of the Lush experience, so those customers would be likely to enjoy Lush products. Lush already has a strong base with younger people, usually under 30 and mostly female, so it will be important for me to notice the women and men of 30-45 because this is a very large potential market for Lush that has not been completely utilized and understood by Lush efforts. It will be important when interviewing at the end to ask what the best part of the shopping experience was for these customers and what eventually persuaded the consumer to purchase their products, as well as what else the customer would have wanted from their shopping experience. 

            I would observe on a Saturday afternoon because this is when many people are off work and people have the most time to leisurely stroll around a store and fully envelop themselves in their shopping, leading to more testing and deliberation. Through that deliberation I will be able to see more thought-processes than a quick yes or no decision made in a rush. Also, I will be able to see a wider range of products contemplated which could show products a bit out of the comfort zone of the customer, but just close enough for some consideration to be given. Finding that link of what makes the abnormal product still within the range of the customer’s purchase will give an insight to how far a customer is willing to experiment and what the true desires of the customer are, apart from just sticking to their routine or typical products, leading to how to persuade a customer to switch to a new product. I would spend three hours at the store, enough time to see many people’s complete shopping experience and interview afterward. Also, I will be able to see if there is a change in consumer behavior if the store is more crowded at a specific time and how store traffic influences purchasing decisions.

            I would analyze my data by pulling field notes and comparing the behaviors. The behaviors I will spotlight will include how long people were in the store and how long a customer spent trying a product, and how that determined the final purchase. It will be important to capture the thought-process and discussions people had while shopping, with friends or with store associates. I will note how fluidly people moved through the store and how willing consumers were to change from environmental beauty products and traditional beauty products. Also, important to the shop-along is the interview afterward which I will pull quotes that customers had about their experience, which I will use to compare with the behavior actually exhibited in the store.

I would then move to survey research because it is able to take into consideration the qualitative data found in previous research, and use that information and insights to form questions on the survey that will be able to aid in justifying that data with data from numbers, which gives greater accuracy to the hypothesis. There will be many questions in the survey that focus on general personality traits and behaviors and then onto purchasing desires and opinions of beauty products. An example of questions is:

Select your level of agreement with the following statements:

Strongly Agree, Agree, Somewhat Agree, Neither, Somewhat Disagree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree

I like to be right-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I pay attention to detail--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I prefer going out rather than staying in-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am a procrastinator----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Select your level of agreement with the following statements:

Strongly Agree, Agree, Somewhat Agree, Neither, Somewhat Disagree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree

I spend a lot of time getting ready-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Appearance is important to me----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Health is important to me-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Brands are important to me--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have a favorite beauty brand-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

How important are these values in your decision to purchase beauty products?

Extremely Important, Very Important, Moderately Important, Slightly Important, Not at all Important



Popularity of the product-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Environmental Sustainability------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Select your level of agreement with the following statements:

Strongly Agree, Agree, Somewhat Agree, Neither, Somewhat Disagree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree

Friends are influential in my beauty product choices-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Family is influential in my beauty product choices----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Social Media Influencers are influential in my beauty product choices---------------------------------------------------

Television/Film is influential in my beauty product choices-----------------------------------------------------------------

Celebrities are influential in my beauty product choices--------------------------------------------------------------------

I would begin my survey with general lifestyle behavior questions, such as the typical activities and frequency of those that a person participates in, like formal dinners, or attending concerts, or just staying in on weekends. I would ask this first to understand the person’s typical life structure and because these are general questions most people feel comfortable sharing. I would then move to a bit more sensitive information that includes questions that ask the person to describe their personality and characteristics, based on introversion versus extroversion, and what makes people happy or upset. This information is still very general though to the topic, so that is why I would place rather early in the survey. I would then move to overall purchasing behaviors and concerns of products, including clothing, food, entertainment and beauty to find the differences between each of these categories and why the habits are different for each sector. I will ask the important qualities of buying each of these products, such as cost, quality or environmental activism. In this section I would also ask about influences of purchases, such as advertising or friends. Next would include a specific section about beauty and skin care only to shift the focus of the survey where I would ask what people look for in beauty products, how often new products are bought and concerns within the beauty industry and future desires from the industry. This is rather personal and in-depth so that is why it appears later in the survey. I would have a portion after this that asks about the awareness of the Lush brand, and what qualities of the brand Lush is most known for. I would put this at the end because if I asked about this upfront, the topic of the survey would already be known which could skew the results if respondents consider the main goal of the survey while taking it. The final segment would ask about demographic information, including income and age importantly, because this is very sensitive information.

