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Perfume & cosmetics: What is important to younger generations when making a purchase decision

What role do sustainability and other factors play in the consumer preferences and behavior of young generations Z and Alpha? Are there differences between the US and European markets and what are the implications for companies in the business-to-business sector within the perfume and cosmetics industry? These and other questions were the focus of a cooperation project between Hof University of Applied Sciences, its partner university Kean University in the US state of New Jersey and the HEINZ-GLAS Group.

A look behind the scenes of bottle production at the partner company Heinz-Glas; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

28 students from both universities worked in mixed teams to analyze the development of consumer behavior among younger generations and their growing awareness of sustainability. In addition to extensive literature research, they also conducted large-scale surveys with target group representatives in the relevant markets. “This type of project work is more than just an academic exercise for our students, as it forms a bridge to the real world and prepares our students perfectly for their professional careers, both personally and professionally and methodologically,” explains project manager Tina Wiegand from the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics at Hof University of Applied Sciences.

Team building and content-related work

During the first project week in the USA in April this year, the students gained an insight into HEINZ-Glas’ 400-year history and its global markets. In addition to the content-related work on the project assignment, the week was characterized by project structuring, team-building measures and feedback loops. Of course, there was also plenty of time for fun, so there was also enough time for shared experiences and explorations in the neighboring mega-city of New York. After a four-week online phase, during which the students continued to work in a self-organized manner, the second project week was finally held in Hof at the end of May to finalize and process the results.

Project results

The main factors that influence the consumer behaviour of Generation Alpha and Z in general are digitalization, personalization, sustainability and the social environment. Both generations are digital natives and their awareness of technological developments sparks interest in products with integrated technological solutions. The differences between the US and European markets are marginal.

Interestingly, unlike other product groups, sustainability has so far played a subordinate role as a purchasing criterion for the younger generation when buying perfume and cosmetics. The purchase decision is mainly influenced by the fragrance of the perfume. Social media also play a decisive role, especially influencers and their product recommendations influence consumption. This makes it all the more crucial for suppliers to constantly analyze the channels, trends and individual needs of consumers in order to identify potential new customers (brands) and innovative solutions. On the other hand, it is also advisable for companies in the B2B sector to use social media channels effectively to provide information about their own expertise, innovative products or background information or to create attention and awareness among end consumers through authentic insights behind the scenes.

In addition to the joint work, cultural and leisure activities were not neglected in Hof either: the group visited Dresden, for example, followed by a visit to the Volkswagen Group’s Transparent Factory. An evening at the picturesque Untreusee lake and a tour through the Franconian Forest were also organized on site in Hof.

Part of the visit program: A visit to the Volkswagen Group’s Transparent Factory in Dresden; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Thanks to project partners

The final presentation of the project results then took place in front of representatives of the management and sales managers at the Heinz-Glas headquarters in Kleintettau. They then traveled to Berlin, from where the American guests began their journey home to the USA. “The project team would like to thank Heinz-Glas for their invaluable support and promotion of the project and for their uncomplicated and pragmatic cooperation,” concluded Tina Wiegand.

Tina Wiegand
Rainer Krauß

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