The business of beauty dupes: 5 ways copycat culture is evolving

By Jo Allen | Published: 9-Jan-2023

Beauty dupes are surging amid the cost of living crisis. But price is only one purchase criteria for today's savvy consumers

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This article was originally published in the Budget Beauty Trend Report. Receive your copy here

Budgets are being squeezed, and beauty dupes are gaining ground. But as more consumers look for affordable product alternatives that compare well against more expensive beauty buys, dupe culture is also evolving. 

“Dupe culture is shifting from novelty to necessity for many, and as more consumers are forced to get thrifty and seek out more affordable products, brands will need to meet this mindset,” said Clare Varga, Director of Beauty at WGSN in the trend forecaster’s recent Cost of Living: Beauty on a Budget webinar.

Google searches for the term ‘dupe’ were up by 40% year-on-year last June, while over the past six months, Dupeshop, an affordable beauty retailer that tests beauty dupes against high end products for their quality, performance and ingredients, reported a 200% spike in worldwide sales.

Dupes are also now engaging a broader consumer base, appealing to savvy beauty shoppers who research where to save and where to splurge, and what ingredients they want their products to contain.

For example, e.l.f.’s Holy Hydration! Face Cream was cited as a dupe for Drunk Elephant’s Protini Polypeptide Moisturiser by beauty blog A Beauty Edit and for containing some similar ingredients including anti-ageing peptides and hyaluronic acid.

 Dupe culture is shifting from novelty to necessity for many

- Clare Varga, Head of Beauty, WGSN

Fiona Glen, Head of Projects at The Red Tree adds that the rise of discounters such as Aldi and Lidl has also played a role as they have grown market share in recent years and attracted a wider clientele. 

“These consumers, many of which switch between shopping at Waitrose and discounters have become more exposed to dupes both in food and beauty categories,” says Glen.

“Furthermore, these consumers are no longer embarrassed by shopping in these establishments and switching out of leading brands.”

But while affordability is prized, consumers have no time for wasteful dupes. Dupeshop’s co-founder Amir Awan notes that customers “care more about a good-quality dupe than a cheap deal,” and won’t compromise on quality, ingredients and/or longevity.

“Consumers are looking to spend less, but not at the sacrifice of quality or performance,” agrees Varga, “So it’s imperative messaging around product performance and proof is amped up,” she advises.

“Consider including things like cost per usage, data and shelf life into the mix now alongside things like your product demos, and before and after photos, and obviously community reviews as well.”

Here, Cosmetics Business discovers five further ways that dupe culture is changing in beauty, as it moves from a trend to a channel in its own right – one that offers affordable inclusivity. 

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