Within the survey there will be both open and closed ended questions. The open-ended questions will be used for questions that giving a response would force an answer upon someone, giving a false response. An example would be “What are the problems within the beauty industry?” and then a space for writing in an answer. The closed ended questions will be good for acquiring plain data, such as frequency of shopping, that gives insights into typical shopping behavior. These questions are also good for further analyzing the averages within this type of data. I will make extensive use of ordinal data for questions about people describing their personality traits, by using strongly agree to statement to strongly disagree, with seven options in between. This will give a range that participants can identify within and the numbers can be easily quantified. For questions on the survey that pertain to views about the Lush brand, I will use a Horizontal Likert scale, because many adjectives can be quickly understood and fit within this portion of the survey, and rich data is created because two sides, such as honest or dishonest, are both surveyed at the same time as opposed to only one being looked at in the ordinal question style.

Through the survey I plan to understand particular personality traits or daily lifestyle behaviors and how those correspond to purchasing behaviors. I will be able to see which people are more like to care about quality or environmentalism and the importance that either of those plays in the purchasing decisions of a product. Also, I will be able to see what perceptions of Lush as a brand are and how different people perceive the same brand, based on personal background. With that I will also see which people are more likely know of Lush. The ultimate goal of the survey to see which groups do not know Lush, or ones that know but do not use it, and what common traits these people have. Within these common traits Lush will be able understand potential clientele needs better to see how to reach into this market and where to place themselves in terms of advertising so that these potential customers will see their products and be enticed to try. To analyze the survey, cross tabs will be very important and I will make use of comparing age (later income) with beauty brand desires. I will also compare respondents who cared about environmentally-conscious products with the questions about lifestyle and personality and then people who cared about quality in products with the questions about lifestyle and personality in order to see if these people are different in any way. If these people do behave different, it will be used to find similarities among the groups, which is something Lush can benefit from knowing greatly. Within the cross tabs I will make sure the p-value is under .05 to verify there is a statistical significance between the findings.

The sample of the survey would include men and women ages 18-50, because Lush appeals strongly to the younger crowds but its products are of the quality older people would enjoy as well, so it will be important to find out the beauty and purchasing behaviors of all of these members to see how Lush can create an environment that everyone can enjoy. As this is a national survey, because Lush is a national brand, the number of respondents will be 1,000. Anything above this, the margin of error does not diminish enough to justify the necessity of including more in the sample, so it is not important to add more respondents.

I would distribute the survey as web-based because this type of survey is cost-effective and can capture results instantaneously. Also, this type of survey has the ability to skip through questions based on previous responses, which helps in question flow and better understanding by the survey respondent. This is particularly helpful for survey questions that only men or only women may have a response for. It is suggested that people are more likely to give honest answers on a web-based survey, which is important when talking about personal care products. This type of survey is very convenient for people who are already on their computer and is easier to respond to than mailing pack something which requires more effort or talking on the phone, something many young people fear. Although many people of the population are not able to be included in the sample due to limits of internet access, much of Lush’s target audience has internet access, as they earn higher incomes and are relatively young (under 50). Also, Lush is at the heart an environmental brand, and including a mail survey would go against their desire to reduce waste.

This survey would not include any copy or concept testing because it is a survey about personal behaviors and then beauty purchasing trends and desires, but the survey could lead to concept testing because if I find that a certain personality trait was more likely to care about environmental products that was unknown previously, future concepts could be created to reflect this, such as more emphasis on the packaging to highlight this fact.

Conclusion: In summary, the research plan is designed to introduce secondary research to give insight into the current market of beauty brands, particularly natural beauty products versus traditional beauty products. Further focus groups, in-depth interviews and participant observation will work to understand what the differences between these types of consumers by finding associations with currently used brands and why these differences in desires exist for people. The survey will be used to quantify the responses of participants so that conclusions on correlations between certain personality traits and purchasing behavior will explain particular choices. The overall objective at the end of the research plan is to learn how to create a program for Lush that taps into people who do not initially seek natural beauty products, but can be tempted by the quality of the product or a re-framing of what a “sustainable” beauty product looks like.